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The whole and a part 2009 “collector/collection”
Written by Satoshi KOGANEZAWA   
Published: December 31 2009

Looking back at 2009 featuring one theme

1. The whole

    The 2009 was a year of “collectors”. The “Neoteny Japan: Takahashi Collection” directed by Ryutaro Takahashi, who may be one of the best-known collector of modern artworks, was held all around Japan [Notes: 1] last year, as well as the collection room named “Takahashi Collection Hibiya” which opened in Hibiya. The collector, Fuyuhiko Yamamoto, calls himself an “art sommelier”. He often holds exhibitions of his collections at galleries, and issued his first book entitled “a tour of galleries on weekends” (Chikuma Shobo, August 2009) last year and is curerntly holding the “Businessman collector’s 30 years tracks – Exhibition of Fuyuhiko Yamamoto” (14 Jan 2010 – 21 Feb 2010) at the Sato Gallery. Considering the above two men as collectors dealing with collections most of which were created by artists in eastern Japan, the person who can be said to have gathered artworks made by creators in western Japan is Tsuneko Tanaka. This year, the exhibition entitled “From Home to the Museum: Tanaka Tsuneko Collection” (8 Sep 2009 – 8 Nov 2009) was held at The Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama. It was quite notable that all the works collected by Tanaka were also donated to the museum.

fig. 2 "Jiro Takamatsu: All Drawings" edit by Yumiko Chiba Associates, published by Daiwa Press / sale by Yumiko Chiba Associates, courtesy of Yumiko Chiba Associates

fig. 1  "Jiro Takamatsu: All Drawings" edit by Yumiko Chiba Associates, published by Daiwa Press / sale by Yumiko Chiba Associates, courtesy of Yumiko Chiba Associates

    Needless to say, the existence of “collectors” or “collections” is an extremely important factor in considering the history of art, including that of modern art. As The National Museum of Western Art has been focusing on possessing artworks collected in Europe before World War II by the industrialist, Kojiro Matsukata, the collections owned by Yamatane Museum of Art and The Nezu Museum, both of which were redesigned this year, consist respectively mostly of works privately collected by Taneji Yamazaki and Kaichiro Nezu. Indeed, it would be very welcome for us to be able to view artworks, which were once owned by individuals, as public property at museums. However, as I have already commented in other article, this does not mean the same thing as accepting the direction pursued by private collections without any doubt on the perspective of the history of art. It can be anticipated that museums will be increasingly dependent on private collections due to their decreasing budget in the current economic situation. Considering the fact that donating artworks to museums by individuals have been historically contributed to the increasing number of valuable collections of museums, I may not have to specifically refer to such donation of creations. However, we need to consider the effect of donating private collections to museums which are considered as public spaces, whether they are national or municipal.

    The exhibition which left me with the greatest impression in terms of “collectors” this year was the “Collection exhibition 3: Collection of Jiro Takamatsu in Hiroshima” (14 Feb 2009 - 24 May 2009) held at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art. I got an intense impression of this exhibition of the startling number of exhibits composed of the collections of the museum and those of the Daiwa Press, Hiroshima. Daiwa Press is known for its collections of modern art works, as well as the issue of the “VIEWING ROOM” series which include creations owned by Daiwa Press. This year it published a book entitled “Jiro Takamatsu: All Drawings” containing no less than approximately four thousand of Takamatsu’s drawings in the possession of Daiwa Press [Notes: 2] [fig.1] [fig. 2]. I would like to continue to focus on its future activities.

2. A part

    On the other hand, there are some artworks which are unable to be “collected”. For instance, Makoto Azuma’s creations would be exempt from the permanent “collections” in that most of them were made using plants. And exactly, he, Azuma, is the artist to whom I paid the closest attention this year.

    In March 2009, Azuma closed his private gallery, AMPG, which had been operated for the limited two years. Since then I have been concerned about what was going happen with places to be used to show his works. Despite this, looking back at his activities of this year, that concern proved unfounded. Azuma actively engaged in efforts to widely present his creations. He held the following five solo exhibitions: “AMPG vol. 25” (Mitsubishi-Jisho Artium), “Distortion × Flowers” (EYE OF GYRE), “adidas Plants Exhibition” (adidas Plants house), “hand vase” (CLEAR GALLERY) and “Bridge of Plants” (Ark Karajan Plaza, Ark Hills). In addition, he participated as an exhibitor in “TOKYO FIBER 09 SENSEWARE” (21_21 DESIGN SIGHT) and “Daido Moriyama ‘Record’ - on the road collaboration with 8 creators” (epSITE). Furthermore, it would be one of the important topics in 2009 that Azuma was involved in planting around Naoshima Bath “I♥湯” designed by Shinro Ohtake. Unfortunately, AMGG (AZUMA MAKOTO GUERRILLA GALLERY) referred to by him in the interview as one of the projects which he wished to realize after the closing of AMPG, has not yet been opened. This would be due to his busyness.

    Compared to Azuma’s past creations made by using plants as main materials under his concept of pursuing the temporariness, the following three exhibitions seem to have presented different types of his works in that they were made in the form of unchanged things, such as photographs and potteries. “Distortion × Flowers” was held as a photo exhibition though he presented installations. In “Daido Moriyama ‘Record’ - on the road collaboration with 8 creators”, he exhibited his work created by scribbling the phrase, “FUCK OFF”, on Moriyama’s picture. And in the exhibition entitled “hand vase”, he arranged a hundred potteries made in the shape of his own hand in lines. At the beginning of this article, I have commented that Azuma’s works cannot be “collected”. However, as for only the creations shown in the above-mentioned three exhibitions, they can be subject to collection. There are some ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement) artists, such as Sofu Teshigahara and Yukio Nakagawa, who have been creating works in the form of pictures and objects. It would be interesting to see whether Azuma will create such works as mentioned above in addition to his existing plant artworks.

fig. 3  PsysaliaPsysalisPsyche "Titan arum" (2009); music video, 6mins 10secs, courtesy of AMKK

    There were memorable artworks shown by means other than exhibitions, such as music videos created at the request of the rock band, PsysaliaPsysalisPsyche (“Midunburi” and “Titan arum” [fig. 3]) and the album entitled “Matin Brun”. Particularly, the “Titan arum”, in which we can enjoy the performance made by Nobuyoshi Asai, who is one of the members of the dance company, “Sankaijuku”, is an excellent work filled with sensual beautifulness. According to Azuma, Asai’s performance was made in the motif of flowers. This makes me imagine of the collaborative performance, “Hana-gurui”, made by Kazuo Ohno (dancer) and Yukio Nakagawa (flower arrangement artist) in 2002 as part of the preliminary event of “Echigo-Tsumari Triennial 2003”. Unfortunately, I could not get a chance to visit the site, but the performance in the video gave me an intense impression in that Ohno was dancing in the scene in which tulips were falling from the sky. This makes me wish to consider the relationship between flowers and dance once again.

    Tentatively assuming, flowers and dancing have one thing in common in that both of them are never fixed in certain forms. In other words, they are continuously varying with time. They are born, live and are died. Not only flowers but dance goes through the process during the limited period. This would be the reason dancers seem to aspire to flowers. Both dance and flowers cannot be “collected”. Therefore, however, they would stay with us forever, just like Azuma’s creations.

The venues of “Neoteny Japan: Takahashi Collection” were as follows:
22/Nov/2008-25/Jan/2009 Museum of Contemporary Art, Sapporo (Hokkaido)
18/Jul/2008-15/Sep/2008 Kirishima Open-Air Museum (Kagoshima)
20/May/2009-15/Jul/2009 The Ueno Royal Museum (Tokyo)
21/Jul/2009-10/Sep/2009 The Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art (Niigata)
19/Sep/2009-29/Nov/2009 Akita Museum of Modern Art (Akita)
13/Dec/2009-11/Feb/2010 Yonago City Museum (Tottori)
YUMIKO CHIBA ASSOCIATES, “Jiro Takamatsu: All Drawings” (issued by Daiwa Press/YUMIKO CHIBA ASSOCIATES)
Last Updated on October 28 2015

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