2012年06月07日

Collect 2012 Post-Show Report

Collect 2012 Post-Show Report
Yufuku Gallery

1. Collect 2012 入口.JPG

Like the title of Jonathan Safron Foer's novel, Collect 2012 was incredibly loud and extremely close, as both deafening sound and lack of room to manoeuvre were key features at Yufuku's stand during the opening preview of Collect 2012 on the 10th of May, especially after 7pm. Very important clients were lining up in front of our desk to take orders, and Kumiko, my trusty sidekick, and I were overloaded with questions and queries by eager collectors. And without a moment to spare and space to walk, it began to slowly dawn on us that over half of our collection of works had been sold during the preview night alone. By the end of the opening day, we had sold 70% of our works. And on the final day, we only had 5 works left out of approx. 55 works brought to London from Japan. Having sold 50 works during the 5-day fair, I think it is rather safe to say that the show was, yet again, an astounding success, and was by far our best show ever. In gratitude, we bow our heads.

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For example, here is a telling tale of the vibe generated during this year's Collect; a wonderful lady whom I had met at our very first Collect in 2008, then held at the Victoria and Albert Museum and in the frigid air of January, came rushing to our stand right after the doors opened to the VVIP preview at 4pm sharp on the 10th. Upon reaching our stand at a minute past 4, she immediately was taken by the white Maeta vase that was featured in our Collect catalogue from this year, and without hesitation, proceeded to reserve the work before anyone could snap it up. The reason for her precipitance? At last year's Collect, another client had purchased a large Maeta just before she could, and having fallen in love with the artist's minimal elegance, she had decided before the show that his work would someday be hers. And as the fates smiled down upon her, she left the show ecstatic, with a new white vase to her keen collection. Others, however, left disappointed at the sight of it being sold, and quickly looked beyond to future Collects and future works by Maeta Akihiro.

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Upon our first journey to London's Collect in 2008, it is hardly exaggeration to say that we had about 10 clients on our mailing list in England, and did not really have any clients to invite to the opening preview. We had never exhibited in the UK before, the name Yufuku hardly rang any bells with anyone in the art community except for dealers in ceramic art such as Galerie Besson, Katie Jones and Joanna Bird, and our international clientele was predominantly American, with a few good clients scattered sporadically throughout Europe. How things have changed. The overwhelming majority of our leading clients today hail not from the US but from the UK and Europe, and the fact that we are now instantly recognised in the European market still surprises me greatly. These past five years of focusing on Europe has not been in vain.

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During the second day of the 5-day show, I had mentioned to a good friend and client that "this year has already become, by far, our best show ever." He said to me, dryly, "Wahei, you say that to me every year." But it is true. For five years now, through astronomically high yen rates, volcanic bursts of ash from Iceland, a historically devastating earthquake and an ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan, from a lack of hot water in our hotel rooms (see post-show reports from 2008 and 2009 for more on our endearing hotel that we've been staying in for the past five years, right behind Harrod's), from our taxi cab being hit by a car upon our arrival at Heathrow (2010), to not having any clients in London, we've come a long way up the ladder. And every year really is better than the previous year. Believe me, it's true.

3. プレビューの混雑模様.JPG

Collect 2012 differed from Collect 2011 on several accounts. Perhaps the greatest symbolic change from previous years was that my father Mitsumasa 'Tom' Aoyama, the former owner/director of Yufuku, chose not to travel to London with us to attend the opening, as he had done for the past 4 years. It is true that his role in organising the show and selecting works, for example, had ended at Collect 2009, yet he had always provided a healthy amount of moral support, especially during the opening preview. We missed him this year, but I think he was quite content in staying home this time around. In terms of physical changes, our booth was essentially the same size and shape as last year (about 40 square meters in total), yet new additions to our stand was the instantly recognisable Yufuku logo, reliably made in Tokyo and astutely stickered onto our stand by Kumiko, and the fact that we had Stabilo, the stand-builders for the past 5 years at Collect, create a large display system and shelves to our stand in addition to the collapsible 'flat-pack' display stands that we bring to Collect each year. This helped to create more room to display works in various ways, and these extra displays, along with the decision to move our box-type shelves to the left-hand side of our stand (much like Collect 2010), helped to make our stand seem slightly bigger than last year.

4. 美術館関係者の選考委員会.JPG

Unbelievably, the selection of works and artists for this year's Collect was an easy process. 15 of our artists were returning from previous years (Fukami, Mihara, Nagae, Yede, Takeyama, Ikuta, Takagaki, Maeta, Nakamura, Sakurai, Suzuki, Yeo, Shakunaga, Shojiguchi, Nishikata), and aside from the deceased Suzuki Mutsumi, all the artists essentially understood the timing and protocol with which I would be selecting the works (I usually notify the artists in regards to deadlines to Collect in September of the year before). Choosing the 5 new artists (Sumikawa, Kimura, Buseki, Imada and Yabe) was also rather straightforward, in that they were all artists that I had wanted to introduce to Collect for some time, and I was simply waiting for the ripest time possible.

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Buseki Suiko, Tsurumai (Crane Dance)

The grand, 81-year-old Sumikawa Kiichi, for example, is one of the leading sculptors of Japan, having been taught by the legendary Hiraguchi Denchu and fulfilling the role of President of the prestigious Tokyo University of the Arts for many years. As he is hardly known outside of Japan, and as I had had the pleasure of translating a book by him by Kodansha several years ago, I thought it would be wonderful to have the chance to exhibit his work outside of Japan. Kimura Yoshiro is an excellent ceramic artist whom we had known since 1995 when he first visited Yufuku. However, our paths would never cross due to unfortunate circumstances (I would visit his exhibition, and he would be out to lunch, or he would visit Yufuku and both my father and I would be out of the country, etc.). Yet for 2012, I was steadfastly determined to bring his work to not only Collect but also to the upcoming Vallauris Ceramics Biennale in July (more about this show in a future post), and luckily for Yufuku, my dream had become reality for Collect 2012. Buseki Suiko, the bamboo artist, is a unique story in itself. I had always been frustrated with the lack of quality bamboo art at Collect. I had always loved the medium, and did have several opportunities to sell masterpieces by leading old masters such as Iizuka Rokansai in the past, but did not personally know many contemporary bamboo artists. However, upon consultation, a famed curator from one of the leading museums in Japan kindly recommended and introduced me to Buseki-san, who coincidentally hailed from Tokyo (one of two contemporary artists in Tokyo today), and who was interested in showing his work outside of Japan. His technique was phenomenal, and several of his work exhibited a brilliant sense of form that was not overtly flashy, flamboyant or gimmicky like many of the bamboo art popularised in the West. In other words, he was a perfect fit with the Yufuku aesthetic, and I was hooked. Lastly, Imada Yoko and Yabe Shunichi were two artists that I had been working with for the past few years as artists who, in their forties, represented the next generation of Yufuku’s ceramic artists after Mihara-san, Nagae-san, Ichino-san (who sadly could not participate at this year's Collect due to illness) and Maeta-san, among others. This year, I strongly felt that the time had come to make their debut at Collect, and quite happily, my hunch was vindicated. In fact, all of our new artists'work sold out during Collect 2012, with Buseki-san's work winning the Art Fund Prize and going to the National Museum of Scotland, and Yabe-san’s work chosen for the British Museum.

6.矢部俊一 「月山」右.JPG
Yabe Shunichi, Kofu (Wind of Light) and Tsukiyama (Moon Mountain)


More specifically, this year could be said to be the year of the "sold-art artist." We had sold each and every work exhibited by the following artists – Fukami Sueharu, Sumikawa Kiichi, Mihara Ken, Maeta Akihiro, Kimura Yoshiro, Ikuta Niyoko, Shakunaga Gaku, Yabe Shunichi, Imada Yoko, and Buseki Suiko, while Nagae Shigekazu, Takeyama Naoki, Sakurai Yasuko, Nishikata Ryota, Suzuki Mutsumi and Yede Takahiro had only one work remaining.

7.今田さん、大英博物館のニコルさん、矢部さん、店主の青山和平.jpg
From left: Imada-san, Nicole-san from the BM, Yabe-san, and Wahei Aoyama

Important works sold at Collect were undoubtedly the two Fukami works that were reminiscent of vertical blades. We had two editions, which were both placed on reserve and sold well before the show. The bronze Sumikawa was also an important work dating from 1993, and was also sold to an important client before the start of Collect. In fact, the majority of work featured in our Collect catalogue had sold before the show, and goes to show that the clientele that we had built along the years trusts and believes in our judgement, even without having to see the work in person. As mentioned above, we were able to receive the Art Fund Prize for the 4th straight year, as Buseki-san's first work to be shown at Collect was selected by the National Museum of Scotland. Buseki-san, a gentle soul, was very humbled, to say the least. And Yabe-san was also pleased to receive his first introduction into a museum with his selection by the BM curators. Congratulations to both artists. In fact, we did also have several other works by artists (Nishikata, Yeo, etc) selected by museums, but ultimately I could not bring these selections to fruition, for various reasons. Next year, alas!

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All in all, the unseen heroes of this year's Collect are, without question, my assistants Kumiko and Yoriko, who accompanied me to Collect for the second straight year. Kumiko in particular was stellar in her ability to coordinate the application process, the production/design of our Collect catalogue and stand, interfacing with artists/clients, and actually assisting clients with their questions and acquisitions during the show (I think she made a few fans during Collect with her bright and cheerful demeanour). And Yoriko was ace in managing the 'back-office' side to the Collect show, such as taking orders and packaging works, all done with the professionalism of a master craftsman. Without these two talented individuals, we would not be able to pull off about 8 shows outside of Japan, and 15 shows at our gallery in Tokyo, with preparations ongoing simultaneously. My hats off to them. Also, I would like to mention that every year, we have students help us in attending our stand as a sort of internship. This year we had Ioanetta-san from the Sainsbury Institute and Taka-san from SOAS help us, and they were brilliant, enthusiastic, and most helpful. Thanks so much!

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Lastly, I must take the time to thank our artists for believing in us and creating such beautiful works for us to exhibit in London, year after year. At the same time, I would like to take the time to thank each and every person who took the time to visit us, say hello, and enjoy the works on display. It is with your support that we are able to continue to do what we do, exhibiting the highest possible quality of Japanese contemporary art to a discerning European audience outside of Japan.

I, for one, never take things for granted. Simply because we were successful this year does not guarantee success in future years. For this reason, I would like to ensure herein that we continue to heighten the quality of works on display, and persevere to promote Japan's art and culture to an international audience. Collect, of course, is not the only venue available to us to help us reach this goal. In fact, there are several paths yet taken that we are likely to tread in 2013, some of which will be quite surprising. Please keep your eyes on Yufuku, as announcements will surely follow, albeit the exact dates are yet unforeseen. In any event, my deepest gratitude and appreciation to you all once again for your everlasting support. It is for you that I write.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Yufuku Gallery
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2011年12月20日

Farewell, 2011.

Farewell, 2011, farewell.
Be gone, good bye, and good riddance.
I will miss you no more than tomorrow.

Oh 2011, you were a tough one. With the never-ending meltdown of global economies (Greece, Italy, and how many other nations should I mention here?), rebellious springs throughout the Arab world (Egypt, Libya, Syria, etc.), from the unprecedented floods of Thailand to the sudden death of dictator Kim Jong-Il, it's been a turbulent year to say the least. And although I would very much like to close my eyes and pretend that it didn't happen, one cannot shy away from the horrors of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that took place on March 15th. And what's even more disturbing is the fact that the ensuing horror has no end. It is the invisible nuclear devastation that has ultimately poisoned much of Fukushima for generations to come. Disasters usually subside with time, but this is a sadness of such depth and pain that will not fade away in my lifetime, or even my daughter's. Who knows.

That's right - tomorrow never knows. I never would have imagined taking over Yufuku 2 years ago. I never would have imagined that I would be racking up enough mileage to take my family to Australia in November, and Hawaii this coming January (please note, I've worked long and hard for this!). And who would have thought that Kaneko-san would fall from his throne, among other great ceramic topics?

Yet one thing I do know is this. The Japanese tragedy of 2011 has taught me to never take this common life for granted. The air we breath, the soil that we sow, the water we drink, are not ours alone. Such have been cultivated by our forefathers for generations beyond generations, and will continue to be cultivated by our children for generations to come. We only come and go.

And that is why we must understand that life must be lived without regrets, that we should sieze the moment when we can, and that we should never forget the hard work and tears that came before us and enabled us to achieve such peace, happiness and prosperity in our time, the golden age of my parents, and for the future of my children. I will not forget.

So 2011, begone. I know the sunrise that awaits us tomorrow will be far more beautiful than yesterday. And, at the same time, beautiful will be the future that awaits us, today.

With deep gratitude for your everlasting support,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Yufuku Gallery/Toku Art

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ps. Next year will be a big year for us. Not only will we be debuting several "new" artists at Yufuku (for example, we'll even be holding our first Bizen exhibition, but of course, the work will be quite different and sculptural in feel), and we'll also be assisting various major museums with large projects in both France and the USA. And like always, you'll always be able to find us at Collect 2012, staying at the same, run-down but cozy hotel that finally doesn't run out of hot water at 12am. Some things never change.
And like always, I will try my best to keep this blog a weekly. I think I was doing rather good until the end of November, when the workload simply had me blitzed. At the very least, I'm trying!

Happy New Year.
A new age dawns.


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2011年11月21日

Various News Updates

Greetings from Kansai! One of several reasons I'm here is Kyoto living legend Sueharu Fukami; in fact I visited his studio today to discuss plans for 2012. Whenever I visit Fukami-san, I find time slipping away like water in one's palm. I arrived at 11:00am and thought I would be out by 12pm. Yet, lo and behold, when I left the door it was already 1:30pm. I guess we had a lot to talk about.

I was hoping to take some pictures while I was there, yet unfortunately I have no photos which I can disclose at this point in time! Let's just say that we hope to get some stellar work from the artist in 2012 - that is, if his precarious health continues to be stable, and if his current difficulties with his porcelain clay is vanquished (the clay manufacturer where he used to get his clay from went under last year). Let's hope for the best.

Similarly, I regret to announce that two Yufuku artists working in ceramics have become ill - one is still recovering, while the other just discovered that he would need to receive treatment. More information will follow when the time is right. Our thoughts and prayers go out to both artists.

On a brighter note, the growing list of Nagae Shigekazu's works in public collections have increased by three in the past month - the Seto City Museum of Art in Seto, Aichi Prefecture, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, and the Musee Cernuschi in Paris. The works have yet to be shipped in regards to the latter two, yet I believe they will be set to be delivered in December. We can't be happier for Nagae-san. Congratulations! By the way, I recently wrote an article in Craft Arts International on Nagae-san. The images look great, and please do have a read when you can. I hope to post the article online in the near future.

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Lastly, I leave behind an image of a new Kako work that is currently being exhibited at Yufuku and which I particularly enjoy. I hope you feel the same. The show runs until Saturday the 26th.

Sorry for these brief snippets. More to follow this week, where I visit metal artist Nishi Yuzo (metal-casting) and a bamboo artist who I look forward to introducing at Collect in 2012. Please stay tuned!

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Yufuku Gallery

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2011年11月12日

Sydney Update, Upcoming Kako Exhibition

Be very excited. Mihara Ken will be coming to Sydney in November 2013.

I just returned from Sydney, where my wife and I had a great time with our baby daughter Kii. Kii's a year and 7 months old, and really digged the koalas at Taronga Zoo, along with Hyde Park and the amazing playground at Darling Harbour.

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It was her first time outside of Japan, but incredibly, she seemed unfazed by the air travel. Perhaps she takes after me and my relative invulnerability towards jet lag. In any case, I hadn't been to Sydney in nearly 15 years, but it was paradise, and far more beautiful than I could remember. Lush parks, friendly people, pristine beaches, gentle weather, all within a very modern city with eye-catching architecture, both new and old.

What also struck me was the overall mood of the city, which was so utterly positive. I travel outside of Japan at least once a month, and I think I have a good grasp of some of the major cities throughout the world. Yet Sydney oozed a different vibe, far more exciting than sober Singapore or roudy Shanghai. It seemed to me like a metropolis of the future, where East meets West in peaceful coexistence. I mention "East" for the fact that the Asian population was tremendous, prosperous, and vibrant.

Great place, Sydney. And yes, we will be having an exhibition at a contemporary art gallery that has only shown one ceramic artist in all of its existence. For me, it's doubly gratifying to think that Mihara-san's works can resonate with an audience (and a gallery owner) who predominantly enjoy what we refer to as "fine art." In other words, the lines are further blurring between ceramic art, traditionally delegated to the clunky and misleading term "craft," and fine art, which in the past few decades seem to rely less and less on actual artistic technique and more so on concepts i.e gimmicks (although I must admit I do enjoy gimmicks from time to time, albeit when they are founded on something far more substantial!)

I do have a feeling that art and craft will surely converge. Or collide. Look at Japanese art history, and you'll find that there probably is no real difference between the two. Western terminologies may melt away and subside to Eastern conceptions. Or perhaps it should be said that even East and West will join hands in not only cultural but aesthetic harmony. Sydney may be a case in point.

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In any case, unfortunately I'm not yet revealing the name of the gallery until a few more months down the road. Yet I have a feeling that this Mihara show will mark a new turning point in the artist's career, which has really taken off in the past 4 years. Please stay tuned for more updates on this show as details solidify.

On a different note, next Thursday (17th of November) finds Yufuku holding its first solo exhibition of the works of Kako Katsumi. I just chose about 17 pieces, and we'll be showing about 4 to 5 chawan as well. Overall, I'm very happy with the quality of works that Kako-san had created for his Yufuku debut - there is one form in particular which I think may become a Kako classic. Please be on the lookout for his works at the Yufuku homepage next week, as well as video content and other details on our facebook page.

Next week, I hope to include more insights on our Kako exhibition. Until then, I wish you a very pleasant weekend from Tokyo.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Yufuku Gallery
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2011年11月05日

A Short Blip Before a Sydney Trip

Hello from a rather muggy afternoon in Tokyo. It's been a hectic two weeks during the Nakamura Takuo exhibition - the amount of traffic seems to be on par with Mihara-san, which is not surprising considering that it's been a good 3 years since his last solo exhibition. In fact, the number of visitors actually beat out Mihara-san when tallying the results of the last day of the exhibition (today, that is). Congratulations to Takuo-san on an exceptional show - I think many ceramic fans and critics alike were similarly mesmerised by his new works, which oozed a more dynamic, confident aire.

Actually, I'm off to Australia tomorrow to discuss a possible Mihara Ken exhibition in Sydney with a leading Australian contemporary art gallery - the show is tentatively scheduled for 2013. Can't wait to disclose more info in the coming months once the show is fully confirmed. Australia, here I come!

As mentioned in previous posts, Yufuku's upcoming show will feature new work by Kako Katsumi, starting from the 17th of November.

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(Two large Kako works before firing)

I just spoke with him, and the artist is currently fast at work in placing the finishing touches to his stoneware surfaces. It's an exciting prospect to be able to show Kako-san at Yufuku. We've been talking about it for some time, esp. as he had always looked up to several of our artists such as Mihara Ken and Ichino Masahiko, but the timing was never right. As a chawan artist, I think his work is exceptional, and has been exceptional for several years now.

Yet in regards to his sculptural work, I found his works lacking that extra kick of charisma. But recently, his forms have become far stronger, his decorative motifs far simpler and bolder. Let's hope the new works (which I will be selecting upon my return from Sydney) will exhibit the further evolvemnet of the artist's aesthetics. He is definitely an artist to watch in regards to the generation right after Mihara-san and Ichino-san. It may be a good time to collect his works as well - they are still quite reasonable, I believe.

Sorry for the short entry - it's been a killer week. Hope to write more while in Sydney; please stay tuned!

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Yufuku Gallery
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2011年10月31日

Nakamura Exhibition - Visitors Aplenty

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If you haven't yet seen the Nakamura Takuo exhibition in all its glory, please check www.yufuku.net/e.. It may blow your mind.

Every day we've seen a swarm of people go in and out through Yufuku's doors - I think it could be our busiest domestic show of the year, bar Mihara Ken's show last April.

More so than just the number of people, what strikes me about this current show is the sheer quality of works. Takuo-san believes it may be his best group of works ever, and many seem to concur, in particular Joan Mirviss of NYC, respected curator Moroyama Masanori of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, and, most telling of all, Nakamura Kinpei, the elderly stateman of avant-garde ceramics in Japan, and the elder brother of Takuo (10 years his elder, in fact).

One may think that a sibling would automatically give a thumb's up to anything a younger brother might produce, but this is far from a given in the case of the Nakamura family. In fact, Takuo feared his brother far more than his father Baizan II during his youth and for the great part of his life, as his brother was far more critical of the art of his brother - so critical, in fact, that Kinpei had never praised Takuo's works in his 30 years of creating ceramics. Except, that is, until Takuo's Yufuku show.

Kinpei-san walked through the door, sat down immediately with a grunt, and then just sat there, staring at the works, for about 20 minutes, without saying a word. He would put his hand on his chin, nod, and then gaze at another piece without even saying hello to Takuo-san or myself.

After a while, Kinpei stood up and asked Takuo a simple technical question - just how did he pull off such beautifully layered glazing - it was better than he had ever seen before. And upon departing, he told his younger brother, "This is your best work yet. You may now be the best enamellist in all of Kanazawa, let alone Japan."

I agree. And I believe his brother's words were enough to melt Takuo's heart. In fact, the artist was beaming throughout our evening dinner with the Yufuku team.

One work (or style) in particular, other than the tall Kuritsu (Capturing Space), which struck Kinpei was Takuo's new invention, which is a 3rd bar-like ceramic piece that sits atop his ceramic duet "Vessel not a Vessel". Entitled "Vessel not a Vessel Plus," (see image above), it features an enamelled ceramic bar called an osoigi (frame), which is the term used for the outer rim of a traditional byobu (folding screen). This bar is removable and interchangeable, and adds a new dimension to Takuo-san's abstract stoneware. Now a trio, his works brim with a new-found confidence and majestic grandeur that is far more symphonic than ever before.

We hope you enjoy the works, on display until the 5th (sat) of November.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Yufuku Gallery
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2011年10月22日

Upcoming Nakamura Exhibition, etc.

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Busy busy busy. When I wake up in the morning, I sometimes lose track of where I am - Kawanishi (where my wife and daughter are living at the moment with my wife's family), Kyoto, Tokyo, or somewhere outside of Japan, in some foreign country's staid hotel room. I scratch my eyes, and then think, "my god, I have deadlines to meet," and then I'm writing articles for magazines in English, and then exhibition commentaries in Japanese. Nowadays, I'm beginning to lose track of just what language I'm writing in!

In any case, today I find myself writing my next article for Craft Arts International - I've already published two articles om Takeyama-san and Nagae-san (the upcoming issue), and the next feature will be Yede-san. Please stay tuned.

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At the same time, we're busy preparing for the upcoming show of Kanazawa's Nakamura Takuo (中村卓夫 1945- ), who will be having his first solo show in Tokyo in 3 years.

He's such an amazing person, and I always find myself inspired by not only his passion for his art, but for his genuine honesty, humility, and his ability to remain so damn young! He's 66, but can definitely pass for early 50's - easy. ]

And it's not only his appearance, but the way he carries himself which gives off an impression of youth and vitality. I only wish I could be the same when I reach 66. At the same time, I'm also inspired by the way he continues to try and learn and better his art - it is this inability to be satisfied which continues to push his talents further. Old age can be a fetter in that sense, but not with Takuo-san. And his works have exponentially increased in beauty over the past three years alone. He has finally hit the creative stride that he himself had hungered for for so long, and his works fully evidence this new peak in his aesthetics.

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We hope you enjoy the Yufuku exhibition works by Nakamura Takuo, viewable in full next Thursday from our website www.yufuku.net. Or you can also view inside information from our facebook page, found here.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Owner/Director
Yufuku Gallery

Takuo Nakamura Vessel not a Vessel Plus.jpg

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2011年10月15日

Successful Heidelberg Exhibition, End of Mihara Show, Kaneko Kenji's Departure

Perhaps I failed to mention the other day that we had just completed a successful exhibition in Heidelberg with our partner/friend gallery Marianne Heller for the second straight year.

This year again featured an eclectic group of 4 very different artists: Nakamura Takuo (中村卓夫 Kanazawa, enamelled stoneware), Takagaki Atsushi (高垣篤 Yokohama, scarlet celadon), Kako Katsumi (加古勝己 Tamba, stoneware with pigments), and Imada Yoko (今田陽子 Nagoya, porcelain with glaze/cobalt).

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Kako Katsumi

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Nakamura Takuo

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Imada Yoko

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Takagaki Atsushi

The entire show can be viewed at the link herein.

Our Mihara Ken (三原研) show with Joan Mirviss is also about to close. If you haven't had a chance to see his new works, and if you happen to be in Manhattan this month, please do stop by.

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Mihara Ken

With renewed scares of radiation in Tokyo, my wife and child are now spending the majority of their time in Kansai, which leaves me to cope for myself in Tokyo. Tough times that tear families apart, for sure. But this is the least we can do for our baby daughter, who is still 1 1/2 years old.

Sorry for these random string of announcements - I'm currently working on stream-of-consciousness mode. Kaneko Kenji, the famous (infamous?) current director of the Ibaraki Ceramics Museum, actually was removed from his post as the Editor in Chief at the Japan Ceramics Society's monthly Tohsetsu for his article criticising the Asahi Ceramics Exhibition. It's hard to believe that Kaneko-san had to resign, esp. as he ruled virtually unchallenged until now in the JCS, for bad or worse. However, I actually sympathise with Kaneko-san in regards to his comments. Japan has a strange way of eliminating opposition or dissent, which is hardly beneficial or constructive to nurture dialogue in regards to various subjects that are undoubtedly open to debate and far from definitive. His comments, although harsh, should have been either lauded or simply debated upon with constructive criticism. Unfortunatety, such was not the case.

In any case, let's simply hope for better pundits in general.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Yufuku
posted by Toku Art Limited at 13:37| Comment(0) | News and Updates | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

2011年10月09日

Nagae Seoul Exhibition, Facebook, and Upcoming Jozan, Takuo, Kako Exhibitions

Yes, this is a long title for a short blog entry. But there's actually much to say in limited lines.

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(Yido Director DH Kim, Nagae-san, Wahei Aoyama)

First, I just got back from a successful opening of Nagae Shigekazu's solo show at the Yido Gallery in Seoul, S. Korea. I must admit, I got quite drunk on both nights I was there, and it was great fun sharing a drink with Nagae-san. It's incredible to think that we were doing shots at 1am with the gallery people over at Yido. Thank you, DH-san!

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(Tokoname Tsubo, Yamada Jozan IV)

Three upcoming shows at Yufuku are all ceramic: next up is Yamada Jozan IV and his traditional wood-fired Tokoname works - his works brim with a noble air.

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(Vessel Not a Vessel +, Nakamura Takuo)

Then there is Kanazawa ceramic artist Nakamura Takuo's first Yufuku exhibition. It's hard to believe Takuo-san is 66 years old, because his works have gotten infinitely better in just the past 3 years. He is, without question, at the top of his game at the moment, and is finally finding his stride with his current, abstract Rimpa style.

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(Ibuki (Zephyr), Kako Katsumi)

Our last ceramic show of the year is capped off with Kyoto/Tamba's Kako Katsumi. I've known the artist for many years now, but this will be our first showing of his works at Yufuku. I am very excited, esp. as he had been wanting to show at our gallery for some time now. The time has finally come!

Lastly, some of you may have heard that Yufuku has started a Facebook page. It's still being revamped daily by my assistant Kumiko, but hey, it's better than nothing. Please look to it for near-daily updates and inside information that you can't find on this blog. And please press "like" if you enjoy what we do! Thanks!

I'm currently finalising our schedule for 2012. Can't wait to see these things materialise.

All the best from Kyoto,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Yufuku Gallery

ps. Many thanks for all those who supported Nishikata-san on his debut. It was probably the best results for a young artist debut that we've ever had in our 19 or so years of business! Congratulations to Nishikata-san on a great debut, built on many days and nights of hard work.
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2011年09月30日

Successful Nishikata Exhibition, Dull Dento Kogeiten

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This week marks the closing of the debut exhibition of Nishikata Ryota at Yufuku.

As opposed to the genres of ceramics or lacquer, I find that metalwork in Japan is often overlooked, even though the talent in this field may be far greater on average than those hyped mediums.

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A case in point is the popularity of our metal artists, both domestically and overseas: Yede Takahiro, Takeyama Naoki, and the younger Nishikata.

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What these three artists have in common is an extreme level of original, innovative technique that they have nurtured throughout years of practice. How many ceramic artists out there can claim to have devised a new mode of creation? Not many. Yet metal artists, esp. these three in particular, are in a league of their own. It gives me great pleasure to be representing them in a day and age where metal definitely does not receive the appreciation it rightfully deserves. It is even more gratifying to think that these three artists have essentially started their careers at Yufuku. In any case, congratulations to Nishikata-san on a successful debut exhibition - it actually beat many of our more famous artists in terms of total sales at a Yufuku debut.
Even greater things await Nishikata-san for sure.

And of course, many more new artists, esp. in ceramics, will be making their debuts at Yufuku from 2012. Please stay tuned.

Just a quick note on this year's Dento Kogeiten. Great examples of technique? A given. Great examples of innovation or aesthetic sensibilities? Questionable. I have my reservations on several of the award winners, one in particular who has received an award for two straight years. Why was he given an award over other artists? Something seems to point to factors other than aesthetics as the ultimate cause. Who knows.

But ultimately, this year's show seems to point to the fact that the Dento Kogeiten no longer holds the same clout as it once did; the same can be said for its rival Nitten, which starts in October. I find that Japanese art is no longer dependent on such institutions to lead the way, much like how the Salons began to fade away in Europe during the twilight of the 19th century. What will take their place? It is yet to be seen, but a new movement seems to lean towards independent artists who are not affiliated with any organisation, yet receive recognition only based on the merit of their works: not reputation, name value, or pedigree. This seems to be a pragmatic evolution in Japanese art, and also seems to illustrate the global trends of our times.

Next week, I'll be travelling to Seoul with Nagae Shigekazu to accompany him on the opening of his new show at the Yido Gallery in Seoul.

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This show actually marks the end of his well-received series "Forms in Succession," which means there will be no new works made in this style from 2012! If you haven't seen one of these works before, please do visit Seoul (if possible) and view the works in person - they literally defy all preconceptions of porcelain, period. I'll be working with Nagae-san on showing a new style of work, most probably in the later half of 2012 (if a prototype can be successfully fired by Collect, we'll be bringing it there). Please also stay tuned from one of the masters of porcelain slip-casting.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Yufuku Gallery/Toku Art
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2011年09月24日

Visiting Tim Rowan

I had the pleasure of visiting talented American ceramic artist Tim Rowan on 9/11, and the trip was a refreshing excursion from the hustle and bustle of NYC, where I was staying to attend the opening of our Mihara Ken exhibition with Joan Mirviss.

Tim's home/studio is tucked behind the breathtaking backdrop of the luscious greens of forest and foilage. A bare stone cliff comprises a canvass for which his works colour, and the blending of nature and stoneware at once melts into the other.

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I first met Tim through a phonecall from Kakurezaki Ryuichi, the great Bizen potter who Tim had apprenticed to long ago. In fact, Tim is Kakurezaki-san's first and only foreign-born apprentice, and it is amazing to think that Tim had spent several years working under one of the living legends of Bizen. The reason why Kakurezaki-san called was that he thought Yufuku would be a perfect fit for Tim's work - yet as I had yet to see his works in person, I was slightly hesitant. It is my policy to never hold or promise to hold an exhibition of an artist that I have not yet first visited, as it is so important to the understanding of an artist to see and feel firsthand the environment in which he or she works in. Of course the art is paramount, but these details are just as important when wishing to create a relationship with an artist. As we nurture and grow with artists, the relationship is key. The same goes for Mihara-san, Nagae-san and younger artists such as Takeyama-san and Nishikata-san, for example.

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In any event, Tim is a wonderful, introspective artist with a great sensibility in form and firing. I look forward to working with him in the coming years, with a possible exhibition in either 2012 or 2013. Please stay tuned!

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From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Yufuku Gallery/Toku Art

ps. If you haven't seen the Nishikata solo exhibition, please do! The works are incredible.
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2011年09月11日

Ken Mihara's 2nd NYC Show Opening on the 12th!

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Greetings from NYC! I'm in NYC right now with Mihara Ken (三原研) and his wife to attend the opening of his 2nd NYC solo show with Joan Mirviss of the Upper East Side. The new works, entitled Kodoh (Pulse), are some of his best yet. We hope you will agree.

The show marks Yufuku's 3rd collaboration with Joan, and as the past two shows (Mihara in '08, Nagae in '10) were sold out, I have high expectations for this show as well. Joan has already mentioned the works to be selling quickly even before the start of the show, and it can be seen that Mihara-san definitely has a momentum that calls to mind the buzz created by Kamoda in the 70's and Kakurezaki in the 90's.

We hope to see you at the show!

With best wishes,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Director
Yufuku Gallery
posted by Toku Art Limited at 07:07| Comment(0) | Mihara Ken (Sekki) | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

2011年09月03日

The Return of the (Casual) Toku Art Blog

Dear Friends of Yufuku/Toku,

It's been a while. This week, I've decided to resuscitate my blog from its unpleasant state of inertia, for various reasons.

1) Yes, I'm busier than ever, but then again, people still need to know what's happening in today's contemporary ceramic art scene in Japan.

2) It appears that people really enjoy reading about what's happening in today's contemporary ceramic art scene in Japan.

3) No other person is writing about what's happening in today's contemporary ceramic art scene in Japan.

To be honest, I've never been a casual writer. Every word I type is important to me, and for this reason, the prospect of incessant tweeting gives me the creeps. But then again, I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and simply write, whatever and whenever, in the hope that the current interest in Japanese ceramics/applied arts continues to grow.

After taking on the helm of Yufuku this year, we've had some great domestic shows such as Mihara-san's sold out domestic show in April (incredibly, right after the Earthquake), along with successful shows in Milan, Paris, London, and currently in Seoul and Heidelberg. Mihara-san's second solo show in New York will begin next week, while Nagae-san's first show in Seoul will begin next month. It's quite amazing to think how many shows outside of Japan that I was able to organise in the past few years, but then again, this only evidences the great interest in Japanese art outside of Japan.

Many of you may know that we're currently holding the 4th solo exhibition of Tamba's Ichino Masahiko at Yufuku. His creativity as an artist is on full display. In my personal opinion, Ichino-san seems to have regained his stride by heightening his attention to form, and balancing his glazing with form as foremost. His red Aka-dobe slip is far better than ever before. And his further-simplified forms now call to mind the great works of Sodeisha's Suzuki Osamu. Ichino, without question, is definitely an artist to watch.

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In the news: Bizen's Isezaki Mitsuru, the elder brother of Living National Treasure Jun, passed away last week (August 28th) at the age of 77. Mitsuru and his brother did much to popularise the anagama method of firing in Bizen, and their disciples are many. May he rest in peace.

The 6th Paramita Museum Grand Prize went, democratically, to the young white porcelain artist Wada Akira. Kako Katsumi, who will be having his first solo show at Yufuku in November, was the runner-up. Although Wada is a wonderful person and he even came to see our Ichino exhibition yesterday, I'm not too convinced about his works -yet. His talents are obvious, but his forms are still rigid, and he seems to continue to be developing a sense of scale/dynamism to his often-smaller-sized works. However Wada is unquestionably one of the more popular younger ceramic artists, and is favoured by Karasawa Masahiro (the new head of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo's Craft Department) and Kaneko Kenji, Karasawa's predecessor.

Speaking of Kaneko-san, he recently wrote a scathing refutation of the Asahi Ceramics Exhibition, its jurors and its award winners, in the July edition of Tohsetsu, the prestigious ceramic monthly published by the Japan Ceramics Society (JCS).

Although meant to be in commemoration of the 700th issue of the venerable publication, its contents were a bombshell, and so infuriated many in the Japanese ceramic scene that Toda Morinobu of Seto sent a overly-passionate letter to virtually all the ceramic artists and galleries of Japan in condemnation of Kaneko and his wish to withdraw his membership from the JCS.

Furthermore, Seto's Kato Kiyoyuki and the critic Inoue Takao also wrote reasoned, well-balanced articles in the September issue of Tohsetsu in opposition to Kaneko.

As you may well know, Japan is not known to openly criticise in public, let alone in publications. What did Kaneko-san write, however, which seemed to piss off the ceramic community?

In a nutshell, in his ending remarks Kaneko-san wrote that the recipients of the Asahi Ceramics Exhibition were mainly "one-hit wonders," and that the jurors of the exhibition could not judge properly in the context of Japanese ceramic history, and did not fully understand the "core" of Japanese ceramics today.

Controversial, to be sure. Kaneko-san now plans to publish a defense of his article in the October issue of Tohsetsu, in reaction to the articles of Kato-san and Inoue-san. One of the mediators of this on-going debate, Ono Kimihisa, came to the opening day of the Ichino exhibition and, while laughing, said that this dialogue was good for Japan, esp. if each argument was executed with reason, calm, and politeness. I agree.

In any case, this blog will be updated at least once a week. My next entry will probably come from New York. Although the writing will be done in a hurry and will hardly ever be checked or edited, please bare with me. At the very least, I'm writing. Thanks so much for all your support.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Owner and Director
Yufuku Gallery
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2011年06月02日

Collect 2011 Post Show Report

Collect 2011 Post-Show Report
Yufuku Gallery

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London, 5th of May. Unbelievably sunny, in need of sunglasses, a breezy 21 degrees Celsius.

Amidst the calamity that was (and continues to be) the Great Earthquake of Eastern Japan, along with the ensuing travesty at the Fukushima nuclear facility, the Yufuku team embarked yet again to London to participate in the Collect Art Fair for the 4th straight year, unsure of how friendly foreign waters would be to artworks made in a nation that was rocked by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded in history, a tsunami that reportedly reached almost 20 meters in height, and three simultaneous nuclear meltdowns within a 150 mile radius of its capital.

Heavy were our hearts as we boarded the 777 to the United Kingdom, yet we were somewhat buoyed by the fact that Japan Airlines had graciously upgraded our seats from coach to business for the third straight year. Loyalty to our national carrier seems to bring along some benefits. Petty as it might seem in times like these, at the very least, we now knew we would be flying with ample legroom and heartier meals.

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Japan is still continuing to recover from the aftermath of these multiple disasters, and it is amazing to find how resilient we Japanese are in times like these. We are, slowly but surely, moving forward. Yet did the world see us in the same light? Did the West think we were living in clouds of atomic smoke and rubble? Before leaving Japan, a domestic client quipped, “You should have your Geiger counters ready, because people in Europe will want to know if your artworks have gone atomic.”

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This was, in fact, a concern. Yet we were not armed with Geiger counters, but with works of great beauty. And we only hoped that our European clientele would feel the same, casting uneducated and exaggerated fears aside, and that they would enjoy our works with the same passion and enthusiasm as previous years.

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The answer to this question was a resounding, positive yes.

Our participation at Collect 2011 was, without question, our best show ever, with new records in total sales, number of works sold, and number of works sold to museums. Incredibly, we were able to overcome natural disasters, market pessimism, and ongoing currency instability to mark the 4th straight year that we had beaten our sales records from the previous year.

Yet even before beginning to discuss results, it must be said that our continued success at Collect 2011 was in no ways a given. In fact this year’s show marked a new departure for our gallery, on several counts. First, the former director of Yufuku, my father Tom M. Aoyama, was now semi-retired, and no longer takes part in the day-to-day affairs of the gallery. Collect was no different. This meant that he would only visit for a few hours on the preview night and the 1st day, thereby preventing me from looking to his sage advice in times of need.

Secondly, there was no other experienced staff member from Yufuku to manage our stand at Collect this year other than myself, as our two youthful employees, Yoriko Takahashi and Kumiko Sunahara, were taking part for the first time. Perhaps the only sense of stability from past years was the comfort of our beloved hotel, the ever-so-reliable hole in the wall right behind Harrod’s, which continues to charm us with its lethargically ancient elevator and unpredictable showers (see last year’s account, for more on their fickle water heaters).

In operational terms, Yufuku’s stand at Collect 2011 was further enlarged from the year before, with approx. 38 square meters as opposed to 29 square meters in 2010. This size made us the 2nd largest exhibitor at the show behind Claire Beck at Adrian Sassoon. When considering that our first stand at Collect 2008 (then held at the V&A) was approx. 12 square meters, it appears we’ve come a long way. Another physical change was the shape of our stand shifting from a basic rectangle to an L-shape. The increased visibility this shape allowed, along with leisure in space, was a vast improvement from last year. We also took the extra step in adding spotlights to our stand (which were usually not needed due to the abundant lighting at the Saatchi Gallery), and these helped to create further depth and ambience to our presentation. Our location within the venue, however, hadn’t changed for the past 3 years, and it was this reassuring sense of continuity that further emphasised Yufuku’s appeal to returning clients.

This year’s Yufuku collection featured approx. 55 works from 17 artists; returning artists from previous years were Sueharu Fukami (seihakuji slip-cast porcelain), Ken Mihara (high-fired stoneware), Shigekazu Nagae (slip-cast white porcelain), Naoki Takeyama (enamelled copper), Atsushi Takagaki (celadon), Akihiro Maeta (white porcelain), Yeo Byong Uk (unglazed stoneware), Takahiro Yede (woven metal), Masahiko Ichino (ash-fired stoneware), Niyoko Ikuta (cut sheet glass), Mutsumi Suzuki (lacquer), Gaku Shakunaga (black stoneware), Rikie Shojiguchi (blown glass), and Ryota Nishikata (hammered copper), while Takuo Nakamura (enamelled stoneware), Yasuko Sakurai (slip-cast deconstructed porcelain), and Tsutomu Iwasaki (wood sculpture) were new and widely-anticipated additions to our entourage.

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In terms of actual sales, works by Fukami, Mihara, Nagae, Takeyama, Takagaki, Maeta, Nakamura and Sakurai virtually sold out, while strong sales were also recorded by artists such as Ikuta and Yeo, and Suzuki. Works of great significance that were acquired by private collections were unquestionably the Fukami classic “Time of Serenity,” which was a form I was personally fond of and had commissioned the artist to return to specifically for our Collect show. It ultimately became the greatest Fukami we’ve ever had the joy of exhibiting in London, and I’m grateful that it has found a home in an excellent private collection. Perhaps the largest work I’ve ever sold, the colossal obelisk by Nakamura entitled Kuritsu (Capturing Space), standing at 220 cm tall, was also sold to a private collection, and its gold enamels glistened incandescently when basking the in natural lighting of our client’s home, with the radiant greens of her gardens pouring from the living room window.

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In regards to public acquisitions, a total of four works exhibited by Yufuku were acquired by museums throughout the UK, which one-upped the three acquisitions made in 2010. The star of the entire show, however, was undoubtedly Naoki Takeyama and his wildly imaginative “Shippo” enamelled copper objects. He was the only artist to be awarded two Art Fund Prizes this year for the works Yukiai (Encounters) and Hakutai (A Thousand Years), and the former was subsequently acquired by the Birmingham Museum of Art, while the latter by the Plymouth Museum of Art. Congratulations to Takeyama-san. As a side note, the artist says he had the Art Fund Prize in the back of his mind while creating the work Yukiai, and it is astonishing to think that his dream came true, twice.

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At the same time, Takahiro Yede’s abstract tapestry in metal, entitled Homura (Inferno), also received an Art Fund Prize and was acquired by the National Museum Wales. As only eight Art Fund Prizes were awarded this year, it’s quite humbling to think that 3 of the 8 came from our stand – no small feat indeed. And this was somewhat of a victory for Yede-san, who after quitting the Japan Traditional Art Crafts Association, had been pursuing avant-garde forms that departed from the staid emphasis on vessel forms in traditional metalworking circles. As the artist is somewhat ill at the moment, I would like to extend my deep gratitude to Yede-san for being able to complete this work for our recent Collect show, and only wish him better health in the coming months.

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Last but not least, a Yasuko Sakurai work called Flower-s was independently acquired by the venerable Victoria & Albert Museum, and it is gratifying to know that this artist’s work will be on view at this museum for perpetuity, especially as she has been working with us for almost 15 years, and we have seen her career and stature as an artist grow with each passing year. Although it was her first year at Collect and she is very much a young artist, I think the reaction to her works was tremendous, and well-deserved. And thank you, Sakurai-san, for visiting the show and boosting our morale!

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Ultimately, I am somewhat relieved to know that the show had ended on such a high note. Move-in and break-down were the smoothest I’ve ever experienced in the four years we’ve been here, and I think the Crafts Council and the Collect show team really pulled off an operational success. To their hard work as well, I also extend my many thanks.

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Finally, a personal announcement that comes far too late.

This January, I had officially taken over the operations of Yufuku from my father, thereby amalgamating my own company Toku Art with Yufuku and its parent company East Meets West, while retaining the gallery moniker my father had used for the past twenty years. We had planned to announce this change in the first week of April to coincide with our subsequently sold-out Ken Mihara show, yet refrained due to the ensuing sadness of recent events.

In this light, I would like to take the opportunity herein to extend my deepest and heartfelt gratitude to every single person who had supported my father and Yufuku throughout the years, and humbly ask for your kind and continued support in the years ahead. Yufuku is now heading into a new phase in its 20 year history, and I’m confident that only brighter skies lie ahead, as we try to introduce to the world great works of beauty and grace that have never been seen before.

As mentioned previously, it is our wish to spread peace, happiness and prosperity through the dissemination of beauty. I only hope this dream will continue, especially in times like these.

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Director
Yufuku Gallery

To view our official catalogue of works shown at Collect 2011, please view the link here.
posted by Toku Art Limited at 12:14| Comment(0) | News and Updates | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

2010年05月31日

Collect 2010 Post-Show Report

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London, 11th of May, 2010. Cloudy, temperature 12 degrees Celsius.

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(Maki, Wahei and Tom)

The Yufuku team, comprised of Mitsumasa ‘Tom’ Aoyama, Maki Yamashita and Wahei Aoyama, whilst accompanied by stunning jewellery designer Kazumi Nagano, nimbly walked off of our Japan Airlines flight (we are loyal followers of our national carrier) to find ourselves enwrapped in the cold air of the British capital. Notably absent from our entourage this year was Nami, my wife and talented staff member, who stayed home to take care of our newborn daughter. As she had always been a great help at our stand ever since our first participation at Collect 2008, a London without Nami felt rather odd and slightly less welcoming.

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(The owner of Yufuku and our gallery representative)

After surviving an absurdly long queue at immigration, a jolly, grinning Indian lady greeted us at Heathrow’s arrivals gate to whisk us away to our reserved cab: destination, Knightsbridge, where we would again be staying at the same small hotel snugly hidden several blocks behind Harrod’s. This lodging possessed three eyebrow-raising characteristics: the oldest working elevator in London, the entire staff hailing from the Eastern Bloc, and the dire lack of simultaneously running hot water past midnight. Yet we return every year to generate laughter whilst recollecting the whimsical mishaps therein.

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Hopping onto a dilapidated sedan that was far too small for the four of us plus our luggage (including three boxes full of Yufuku’s Collect 2010 brochures weighing 25 kilos each), our conversation naturally turned to the reason why we had left the sunny warmth of Tokyo for less friendly, volcanic-ash-filled skies. Collect 2010. This was our 3rd consecutive year at the event, and we had embarked with somewhat timid expectations. The question rang through the stale air conditioning of the Indian driver’s black 80’s-reminiscent Toyota. Would we be able to surpass the great success of previous years?

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Ultimately, Collect 2010 was a big hit: in fact, our most successful show ever. Yet perhaps the biggest hit came soon after our car had left the parking lot of Heathrow. Abruptly and altogether unexpected, our cab was jolted from behind by a prim Audi driven by an absent-minded 30-something on her mobile. Grabbing our necks in befuddlement and pain, we didn’t know what hit us, yet our taxi driver was un-phased. “Boss, I’ve been hit!” she announced to her manager as he blurted out on the Bluetooth speaker, “You gotta be kidding me -- again?!!” At that moment, I knew that luck was on our side, and that we were certainly in for a ride.

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In many ways, Collect 2009 was an ad-hoc experiment; not only was it the first time that Collect was held at a venue other than the Victoria & Albert Museum, but it tried, for example, to blend the exhibits of paying, vetted exhibitors with displays of works publically funded by the Crafts Council and its permanent collection. This, together with the inconvenience of having a show spread out over 3 floors, made for an incoherent viewing experience and a long queue in front of elevators.

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(Mutsumi-san's last masterpiece, happily sold to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum via the generosity of the Art Fund)

Collect 2010 rectified these problems whilst extending the show to end on Monday rather than Sunday. Although this provided for a logistical nightmare in our break-down capabilities, it could be equivocally said that another day also meant another day to sell to clients who were not able to visit over the weekend (although I’ve always felt that serious collectors would never fail to pass this event up in the first place). Yet with real results to prove the point, I must say that success at art fairs is ultimately a crapshoot. Our team, however, would probably not mind a shorter fair, as jet lag can be fairly brutal on the 6th working day of an excessively long-hour fair.

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Although we were fortunately located in the same location as last year’s show, two major physical differences could be seen at our stand. First, our booth size had been further increased by 9 square meters, thus making us one of the largest exhibitors at the show. This was both a blessing and a bane; although we could exhibit more works, it became infinitely more difficult to arrange the works successfully, and moreover, it became absolutely exhausting to walk from one side of our stand to the other repeatedly for 8 hours each day. Not only this, it was a pain to select works that could maintain a presence without being overwhelmed by the extra space -- in hindsight this was hardly a problem, as each and every work we selected could hold their own, yet moreover, I ultimately realised that the average size of our works were far larger than last years, and space seemed in short supply! Second, we decided to bring along our own display systems this year so as to not have to work again with the incompetence of the official stand builders, who last year did not even complete our stand build until 8pm on move-in day. Having designed readily collapsible flat-panel stand displays that are not only lightweight but are easy to pack and ship, our investment paid off in spades, with many fellow exhibitors admiring our bravery and wanting to purchase these flat-pack stands altogether. I’m sure we’ll be using these displays for many years to come.

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In terms of actual sales, I can happily report that works by Mutsumi Suzuki, Ken Mihara, Atsushi Takagaki, Akihiro Maeta, Yeo Byong Uk, Naoki Takeyama and newcomer Ryota Nishikata sold out during the 4-day fair, while strong sales were further posted by Sueharu Fukami, Shigekazu Nagae (coming off a sold-out solo show in NYC just two months ago, which we had also organised), Niyoko Ikuta and Takahiro Yede. All in all, we had nearly doubled the number of sold works from our debut participation in 2008, and shattered the sales record that we had set in 2009.

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(as you may have noticed, we like to move things around at least once a day)

Highlights of Collect 2010 were the sales of two works, a celadon object by Atsushi Takagaki and a white porcelain vase by Akihiro Maeta, to the prestigious British Museum. At the same time, a memorable event was the acquisition by the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter of recently deceased Mutsumi Suzuki’s last great masterpiece, entitled Golden Fields of Rice, through the always generous Art Fund. We’ve been lucky enough to win the Art Fund Prize for the second straight year, with last year’s memorable acquisition of Niyoko Ikuta’s spiralling glasswork by the V&A, and it is particularly gratifying to know that Mutsumi-san’s beautiful work will be cherished by many for posterity in an honourable public institution.

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(4 major masterpieces, two of which are going to the British Museum, the others to private collections)

Although the dust has yet to settle since the curtains closed on Collect 2010, I’ve already began planning our stand for 2011 (of course, granted that our application passes judicial muster), in particular the selection of artists. New faces will surely be seen, and like every year, I will try my utmost to ensure that the quality of works on display will consistently rise. I’m already excited.

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Lastly, I would like to take the time to thank every single person who took the time to visit our stand and appreciate the multitude of works made by Japan’s leading artists -- your comments and criticism are truly and fully appreciated. Thank you as well to all the clients and collectors, both new and existing, who acquired works from us this year -- it is with your support that our artists can continue to create beautiful things. And finally, I’d like to thank Yoshimori and Eunmi for their stellar, attentive and enthusiastic help at our stand during Collect 2010. Yoshi made a brilliant catch and rescued a porcelain work from utter destruction as my father bumped his bottom into a display stand. Eunmi helped ease our tired minds with her warm and gentle nature, and for thoughtfully buying us bottled drinks when we were down and running out of sucrose. Thank you!

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(Yoshi carefully hands out precious Yufuku brochures)

All of us at Yufuku Gallery/Toku Art sincerely look forward to meeting you again in London for the next edition of the Collect Art Fair.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited/Yufuku



posted by Toku Art Limited at 10:54| Comment(0) | News and Updates | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

2010年04月15日

Collect 2010: May 14-17, Saatchi Gallery, London, UK

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Niyoko Ikuta, Kuu-10 (Free Essence 10)

For the 3rd consecutive year, Yufuku Gallery and Toku Art will once again be exhibiting at Collect, the premier international art fair for contemporary objects in Europe.

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Mihara Ken, Kigen (Genesis)

The show will take place at the excellent Saatchi Gallery in London from May 14 (Fri) to May 17 (Mon), with May 13 (Thu) a private viewing.

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Nagae Shigekazu, Tsuranari no Katachi (Forms in Succession)

I'm extremely excited about our lineup this year, which I think surpasses the quality of our works from previous years.

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Takeyama Naoki, Tamayura (Ephemeral)

Building on the humble success of our shows in both 2008 and 2009, we've first decided to enlarge the size of our stand for Collect 2010.

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Shojiguchi Rikie, FUKURA (Soft Bulb)

Simultaneously, we've expanded our range of artists, featuring new work by modern-day masters such as ceramists Akihiro Maeta and Yukio Yoshita, and including a new generation of younger artists such as Rikie Shojiguchi in glass, Gaku Shakunaga in ceramics, and the metalwork of Ryota Nishikata.

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Fukami Sueharu, Kiyoki He no Omoi (Visions of Clarity)

On display will be a total of approx. 40 carefully-selected works in ceramics, glass, metal and lacquer. We sincerely look forward to introducing these beautiful works to you at Collect.

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Yede Takahiro, Tatsu 2010-I (Departure 2010-I)

More information will soon follow in the coming weeks, in particular a long-awaited renewal of Yufuku's English website (which had been put on temporary hiatus for various reasons). Thank you to all who have kindly and most patiently waited for more information from us in English -- we will not let your hopes down.

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Shakunaga Gaku, Sekiso (Pyramids of Inspiration)

Looking forward to seeing you in London,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art/Yufuku Gallery

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Maeta Akihiro, Hakuji Mentori Tsubo (White Porcelain Faceted Vase)

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Nishikata Ryota, Yozutsumi (Nightfall)

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Takagaki Atsushi, Akane Seiji Shoei (Celadon with Scarlet Hues - Dawn Shadows)

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Yoshita Yukio, Kinrande Saishoku Kaki (Enamelled Object for Flowers)

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Ichino Masahiko, Hibiki (Harmony)

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Yeo Byong-uk, Choki (Oblong Object)

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Suzuki Mutsumi, Shunuri Daen Futamono (Vermilion Lacquered Lidded Object)

ps.
The above preview is only a glimpse of the many fascinating works that we will be bringing to Collect 2010. As mentioned in the blog post, there are approx. 40 works in total that we will be exhibiting at our stand. For more information, please contact us at info@toku-art.com.

pps.
The Einin Saga which I had the great pleasure of writing will be put on indefinite hold, as my free time to write has been cut short somewhat by the arrival of my first child last March. Thank you very much for your kind understanding as my wife and I endeavour upon the mystical journey of parenthood!
posted by Toku Art Limited at 21:02| Comment(0) | News and Updates | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

2010年01月30日

The Einin Tsubo, Chapter 4: The Brokering of the Einin

Chapter Four
The Brokering of the Einin


Thunderous applause swept Tokuro off his feet as he nimbly stepped away from the podium of the Tokyo Bijutsu Club. Ever so eloquently, infectiously ebullient, the preacher had made a lasting impression on the hearts and minds of the flock which assembled from throughout Japan to see and hear the latest archaeological finds of the Japan Ceramic Society in October of 1946. Shaking hands with contemporaries, historians, scientists and aficionados, Tokuro could not help but beam. With each word spoken and with each letter written concerning the Einin Tsubo and the Matsudome shards, Tokuro was in effect elevating his own status as a living legend in both the world of archaeology and of ceramic art.

In the November 1946 issue of the antique art journal Kobijutsu, Sato Shinzo, a founding member and passionate leader of the Japan Ceramic Society, wrote the following unequivocal commentary regarding Tokuro’s enigmatic Matsudome kiln.

“The number of elements, types and changes found in the works unearthed at Matsudome surpasses all other kilns from the same time period.”

And more.

“Dim and callous individuals may view the works produced in the Matsudome kiln and think them peculiar, simply because they have not seen similar works anywhere else, and will be quick to consider them awry or faulty. But it is far greater a crime to consider quality works awry than to label awry works as quality ones. In such a case, it is easy to discern this person’s eye for art.”

Sato Shinzo and Kato Tokuro were a formidable duo of great intellectual and artistic authority. If they were to call water wine, who could possibly disagree? The stage was set, thus, for the effortless brokering of the Tsubo and, ultimately, a movement spearheaded by Koyama Fujio to designate the two (yes, two) Einin Tsubos as Important Cultural Properties of Japan.

Shortly after Tokuro’s mesmerising soliloquy at the Tokyo Bijutsu Club, Tanabe Shichiroku, a former member of the Diet (Japan’s parliament) during pre-war Japan, informed Sato of his interest in acquiring the Einin Tsubo from Mayor Hasegawa. Big fish were now biting, and Tokuro and Sato were on the verge of making their first catch.

One should remember that Tanabe’s younger brother Katamaru was a founding member and director of the Japan Ceramic Society, and as mentioned in Chapter 3 of this tale, it was in Katamaru’s home in Shibuya where the JCS was first established. At the same time, Tanabe Shichiroku and Nezu Kaichiro, the founder of the Nezu Museum in Aoyama, both hailed from Yamanashi Prefecture (formerly called Koshu Province). It was the Nezu which had first been offered the Einin for 35,000 yen (12 million yen today) in 1943, and it is an interesting twist of fate to find that the Einin would entwine these men of Koshu together.

Perhaps more intriguing was the fact that Shichiroku’s elder half-brother was Kobayashi Ichizo, the legendary industrialist and founder of the impressive Hankyu conglomerate. Kobayashi was a key benefactor of the traditional arts, and his penchant for art collecting (an influence still visible today by the continued existence and legacy of the Hankyu Department Store’s Art Department) had undoubtedly influenced his younger brother Shichiroku. This artistic influence may have been hereditary, as Shichiroku’s second son and former LDP member Tanabe Kunio would ultimately rise to be the governor of Yamanashi, and when inaugurating Yamanashi’s prefectural museum in 1978, went out and purchased Millet’s famous “The Sower” and “The Return of the Flock” for an outstanding 185 million yen (approx. 370 million yen today). Of course, these precious paintings were not purchased from Kunio’s pockets but from the pockets of Yamanashi’s taxpayers. And so it goes.

Unlike his son’s extravagant acquisition, Shichiroku’s was hardly as costly. The selling price for Einin Tsubo #1 (with the Mizuno Shiro Harumasa inscription) was an unusually low 50,000 yen (approx. 3 million yen today). Content with his luck in acquiring such a historic piece for a relatively low sum, Shichiroku sent both Tokuro and Sato a bottle each of premium daiginjo sake as simple tokens of gratitude.

But who actually brokered the deal? In a September 25th, 1960 interview with the liberal-leaning Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese daily, in Paris (where he had fled to escape the media upon the national declaration that the Einin were fakes), Tokuro flatly denied his participation.

Recalled Tokuro, “When Mayor Hasegawa went and sold the tsubo, I hadn’t a clue! I heard of this fact much later.”

Yet Sato’s recollection was far different. In his memoirs, Sato clearly wrote that “Tokuro brought the Einin Tsubo to my home and asked if I could find a buyer for it. And so I did.”

In any event, art lover Tanabe Shichiroku was a happy man. Recalled his son Kunio upon his father’s passing in 1952, “my father was deeply enamoured with collecting tea ceramics in the later years of his life. This passion was greatly influenced by his brothers Kobayashi Ichizo and Tanabe Katamaru.” And the three art-inclined brothers would meet from time to time, comparing their art collections and enjoying the view whilst smoking cigars and sipping foreign spirits. Shichiroku’s pride and joy, in particular, was the Seto vase called the Einin Tsubo. Like many of the entrepreneurs of the Showa period, rich men were cultured folk, and the Kobayashi/Tanabe brothers were no different.


Compared to the 12 million yen that was the asking price of the Einin Tsubo towards the Nezu Museum, the 3 million paid by Shichiroku was a paltry sum. Yet this was largely in part due to the rampant inflation of post-war Japan, wherein the price of goods quintupled from 1945 to 1946, and later tripled from 1946 to 1947. The basic necessities of life such as fresh vegetables and medicine were scarce, and goods were often obtained through black markets that sprung forth throughout the decimated nation.

But what of the second Einin Tsubo and its selling? Two new characters must be welcomed.

Hasegawa Utako, Mayor Hasegawa’s single daughter, was a doctor, and running her own small clinic in Kasugai City, Aichi Prefecture, she was also a benefactor of the black markets, where she had no choice but to obtain her medicine from. Near Utako’s clinic was the home of Takahashi Shigeru, who owned a small factory that produced industrial grinders. Coincidentally, Takahashi was also a ceramic enthusiast, and in his youth, would frequent the Kamakura-based kiln of Kitaoji Rosanjin and befriended Rosanjin’s master craftsman Arakawa Toyozo, the future Living National Treasure for Shino ware.

As the fates would have it, Takahashi’s life would also cross paths with Kato Tokuro. In fact, shortly after the war, Tokuro would reside in Takahashi’s employee residence for several months, borrowing Takahashi’s industrial coal-burning kiln to fire his ceramic works. “Tokuro said that in return for putting him up and lending him my kiln, that he would give me half of the profits he earned from selling his pottery. Well, I don’t remember ever receiving a dime!” laughed Takahashi in his later years.

It is Takahashi’s testimony that helps shed light on the reasons behind the sudden emergence of the second Einin Tsubo and its subsequent retail.

‘Twas either the end of 1946 or the beginning of 1947. Takahashi, nursing a bad cold, stopped over at Mayor Hasegawa’s home in Shidami to say hello to Utako, his neighbour in Kasugai, and Tokuro, who was also spending time with the Mayor.

To his surprise, Utako was in tears.

“You two are just like the tanuki (raccoon) and kitsune (fox), constantly trying to scheme and connive,” cried Utako.

Frowning in consternation, Mayor Hasegawa and Tokuro looked at one another and sighed. Takahashi had not a clue as to what had taken place.

Utako, calming herself, then began to explain to Takahashi how the Mayor, who was also the head of the local farmers union, was recently the victim of a scam to acquire fertilizer. Agricultural materials were extremely hard to come by in Japan after the war, and a lawyer named Morita had approached him with an offer to acquire 60,000 yen (approx. 3.5 million yen today) worth of ammonia on the black market, for the use of the entire union. Morita then took off with the funds, or so the story went, and as Hasegawa had withdrawn the money from the union coffers, and as the fiscal year was coming to a close, he had no choice but to borrow funds from his daughter Utako in order to balance the books.

“But Takahashi-san, I desperately need my money back so that I can purchase medicine for my clinic. My patients can’t wait,” pleaded Utako.

Takahashi, taken back by this sudden and unexpected turn of events, didn’t know what to say.

Sternly, Tokuro spoke as he pointed to an ash-glazed tsubo resting in the tokonoma alcove of Hasegawa’s guestroom.

“Takahashi-san, the fact of the matter is that I’d like to travel to Tokyo so that I can sell this tsubo for Hasegawa-san and return the money to Utako. But to be frank, I don’t have enough money to cover the travel costs. Can you do me a favour and lend me 10,000 yen so that I can make it to Tokyo?”

This tsubo, it turns out, was Einin Tsubo No. 2 (with the Mizuno Masaharu inscription). Takahashi agreed to dole out Tokuro’s travel expenses as an act of friendship. And with the 10,000 yen in travel fees covered by Takahashi, Tokuro would travel to Tokyo with the tsubo and visit the home of Sato Shinzo. Subsequently, the clever Sato would successful sell the Einin Tsubo No. 2 to his friend and colleague Fukada Yuichiro, a wealthy businessman from Yonago (Tottori Prefecture) who had also attended the Tokyo Bijutsu Club presentation. The price paid by Fukada was 70,000 yen, or approx. 4 million yen today.

Fukada had fallen in love with ceramics during his time spent in pre-war Tokyo, where he ran a company manufacturing activated carbon used in gasmasks. The end of the war marked a fitting end for the need for gasmasks, and Fukada would return to Yonago, his ancestral home, to create activated carbon used instead in the making of sake. His passion for collecting ceramics would grow together with the size of his company, and he would eventually become the first director of the Yonago branch of the Japan Ceramic Society upon the Society’s inception. Fukada was personally close with Kato Hajime, the artist who would eventually become a Living National Treasure for enamelled porcelain, and had even visited the kiln of Bizen’s Living National Treasure Kaneshige Toyo several times together with his JCS colleague Sato.

Upon Sato’s proposition to acquire a magical second Einin that had never before been publically recognised in any form or manner, Fukada’s only request was that Tokuro would authenticate the piece with a hako-gaki (a paulownia box with calligraphy attesting to a work’s title and authenticity).

“Certainly,” Sato replied, and days later, visited Tokuro to ask for a hako-gaki. Tokuro obliged without hesitation, and in his now-legendary masterful brushstrokes, wrote the following words on the lid of a wooden box.

Top of Lid: Einin Mei (Engraved Einin) Kizeto (Yellow Seto) Heishi (Vase/Flask)
Bottom of Lid: Tokuro Shi (Authenticated by Tokuro)

Not once did Fukada question the ambiguous origins of the second Einin Tsubo. Rather, most antique ceramic collectors and cultural historians were privy to the fact that heishi-shaped sake flasks for Shinto rituals were almost always made in pairs. If Tokuro would attest to the fact that the second Einin Tsubo was also unearthed by Mayor Hasegawa in Shidami Village, who was to disagree? The existence of Einin Tsubo No. 1 was already an unmovable, infallible fact, and although Einin Tsubo No. 2 was never presented in archaeological journals or discussed by the JCS, one could simply assume that the second jar was hidden from publicity as it was intended to be held privately by its discoverer. Until, of course, its owner suddenly needed fast cash.


Upon careful inspection, it is easy to find grave discrepancies between the two works. In particular, three major differences can be brought to light.

1) Einin No. 1 had the erred inscription Hyakuzan, whilst Einin No. 2 was correctly engraved the words Hakuzan, the correct geological reference to a nearby mountain and Shinto shrine.
2) Einin No. 1 referred to a samurai with the full title “Mizuno Shiro Masaharu,” whilst Einin No. 2 abbreviated his title as “Mizuno Masaharu.”
3) Einin No. 1 correctly features the word “Nen” (Year) after the mention of the time period Einin, whilst Einin No. 2 incorrectly leaves the word “Nen” out.

Despite these seemingly blatant errors, the handwriting found on both vases was unquestionably the work of the same artist. Yet why the discrepancies? Were the works made at different points of time? Or were they skewed on purpose? Yet regardless, such details could not hide the fact that the overall balance of the glazing, the form and the firing of the second Einin Tsubo paled in comparison to the beauty and grandeur of the original Einin.

....

Like falling water, the memories of men drip quickly from our minds. Only five years had passed since the War to end all Wars was effectively nipped in the bud, and now the Korean War had again brought death and despair to the Far East. Was peace really so elusive? Yet ironically enough, the travesty in the Korean peninsula was a heavenly blessing for Japan’s distraught economy. What Japan was about to witness from the early 1950’s was the dawn of perhaps the greatest economic miracle of the 20th century. Indeed, the sun would rise once more.

In the midst of war, the owner of Einin No. 1, Tanabe Shichiroku, would pass away in 1952, shrouding the whereabouts of his treasure in foggy mist. And in 1954, a year after the Korean War would end, the old Mayor of Shidami, Hasegawa Yoshitaka, would also pass. An anonymous ex-member of the Seto Historical Committee who was a friend of Hasegawa would testify many years later that the poor Mayor would not live to see a yen from Tokuro’s brokerage of either Einins.

1954 was also the year that Tokuro would publish his famous Toji-Jiten (Dictionary of Ceramics), still found in major bookstores throughout Japan (and even online). The dictionary was originally a series of six rather large books first published in 1937. Tokuro would leap at the chance to edit the separate dictionaries into a single, abbreviated version that also happened to be in colour. Of course, editing was only half the story. The artist would also gain the golden opportunity to add and rewrite respective entries of his choosing.

In the 1954 edition of the Toji-Jiten, the images of six historic works would be featured in full colour. Among them were the “Momoyama Period Oribe Lion-Shaped Incense Container”, Nonomura Ninsei’s “Tsubo with Young Pine Motif”, and perhaps not surprisingly, two works that hailed from Tokuro’s mysterious Matsudome kiln - - the Flower Vase with Willow Pattern, owned by Tanabe Shichiroku’s younger brother Katamaru, and, of course, the Einin Tsubo no. 1.

The commentary on the Einin, written by Kato Tokuro himself, went as follows.

“Kamakura Period Seto Heishi (Jar/Flask)”

“Its base clay is gray and fine, while its glaze is a clear amber colour, similar to many early-period ash-glazed works. It is built by coiling, and then forming and smoothing upon a potter’s wheel. The work is representative of the Seto heishi style, and contains a powerful energy. On its body is written the following inscription. Offered to the Gods at Hyakuzan Shrine, Dedicated by Mizuno Shiro Masaharu, of Mikuriya in Seto, Yamadanokori County, Bishuu Province (present-day Aichi Prefecture), Second Year of Einin, A Day in November. In the Western calendar this date refers to 1294, or the late Kamakura Period soon after the Mongol Invasion; although the level of ceramics in Japan was commonly thought to have deteriorated greatly during this period, the quality of this work makes it extremely rare. Furthermore, this work is now considered to be the oldest remaining Seto pottery that features an inscription of a historic time period.”

“Owned by Fukada Yuichiro.”

Fukada, of course, did not own Einin Tsubo No. 1. Rather, he had purchased the unspectacular Einin No. 2. But why did the dictionary name Fukada as the owner and still feature an image of the Einin owned by Tanabe Shichiroku? Was this an honest mistake on behalf of Tokuro? Or did he simply not want to disclose an image of a faulty work?

Both Tokuro’s third son Shigetaka and Hayashiya Seizo, currently the honorary director of the Tokyo National Museum, recall Tokuro in later years adamantly denying that the words to the commentary were his. In a recorded public discussion with art critic and philosopher Aoyama Jiro, Tokuro said, “It wasn’t me that put that photograph in the dictionary. The damn publisher had put it in to sell more copies!”

Interestingly, within the dictionary is featured a list of several prominent individuals who had written words of praise in testament to the exceptional quality of Tokuro’s opus.

Takahashi Seiichiro, Chairman of the Japan Art Academy
Asano Nagatake, Director of the Tokyo National Museum
Ueno Naoaki, Chancellor of the Tokyo University of Arts
Umezawa Hikotaro, Director of the Japan Ceramic Society
Kawabata Yasunari, author and future recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature
Matsunaga Jian, wealthy entrepreneur and one of the greatest Showa tea masters

Last but not least, we can find the name of our unknowing protagonist, Koyama Fujio, on the list as well: the man who would, in the following chapter, effectively, strategically, and ultimately tragically, designate the Einin Tsubo an Important Cultural Property of Japan.


(Continued in Chapter 5: The Birth of an Important Cultural Property)
Due in February
(Continued in Chapter 6: In Doubt and Shadows)
Due in March
(Continued in Chapter 7: Koyama Tomio’s Fall from Grace)
Due in April

(Titles of Chapters subject to change)

Written by Wahei Aoyama, based on the book "Einin no Tsubo" by Matsui Kakushin

posted by Toku Art Limited at 23:38| Comment(0) | Einin Tsubo Incident | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

2009年12月31日

Farewell 2009, Enter 2010

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'Forms in Succession' by Nagae Shigekazu, presented by Toku Art/Yufuku in Bath, UK.

In the words of Joydivision, a new dawn fades. Just as I thought the year had finally begun, I am reminded that we are on the verge of its climactic end. Despite the global gloom, 2009 was unequivocally the busiest year in Toku Art Limited’s 3-year history, and by far the most successful. This is, without question, due to the encouraging support of our friends, clients and readers throughout the world. Thank you. It is to you I write.

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Various Shippo works by Takeyama Naoki, presented by Toku Art/Yufuku in Bath, UK.

2010 will be our busiest year yet. As usual, you will be able to find our artworks animating the halls of the Saatchi Gallery this May at Collect 2010. Not only London, we will be collaborating with galleries throughout the world to bring the works of our artists to collectors in cities such as Bath, Heidelberg, Munich, New York, Chicago, and Paris. My JAL mileage will be peaking.

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'Tokoname Tsubo' by Yamada Jozan IV, presented by Toku Art/Yufuku in Heidelberg, Germany.

Organising exhibitions comprises hardly a quarter of our actual business activities. A major component of our operations is the discovery and cultivation of new talent. Similar to how we were able to nurture the remarkable career of young contemporary Shippo artist Naoki Takeyama, we have several new artists in such mediums as glass, metalwork and ceramics up our sleeves that will be primed to hit the global stage in 2010, most likely debuting at Collect. We also have several established artists who have yet to hit international markets who will be joining our ranks in 2010 and onwards. Proper announcements will soon follow.

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'Hakuji Mentori Tsubo' by Maeta Akihiro, presented by Toku Art/Yufuku in Heidelberg, Germany.

Furthermore, thank you to all who have sent comments and criticisms regarding my ongoing literary project that is the Einin Saga. Each word you write is appreciated dearly. This month’s publication has been postponed for various reasons, both business and personal. But rest assured, I will indeed be updating this blog with the next chapter in late January.

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'Shino Mizusashi' by Kato Yasukage XIV, presented by Toku Art/Yufuku in Heidelberg, Germany.

Lastly, I must apologise for my embarrassing inability to update Toku’s official homepage; our web programmer just had a baby, and understandably, she’s rather busy with life. In any case, new content will be posted by February, I believe (or hope), and this should mark an optimistic cycle and stream of periodical updates that will continue for not months but years to come. Thank you in advance for your kind patience and understanding.

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'Yuri Ginsai Tsubo' by Ono Jiro, presented by Toku Art/Yufuku in Heidelberg, Germany.

From all of us at Toku Art Limited and Yufuku Gallery, we wish you peace, happiness and prosperity in the Year of the Tiger.

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited
posted by Toku Art Limited at 17:36| Comment(1) | News and Updates | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

2009年11月30日

The Einin Tsubo, Chapter 3: A Sunny Afternoon in Seto

Chapter Three
A Sunny Afternoon in Seto


Falling like rain from darkened skies, the ferocity of the firebombing of Tokyo intensified as the pages of the calendar turned to 1945. Hasegawa Shuko, the young wife of Mayor Hasegawa’s son Torao, prayed to herself as she slept in her futon, wishing she had the warmth of her husband next to her on such snowy January nights. Their baby daughter, still 3 years old, slept softly beside Shuko.

It was in 1944 that Torao the newspaper reporter had been drafted to the war at the relatively late age of 32, and was stationed on a secret air force base in Oita Prefecture. Shuko dreamt each night that her husband would return home safely. And so he would.

Ever the good wife, the responsibility was upon Shuko’s shoulders to protect the family home in the absence of its patriarch. Yet with the bombs hitting Tokyo in sporadic tangents, even the exemplar wife could only hope and pray for the devastation to fall elsewhere. Moreover, even more worrying for Shuko was not the fate of her Meguro home or their property therein. The somber words of her father-in law rang through her ears. “Protect this tsubo with your life!”How could Shuko possibly sleep at night when her husband's father's dearest treasure was in danger of obliteration at any moment? Worrying for the safety of herself and her child was an entirely different matter.

The next morning, Shuko’s mind was made. Wrapping the Einin Tsubo in a furoshiki linen for carrying goods, she clenched the tsubo in both arms and embarked for Nagoya on the Tokaido line. Behind her, Shuko’s small child clumsily followed her mother. Train, run faster, faster, Shuko thought to herself. Each and every second she held the tsubo felt like years. But the persistent air raids had already expanded their radius to the outskirts of Tokyo, and as a result, the Tokaido line would stop repeatedly until she would reach the central city of Nagoya. From Nagoya, Shuko, the tsubo and child would transfer on the Chuo line to Shidami Village, and greeted by Mayor Hasegawa at the nearest train station, Shuko would safely carry the tsubo back to Hasegawa’s home. Proud of his son’s loyal wife, Mayor Hasegawa was all smiles. And the tsubo, safely in Shidami, finally rested in the place where it would be widely recognised by the leading ceramic experts of Japan for the first time.

January, 1946. Half a year had passed since Emperor Hirohito broadcasted his surrender on national radio to his disheartened denizens. The war had decimated Japan to smoke and rubble, and its people were beginning to slowly pick up the broken pieces to their tattered lives. Yet from such desolation would be born an association of academics, artists, collectors and dealers who would bring a glimpse of hope to one small sector of Japan: the world of ceramic art. Established on January 20th, 1946 at the Shoto, Shibuya-ku home of Tanabe Katamaru, an entrepreneur who would eventually become the president of the Toho movie studio, was the Japan Ceramics Society (JCS). Not by mere chance alone, Tanabe’s elder brother Tanabe Shichiroku, a heavyweight politician in the Seiyukai (predecessor to the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan), would be the first (and not the last) person to purchase the Einin Tsubo.

Sato Shinzo, a founding member of the JCS who would become a central figure in the selling of the Einin Tsubo, poignantly wrote in the February 1946 issue of the antique journal “Kobijutsu” on the raison d’etre of the JCS, which continues to exist today, albeit with a largely diminished presence.

“(JCS) must proceed with all its might to help foster and guide the birth of a new age in ceramics. It is without question that we must invest our energies into the research of old ceramics, but simultaneously, we must extend such energies towards the creation of a new kind of ceramics that can one day be representative of Japanese culture as a whole, and can be something that we can proclaim and present to a global audience.

Such a role, in both pre-war and post-war Japan, should have been promulgated and fulfilled by the bureaucrats associated with cultural affairs, yet unfortunately they continue to have no greater plan or vision for the future of ceramics. The melancholy that inhibits the ivory towers of the old guard, or in other words, the status-quo of the oh-so-important art-related senseis associated with the Ministry of Education, are far from being in tune with the needs of the masses. With but one step taken outside of their ivory tower, they put on the arrogant face of the powerful bureaucrat and spit out their special privileges as if it were their birthright. Not only this, the many museums that were built to house the wonders of modern civilization are simply housing such wonders in the ineffectual quagmires of eternal sleep, largely due to the inability of their directors to take risks, much like snug cats locked up in the soothing warmth of conservatories.

With its inception, the Japan Ceramics Society will attack and expunge the traditional and conservative hierarchical thought that pervades Japan, and will persevere to promote the true and greater good of the world of ceramics, and as an organisation that places a premium on research, will devote its entire energies to research, creative guidance and the promotion of ceramic art.”

Along with Tanabe Katamaru, Mitsuoka Tadanari and Sato Shinzo, several other founding directors of the JCS would become central characters to this saga of the Einin, in particular the likes of Koyama Fujio and Kato Tokuro.

Soon thereafter in May of 1946, the newly founded JCS quickly embarked on their pursuit of ceramic enlightenment by organising an inaugural expedition to research and excavate the medieval Konagaso-gama kiln in Seto. Wrote participant Mikami Tsuguo, a leading expert on Chinese ceramics and the future director of the Idemitsu Museum, in his diaries, “(The Konagaso expedition) took place not long after the war, and at that time, we Japanese in many ways had lost a sense of direction. For this reason, the researching of Seto’s old kiln sites helped us find and understand an important cultural heritage that Japanese civilisation had left behind, and this brought a sense of great pride and satisfaction to us research members. At the same time, it placed in us a sense of responsibility in communicating, loud and clear, to the Japanese citizens of the value of their cultural heritage that still remains to this day.”

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(Mikami Tsuguo)

Other than Mikami, the ceramic experts who undertook lead roles in the research trip to Seto were Sato Shinzo and Koyama Fujio. Other members included the first Chairman of the JCS Board, art critic Isono Nobutake, Nezu Museum’s Mitsuoka Tadanari and Okuda Naoshige, architect Horiguchi Sutemi, Sato Shinzo’s son and the future dean of Kyoto City University of Art Sato Masahiko, and locals Kato Tokuro, archaeologist Akatsuka Mikiya, future Living National Treasure Arakawa Toyozo, Tokuro’s third son Kato Shigetaka, entrepreneur/ceramic connoisseur Honda Shizuo, and Seto potter Suzuki Seisei. Quite simply, an extraordinary group of individuals were assembled to excavate the old kilns of Seto. The majority of participants even slept under the same roof at the Zen temple Unkoji, which was adjacent to several key kiln sites. Although food was scarce, the wealthy Honda donated a bale of rice to feed the researchers during their studies. Suprisingly, access to camera film was incredibly difficult even a year after the war, and the researchers were armed only with pencil and paper, and made it their regimen to sketch each and every shard that they unearthed.

The excursion to Seto, which began on a bright Spring morning on May 11th, 1946, would ultimately end on a sunny afternoon on May 19th at the home of none other than the home of mayor Hasegawa.

Mikami’s remaining diaries illuminatingly chronicle this important excursion to Seto.

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(Konagaso today, with a roof over the kiln remains)

May 11th, 21st Year of Showa (Extremely Clear Skies)
Early morning, arrived in Seto with Koyama Fujio. Stopped over at glass artist Sato Junshiro’s home. After a short rest, travelled north-west of Seto to visit Tokyo University’s Seto office director, Inui-san, and inquired about the geology of the Seto region. Borrowed a theodolite from Inui.
After returning to Seto, united with Sato Shinzo and Kato Tokuro, and Kato Tokuro enlightened us with tales of his earlier experiences in excavating old Seto kiln sites.
After preparing various materials needed for excavation, left Seto with Koyama, Sato Shinzo, glass artist Sato Junshiro, and Mikami, and after stopping over at Akazu, reached our lodgings at the Unkoji Temple.

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(Image depicting the medieval kiln)

May 12th (Cloudy, Then Rain)
After preparations, all members left Unkoji at 10am, passing 20 villages until reaching the Konagaso kiln. Borrowed various tools for excavation through the kindness of Tokyo University’s Akazu office, and immediately began research soon thereafter. Kiln is an anagama tunnel kiln dug into a small hill sloping southwards. The left-hand side of the ceiling part of the inner firing chamber had completely collapsed, and its state of ruin is not good. Office chief Inui-san joined in the excavation in the morning, and told the research members of the state of the kiln during 1933 and 1934. All members helped remove the earth that had filled the right-hand side of the firing chamber, and excavation began in full. As a result, the condition of the shoehorn-shaped shelves near the kiln floor and the the pillars that separate the left and right side of the kiln near the mouth of the kiln became evident. From the left-hand side, unearthed from various shelves, saggars and stabilizing rings was found one oblong-shaped shelf featuring the kamajirushi kiln mark of the Konagaso kiln.
The dig continued even with the rain, which began to fall from 3pm. Work finished at 5pm.

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(Inner Firing Chamber of Kiln)

“May 13th (Drizzle, Then Clear Skies)
Clouds hung low in the morning, and with the incessant rain, all excavation work was cancelled. After waiting for the rain to end, the members left Unkoji slightly before noon, and I headed to the Konagaso kiln with the Satos. Excavation on the inner chamber began soon after arrival, and the majority of excavation was completed by the evening. Shards of a black Old Seto tea caddy, flower vase, and Yellow Seto works were found in the lower half the right side chamber, and kiln paraphernalia such as a triangular shelf and a chunk of feldspar were discovered…. Kato Tokuro entered the locale at night, and we listened to his lecture on the general state of Seto’s old kiln ruins.

May 14th (Sunny)
With both Satos, we researched the chimney shaft of the Konagaso kiln, and the surveying of the kiln in its entirety was completed by evening.
In the afternoon, Sato Shinzo left the kiln site. Koyama together with Kato Tokuro began composite research on the ruins of old kiln sites in the Hakuzan/Akazu region. Kato stayed the night with us at Unkoji.

2215kama5.jpg
(Remnants of Chimney Shaft)

May 15th (Sunny)
Early morning we went to Konagaso, and with the help of Sato Shinji, we completed a geological survey in a scale of 1/1000 of the entire area surrounding the kiln. Sato Shinzo researched the “monohara” area where damaged pottery were thrown away. Koyama and Kato Tokuro continued to research the other Seto kiln sites. After work, Kato left the kiln site and did not return to Unkoji.

May 16th (Sunny)
By going south down the Akazu River flowing in front of Unkoji Temple, we discovered a small patch of irrigated land surrounded by small hills to its east and west. This area is called Kanda, and we discovered the ruins of an old kiln in the middle side of the western hill. Currently this hill is used as an underground storage by the locals, and we named the kiln Kanda Nishi (west) kiln. As research progressed we discovered that this kiln was unexpectedly important, and we expanded our research area to the best of our abilities. I worked in excavation with Koyama until day’s end, and by evening we were able to grasp a great deal about the kiln. Immediately, we made an exact survey chart of the kiln.
In the evening, chairman of the board Isono Nobutake, Professor Horiguchi Sutemi and Sato Junshiro joined us at Unkoji.

2215ikou1.jpg
(Geological survey of Konagaso and its surroundings, all images of Konagaso taken from the site http://www.geocities.jp/shimizuke1955/2215konagaso.html)

May 17th (Sunny)
Departing from the others, alone I visited the Seto Juvenile School to research the remnants of three kilns on the Seto school property associated with Sue ware. The main kiln was very large and in a decrepit state, and I felt that further study was extremely difficult. In the afternoon, through the kindness of the School, seven juveniles helped carry earth and gravel from the larger kiln, and with their help I was able to create a survey map of the remaining kiln sections. However there were parts that were unable to be surveyed, and thus the map was far from perfect. Due to the lack of time and manpower, it is with regret that I could not complete research of the other two kilns.
On this day, the other members visited the kiln sites in the Hakuzan area, and participated in a panel discussion organised by Seto City at Unkoji. In the afternoon, Mitsuoka Tadanari and Akatsuka Mikiya joined us at Unkoji, and the research group grew far more lively.

May 18th (Rain)
Torrid rain prevented further study, and taken by the kind associates of Unkoji, we took a look at the remains of kilns found in the hills located behind Unkoji and survey the area. After returning to the temple for a short break, in the evening we entered the hill once again with Chairman Isono and tried to dig in front of the ruins. Aside from fragments of kiln tools, we could not discover any shards. Later, Cho Takisumi and Mino’s Arakawa Toyozo entered Unkoji.

May 19th (Sunny)
Today we concluded research, and left the premises. We bid farewell to several members at Seto City, and after this, we visited the homes of Hasegawa Yoshitaka and Takahashi Shigeru, who helped us study their Old Seto collections. With these final visits, the curtains on this expedition were closed.”


On that sunny afternoon at Hasegawa’s home did Mikami first witness the Einin Tsubo. Curiously, visiting Hasegawa was actually not included in the JCS schedule for the day. Yet after lunch on the 19th, one member brought up this peculiar proposition. This member was none other than Kato Tokuro.

Honda Shizuo recalled the following conversation.

“May I suggest that we visit a man called Hasegawa Yoshitaka of Shidami Village, just off of Seto. This area is a part of Yamada no Kori county, and was a stop for carrying works fired in Seto along the Tamanogawa River. Observing the area’s geography may be interesting, and what’s more, Yoshitaka-san is in possession of a flask with the inscription ‘Einin’. I believe this tsubo may possibly be the oldest existing Old Seto work to feature such an inscription.”

Surprised by the sudden prospect of coming face to face with such an important work, the JCS members looked at one another in curious amazement. How could they possibly pass this opportunity up? Of course, Koyama, Sato Shinzo and Mitsuoka, among others, had already seen the Einin Tsubo several years earlier at the Nezu Museum. But the other members had not even heard of its existence, and their curiosity was peaking.

Tokuro was in unusually good spirits on this sunny afternoon in Seto, and grinning along the way, the JCS group found their way to the home of Hasegawa. Hasegawa smiled as he greeted the famous scholars at his front gate. Inviting them inside, Hasegawa offered them tea and sweets, and after brief chatter, the mayor of Shidami brought out his prized possession.

Gasps of astonishment could be heard leaking from the mouths of the JCS members. An old Seto flask with an Einin engraving in such a fine condition! The men huddled close to the jar, which was placed in the center of the tokonoma alcove of Hasegawa’s tatami guestroom. The first Chairman of the JCS, Isono Nobutake, recalled his first meeting with the Einin.

“I was an uneducated philistine, and all I could do was gaze at the tsubo in wonder and adoration. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined at the time that the tsubo I was admiring would, several years later, become such a major dilemma that would inflict a devastating blow to the life and career of Koyama Fujio.”

When asked how Hasegawa could have possibly stumbled across such a historic find, the mayor calmly explained that he dug it up himself from a road construction site near his home. Hasegawa even took the time to walk the JCS members to the exact location of his find in Shiratori, Shidami Village.

Tokuro was literally chirping as he explained to the group the history of Old Seto flasks such as the Einin. His sunny afternoon excursion to Shidami had paid off in spades.


Autumn winds blew briskly in Tokyo, as bright yellows and reds coloured the still heavily-damaged Tokyo skyline. On October 16th of 1946, the Japan Ceramic Society organised a special meeting at the prestigious Tokyo Bijutsu Club (Toobi) to report its findings from Konagaso, with Mikami Tsuguo and Koyama Fujio as principal lecturers. A total of 150 JCS members travelled from the furthest reaches of Japan to participate in the event, hailing from such distances as Miyazaki and Sadogashima. Company president and ceramic enthusiast Fukada Yuichiro, who came from distant Yonago in Tottori Prefecture, was exuberant in his hunger to learn more about the history of Old Seto. Little did he know that his life would soon become deeply entwined with the fate of the Einin Tsubo.

070829_2_ph001.jpg
(Koyama Fujio)

To coincide with the lecture, the Einin Tsubo and several other famed works of Seto were physically exhibited at the Tokyo Bijutsu Club. It was Tokuro’s role to passionately reminisce his experiences on researching Old Seto kiln sites to the JCS members, and provided in-depth commentaries on each exhibited work. He made it an irrefutable fact that each and every work exhibited by the JCS was a masterpiece of historic proportions. And so did each and every member of the JCS eagerly believe its charismatic preacher.


(Continued in Chapter 4: The Selling of the Einin)
Due in December
(Continued in Chapter 5: The Birth of an Important Cultural Property)
Due in January
(Continued in Chapter 6: In Doubt and Shadows
Due in February

(Chapters of titles subject to change)

Written by Wahei Aoyama, based on the book "Einin no Tsubo" by Matsui Kakushin
posted by Toku Art Limited at 11:53| Comment(0) | Einin Tsubo Incident | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

2009年11月23日

Ichino Masahiko's World of Tea

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Kind greetings from Tokyo! I've finally had the time to settle down slightly from a rigorous road trip around the world. Waiting for me on my return was an eye-opening exhibition of objects for the tea ceremony by Tamba's Ichino Masahiko.

03. Ichino Masahiko.jpg 04. Ichino Masahiko.jpg

Opening at Yufuku Gallery from last Thursday, we've had a flurry of Ichino fans flock to Minami-Aoyama to admire Ichino-san's new creations. The response has been far greater than I had expected, yet at the same time, there is no surprise in seeing his works do well at exhibitions. What's perhaps the greatest surprise is that the artist has attempted a chawan exhibition at an objet d'art-oriented gallery like Yufuku.

08. Ichino Masahiko.jpg 16. Ichino Masahiko.jpg

Perhaps this is testament to the fact that the tea bowl is in itself an object that possesses the outer appearance of a functional vessel, yet retains an inner spirituality that extends far deeper than the sheer space within a teabowl's well.

01. Ichino Masahiko.jpg 05. Ichino Masahiko.jpg

I must admit, I haven't been this happy with an Ichino exhibition in many years, and many who have taken the time to view the exhibition first-hand have expressed the same. The show runs until Saturday the 28th of November -- please do stop by if you get a chance, and if not, please simply email me for more information/images at info@toku-art.com.
You can view the show in its entirety via the link below.
http://www.yufuku.net/yufuku-gallery/main4.html

Lastly, thank you so much to all those who have extended their kind opinions and comments on my on-going Einin saga. Your words have been a source of great encouragement, and gives me the strength to persevere with the labor of writing. The next installment should be out by the end of this month, so please stay tuned! For those who've missed the stories, you can find Chapters 1 and 2 below.

Chapter 1: Prelude to a Myth
Chapter 2: Into Literature, Enter Infamy

Wishing everyone throughout the world a happy Thanksgiving,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

ps: Apologies for the delays in updating our main website! I believe a great deal of this will be accomplished in early 2010. There are many new changes taking place at Toku Art and at Yufuku, so things are going along a bit slowly.... Thank you so much for your kind understanding and support.

28. Ichino Masahiko.jpg
posted by Toku Art Limited at 16:29| Comment(0) | Ichino Masahiko (Tamba) | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

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