Collect 2010 Post-Show Report


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

(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.

(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.


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?


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.


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.

(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.


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.


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.

(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.

(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.


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!

(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

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