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.
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