|About the experience in AMPG
|Written by Satoshi KOGANEZAWA
|Published: September 23 2008
There was once a printing factory. Before renovation as a gallery, almost all of the inside was colored slightly ashy white and the shutter fixed in front of the exhibition hall had rusted. Also, several holes in the walls were not repaired. The walls had been damaged for some reason when it was a printing factory. The new owner didn't want to mend them. A toilet and a sink were left.
AMPG is located in the middle of a downtown area called Kiyosumi-Shirakawa. As is well known, in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, the Museum Of Contemporary Art Tokyo is located on the east side in the direction of Kiba Park, and a building full of contemporary galleries such as Tomio Koyama Gallery and SHUGOARTS is on the west side near Kiyosumi Park. Since eight galleries were moved/opened at once in November 2005, it is known as one of the greatest information centers of contemporary art in Tokyo. In July 2008, the ANDO GALLERY specializing in works by Katsura Funakoshi and Seiya Shinotsuka was opened also.
"It started with a company. It offered me the highest floor to do anything as it already leased the building itself. I'd never been to Kiyosumi-Shirakawa. Unfortunately the company had to cancel the offer. However, I was already inspired by the incident and could not give up since I had been keen to exhibit my artworks for a long period. At the same time, I also had to create artworks for a scheduled solo exhibition in Germany. I then thought it might be interesting to show the works one after somewhere even before the exhibition. The first chance was aborted, however, I had visited a nearby real-estate office to see if they knew of an appropriate place and they introduced this place to me." *1In this area, huge new apartment buildings are being constructed, but on the other hand, old houses still exist in the downtown area. I am wondering why he chose here instead of the places in New York or Ginza he had exhibited before. He answered as below:
"I felt a fundamental connection with the unique atmosphere of the downtown area. I thought this was a place I could express myself purely."*2
It was only to be a private presentation. His purpose was not to sell artworks, so he didn't have to develop strategies to gain profit. His main concerns were: whether the place or property was appropriate for him, and what kind of gallery he would establish there. No extensive promotion was carried out for the opening. The visitors are mainly his friends and journalists. After one year and a half, the exhibitions are reported in magazines or news spread by word of mouth, and now five hundred people visit every month.*3 His solo exhibition in Germany, "Makoto Azuma: Botanical Sculpture" (NRW Forum, from July 5 2008 to August 3 2008), was said to have been viewed by six thousand people. The number is astonishingly large. This result was caused by a more fundamental attitude in this country towards culture although this is too big an issue to rise here. However, I would like to add that exhibition posters were put up all around Dusseldorf and the local newspaper spotlighted it.3
fig. 3 "Rip a go go (for Yukio Nakagawa)" (June 2008）. Photo provided by AMPG, copyright © 2008 AMPG
Here, some explanations of why Azuma decided to establish his own gallery might be necessary to us. One question people may ask is – isn’t operating a private gallery a huge burden, both financial and physical for him, even though it is purely for satisfying himself by having regular presentation opportunities.
“Mit Man” (2008) at "Fabrice Hyber Seed and Grow" housed in the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art is an accidental example of this difficulty. This was a doll made using vegetables for each body part, such as a cauliflower for the head, paprikas for the eyes and nose, and a banana for the lower back. Created with extremely positive intentions, it was a disaster at the end of the exhibition period because it went partly rotten, became discolored, smelled bad and became infested with worms. Hyber didn't make active use of dying moldering life as in “Damned Ikebana” (May 2007) [fig. 1], using waste flowers as Azuma did at AMPG. It is clear that Hyber did not anticipate this situation.
"They never even tried to listen to me. If I talked about my works, they only said NO. It was unacceptable for them."*4.
Azuma was once turned away, as he mentioned above, when he brought his solo exhibition plan to a museum before the establishment of AMPG. His first solo exhibition was then held at Tribeca Issey Miyake, New York, in November 2005. There, his "SHIKI" series using pine tree, was introduced to the USA for first time in the world, and was also exhibited at AMPG afterwards.4
However, we should not think that AMPG is amazing because of its usage of flowers/plants which museums cannot undertake. Azuma’s art is not second-class conceptual art which aims only at criticizing the established art and bureaucratic museum attitude without any sound art value, nor former avant-garde art highly evaluated for its originality. His works are simply based on love and respect for flowers/plants. His eyes only look for how to increase their charm. His robust activities go far beyond the haute couture flower shop, "JARDINS des FLEURS", and AMPG*5.
"Creation/ Starts from grasping an invisible something/ By reaching out to the future in an ever-lasting struggle/ (…some sentences omitted…) / In terms of flowers/ I try to bring out and disclose/ Nature as never imagined/ Is to grasp a step ahead future"*6.Once he also said;
"Don't you think to display flowers by cutting off their life in nature means "death" or "destruction"? I don't want to create art just showing the surface image of the material I use (…some sentences omitted..) It is very important for me to create art while always keeping "destruction" in mind. This inspires me with affection for flowers and the value of life. I cannot conduct destruction with a half-hearted attitude. I feel responsibility for discovery of new life from destruction."*7.
“Rip a go go (dedicated to Yukio Nakagawa)” (June 2008)[fig. 3] was produced in homage to the flower artist, Yukio Nakagawa. He picked 2000 tulips cultivated in his own field, then fermented and sealed them in an acrylic box. As time went by, their shapes were broken down, liquid was exuded, and finally everything dissolved. Nakagawa's creation in 1976 was named "Open", so he named this "Close"*8. That's not all. What struck me at the entrance was the screen where a bunch of tulips streams within the monitor like blood. The "crowd" was appropriate for energetic flowers.
"I admire him because his works such as “Magic Mountain” and “Hana-bouzu” can tell connoisseurs how he truly cherishes the flowers. He is waiting for flowers to rot and cares for the rotten flowers while they smell extremely bad. I feel it is the horribleness of his art which directs his message to the viewers. He expresses himself splendidly, not simply, as he really comprehends and pursues each flower in order to be the nearest to the flower as well as maintain an appropriate distance. It is where I admire him most. (As in the picture of “Swan/Song/Farewell” by Nakagawa) We usually throw away these fruits, we don't keep them. So my heart twinges to imagine him, as an old man, taking the trouble to keep them in his really small space. He might have photographed these flowers which were set on the stainless board in his room. I do understand him."*9
It's not a superficial attitude towards creation such as to "do what nobody has done before", but he is driven by a strong desire, almost hunger, to show nature, which comes from staring at existence itself. He, as well as Nakagawa, has a sincere attitude to flowers/plants.5
This sincerity runs throughout AMPG. "AMPP" (AZUMA MAKOTO PRIVATE PAPER), the monthly published booklet, is a prime example. This was born from his concept, "to record what he has done at AMPG by plants which are actually mortal and never live forever"*10, with an enthralling look that is very different from the simple recording function expected of a normal booklet.
Due to global as well as Japanese concerns, many enterprises run advertisements using the word, "eco", in accordance with the recently increased interest in the environment. It goes without saying that the earth does not consist only of human beings, so there is nothing wrong with the attention to the environment itself. However, sometimes I cannot help noticing that ecology is used only for commercial means as seen in the mass-produced eco bags, and this deviates from its original purpose. I don't deny economic activities, however it often seems we are too business-oriented and we convert even the environment to money.
|Last Updated on January 16 2017