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.

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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.

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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
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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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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



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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!
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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
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2009年08月31日

News from Eastern Skies

Although an impending typhoon has coloured the skies above Tokyo a bleak grey, the forecast for Japan's political future is bright. As many of you may know, the LDP has lost their grip over government, and a new age for parliamentary politics in Japan has dawned, for better or for worse.

August has traditionally been a quiet month in many sectors of business, and the art world is not alone in sharing a bit of peace and quiet before the busy Autumn season unfolds. However, I've been far busier than I could have imagined due to preparations for upcoming exhibitions, both domestic and abroad, as well as meeting various artists and clients. Naturally the time able to be allocated to this blog have dwindled as a result, even though I had many interesting topics to write about.

In any case, I hope to begin writing much more in September, starting with a new monthly series on the Einin Tsubo Incident (the battle between two brilliant individuals - the legendary Kato Tokuro and Koyama Fujio, among others).

Furthermore, the Yufuku website will be completely revamped by late September, and the Toku homepage, which had represented Yufuku's international affairs, will be replaced by a new English website under Yufuku's name. I apologise for the confusion, yet the relationship between Yufuku (my father's company) and Toku (my company) is being reorganised for the better. Expect the new website to feature more content, and perhaps more importantly, will be updated far more often.

Lastly, it is with deep sadness and regret that I announce the death of our beloved lacquer artist Suzuki Mutsumi (鈴木睦美 1942 - 2009), who passed away on May 17th, 2009 from kidney failure. All of us at Yufuku were in London during this time, and returned to Tokyo several days later to hear the fateful news, which shook us all by surprise. His death has not been openly publicised due to the wishes of Mutsumi-san's family. However, more than 3 months have passed since his death, and the time is ripe to pay our respects to one of the greatest lacquer artists of his generation.

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(Mutsumi-san's beautiful home, which brings back many pleasant memories)

Lacquered Sake Cup

Black Lacquer Bowl

Silver Lacquer Bowl

Various Works

Lacquered Bowls

Various Works

Lacquered Plate with Gold Makie Motif of Rice Fields

Silver and Gold Lacquer Plate with Roaring Wave Motif

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(Perhaps his last great work which captured the amazing artistry and craftsmanship of Suzuki Mutsumi, a gold makie lacquered box of golden rice fields, made in 2008)

The lacquer world has lost one of its most world-renowned artists, and all of us will miss him so.

Respectfully,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

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2009年05月29日

Collect 2009 Post-Show Report

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(Facade of Saatchi Gallery, Venue of Collect 2009)

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(Mitsumasa "Tom" Aoyama at work, along with Wahei Aoyama)

Art fairs never cease to amaze me, nor do they fail to enthrall and entrance both visitors and exhibitors alike. Lights flash, artworks glisten, rumours abound, and ultimately, works sell en mass, with the metallic sounds of credit card readers heard ricocheting off the whitewashed halls of the Saatchi Gallery, the brand-new venue of Collect 2009.

This oiled amalgamation of art and consumption is strangely exotic, and at the same time, oddly intoxicating. Exhaustion, in eager friendship with the laws of gravity, had already pulled me down from the preview (unquestionably the busiest day of the fair), but surprisingly enough, I found myself back up on Day 1, frighteningly energetic and ready to meet an entirely different kind of clientele for each and every day of the show. It is these meetings that please me most -- listening to what people viscerally feel about the art that we present. As I had selected each and every work, it is especially gratifying when a collector who had never before seen Japanese art in his life exclaim that the works on display are the most beautiful he had ever seen. Arigato gozaimasu.

Collect 2009 Yufuku Works on Display.jpg
(Arranged display before the opening....)

And as the curtains closed on Collect 2009, it is fair to claim that this edition of the show, held for the first time at a venue for contemporary art (ie Charles Saatchi's new pad), was a very different entity from what had preceded it at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2008. Not only was Collect shortened to 3 days from 5, but the gallery space could now physically allow for exhibitors to expand their stand sizes, which was an impossibility at the V&A. This, in turn, allowed for exhibitors to be more ambitious with their display designs, and more importantly, with the types of works they would exhibit.

Collect 2009 Yufuku Visitors.jpg
(Many, many visitors with kind words for our art and artists)

Likewise, I found a new challenge in assembling an orchestra of works that could be shown as a symphonic collage, and would not be drowned from the sheer size of the enlargened stand (which I also had to spend much time in carefully designing in order to accentuate each and every work). I believe this preparation was vital to our success at Collect 2009.

Collect 2009 Yufuku Nagae Shigekazu.jpg
(Major work by Nagae Shigekazu which received perhaps the most acclaim from visitors, on par with our Fukami Sueharu and Ikuta Niyoko works, which can be viewed in previous entries).

I'm of the opinion that Collect is still going through a learning curve, and will progressively improve with time. Of course, what is paramount is the quality of the art on display. I am curious to see what sort of galleries are added to next year's exhibitor list, if any, alongside the usual suspects, and hope that even greater synergy can be bolstered as a result.

All of us at Toku Art and Yufuku Gallery sincerely thank the many visitors to our stand, and we extend to you our deepest gratitude for taking the time to speak with us and enjoy the works on display -- we report each and every comment to our artists, and they too are extremely happy to hear from you.

We look forward to seeing you again at Collect 2010 -- our planning has already begun for next year's show, and as always, please expect to be pleasantly surprised with the works and artists we will be presenting.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

mihara ken dm work.JPG

ps. Next Thursday is the start of Mihara Ken's (三原研 1958- ) first exhibition of new works since his Japan Ceramic Society Award exhibition in August 2008. Mihara-san amazes me in his ability to constantly challenge himself by discarding old forms (however popular) to create new ones. For this upcoming show, he will be presenting completely new forms that have never been exhibited before. Perhaps even more minimalistic than his previous works, we find them to be his best work yet. And his firings? Mihara-san has also tweaked his firing technique, and this has unlocked a new range of landscapes on his stoneware surfaces. For previews, please email us at info@toku-art.com.

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2009年05月16日

Collect 2009 - Live Update

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Staff from both Toku Art and Yufuku are in London at this very moment exhibiting at the Collect Art Fair 2009, and today marks the morning before the 2nd official day of the event.

Before the start of Collect on Thursday (preview night), we were slightly worried as to the economic climate of Britain and the EU. Yet to our pleasant surprise, we have reconfirmed that the demand for the very best in contemporary Japanese art continues to be strong. Tall and abundant praise has been given to us from new and old clients in regards to this year's collection of artworks (which took me a year to assemble), and towards the display/layout of our stand. With works by Nagae Shigekazu, Takeyama Naoki, Ikuta Niyoko and Takagaki Atsushi selling out during the 1st day alone, I think it's already safe to say that this year's show is another success.

Furthermore, we are pleased to announce that the Victoria & Albert Museum has purchased a seminal work of glass by Ikuta Niyoko for their permanent collection. As you can see by the image below, the work was acquired through the Art Fund Collective, which is an excellent competition-based public fund given to museums in order to acquire art for their collection.

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Congratulations to Ikuta-san!

There are now 2 more days left of the 3-day fair. I truly look forward to welcoming you to our humble stand.

From London skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited
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2009年03月30日

Collect 2009 -May 15th to 17th, Saatchi Gallery, London

Fukami Sueharu 2009 Collect Tenku.jpg(Tenku by Fukami Sueharu 深見陶治, 2009)

Toku Art, along with its partner Yufuku Gallery, will return to London this May to exhibit at Collect 2009, the premier European international art fair for contemporary applied and decorative objects.

This year's Collect will be relaunched from the stunning new venue - the Saatchi Gallery in London, and will be held from May 15th (Fri) to May 17th (Sun), with a private viewing day on May 14th (Thu). Yufuku/Toku will be exhibiting at Stand G11, which is on the ground floor of Gallery 4.

Nagae Shigekazu 2009 Collect Tsuranari 1.jpg(Tsuranari no Katachi by Nagae Shigekazu 長江重和 2008)

We are extremely excited with our lineup for this year. Building on our permanent six artists - Mihara Ken (stoneware), Nagae Shigekazu (porcelain), Ichino Masahiko (stoneware), Takeyama Naoki (cloisonne), Yede Takahiro (metalwork) and Suzuki Mutsumi (lacquer), three excellent artists have created new work especially for our Collect exhibition. They are:

Fukami Sueharu (porcelain)
Ikuta Niyoko (glass)
Takagaki Atsushi (celadon)

Please view Yufuku/Toku Art's 2009 PDF catalogue for the show from this link, which has commentaries and artist profiles of each artist we will be representing at Collect.

All the works featured in this blog will be exhibited at Collect 2009, and are only a fraction of all the works we will be bringing with us. We are extremely proud of this year's selection, and we sincerely hope you enjoy the works of Japan's leading contemporary artists. We truly look forward to meeting you in London this May.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

Please direct all enquiries regarding works and prices to Wahei Aoyama at info@toku-art.com.

Ikuta Niyoko 2009 Collect Kuu.jpg(Kuu by Ikuta Niyoko 生田丹代子, 2009)

Mihara Ken 2009 Collect Kigen 1.jpg(Kigen by Mihara Ken 三原研 2008)

Yede Takahiro 2009 Collect Kagero.jpg (Kagero by Yede Takahiro 家出隆浩 2009)

Takagaki Atsushi 2009 Collect Binding Light.jpg (Kosoku by Takagaki Atsushi 垣篤 2009)

Suzuki Mutsumi 2009 Collect Inaho.jpg (Inaho Makie Futamono by Suzuki Mutsumi 2009)

Naoki Takeyama 2009  Yumegatari.jpg (Yumegatari by Takeyama Naoki 武山直樹 2009)

Ichino Masahiko 2009 Collect Tea Vessel.jpg (Tamba Kurowan by Ichino Masahiko 市野雅彦 2009)




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2009年01月25日

Enter 2009 - Chawan National Treasures featured in Kateigaho 2008/11

Yohen Tenomoku Mikomi (Closeup).jpg
(Yohen Tenmoku Chawan 曜変天目, 12th - 13th Century, National Treasure -photo courtesy of Katei Gaho 2008 November Edition)

Welcome, 2009. May the new year bring much peace, happiness and prosperity to all.

2009 will be an impressively busy one for us at Toku Art and Yufuku Gallery. Perhaps the highlight of the year will be our 2nd consecutive participation at London's Collect Art Fair, to take place from May 14th to 17th at the brand new Saatchi Gallery. We will be bringing several jaw-dropping works, made specially for the show, by an array of leading contemporary Japanese artists, and I'm confident that we will be building on the success of our debut. Please stay tuned for updates on works to be exhibited during the show - our artists are currently placing the finishing touches to their Collect pieces, and a final lineup will be selected this February.

What's more, we've penciled in several solo exhibitions that are firsts for our gallery, and will be in some ways a departure from our classic lineup. Much excitement is in store.

In the meantime, I thought one might enjoy a prelude to contemporary beauty in the 21st century by shining a light towards the treasures borne from history.

Enter, kokuho (国宝 national treasures).

It's not very often that I read Katei Gaho, the preeminent and venerable woman's monthly that has expounded the virtues of traditional Japanese culture for quite some time. Admittedly, the only interaction I have with the rather bulky magazine is whilst waiting for my turn at the dentist's (of course, reading the magazine is hardly as excruciating).

That said, I am often impressed with their choice of subject matter, and for hard-core enthusiasts of Japanese ceramics and the way of tea, I would go so far as to say that it may very well be worth subscribing to, simply for its photography of some of the great works of Japanese art.

Take, for example, their November 2008 issue which featured a rapturous ode to the beauty of tea bowls designated by Japan as national treasures.

I applaud the editors for attempting to shoot these works so very close and personal, as if we're actually holding the works in our hands. We can almost feel their warmth upon our fingertips, and their beauty pours through its pages. Although I would have preferred that they not use artificial lighting, the images are breathtaking, nonetheless.

For those who've never seen the kodai foot ring of Koetsu's Fujisan, or who've never noticed how its rustic body glistens every so softly, or who've never realized (until this feature) that Koetsu's work was the first work ever in Japan to be coupled with a tomobako wooden box signed by the artist himself --- behold!

Fujisan Raku Chawan 1(Koetsu).jpg Fujisan Raku Chawan Closeup.jpg
(Raku Teabowl, named Fujisan 不二山, 17th Century, National Treasure)

Fujisan Raku Chawan Kodai (Koetsu).jpgFujisan Raku Chawan Tomobako (Koetsu).jpg
(The historic Fujisan box, written by the legendary Honami Koetsu 本阿弥光悦, and its sublime foot ring)

Likewise, the magnificent Yohen Tenmoku's mikomi (inner well) is more than just entrancing; it is, quite simply, an universe unto itself.

These images were scanned manually and in haste. For those who were inspired by the featured works, I highly recommend purchasing the November 2008 edition of Katei Gaho. Simply for these few images, the issue is well worth bringing home.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

Taihi Tenmoku Chawan 1.jpg Taihi Tenmoku Chawan 2.jpg
(Taihisan Sanka Tenmoku Chawan 玳皮盞散花天目, 12th to 13 Century, National Treasure)

(All images courtesy of Katei Gaho, Sekai Bunkasha Inc. )



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2008年08月14日

Dueling Geniuses -The Best Exhibition of the Year

Tokyo National Museum Japanese.jpg Tokyo National Museum English.jpg

For those of you who are in Japan and haven't yet seen the exhibition "Dueling Geniuses: The Greatest Highlights of Japanese Artists," I declare the following: Run to the Tokyo National Museum now! The show ends on the 17th of August, and quite simply, you will not get another chance to see the likes of these artists and their art under one roof for a very long time.

Critics will be quick to poison our perceptions of the exhibition by claiming that the Tokyo National Museum have "sold out." In a sense, it is true that the TNM has dumbed down the traditionally daunting walls that surround Japanese art, and have essentially paired two artists together as if in competition for hegemony. In other words, the layout is like a boxing match, with simplistic conclusions being asked by the viewer: who is better than who? Art need not be black and white, and the viewer doesn't have to be force-fed such assumptions.

That being said, the exhibition is a spectacular tour de force of some of the most iconic works of art in Japanese history. And then again, art today is hardly for the aristocracy, and beauty can and should be enjoyed by the masses, with ease of consumption a key issue to be discussed and conquered.

Japanese art, moreover, is a treasure for all of mankind, and has no need for pretentious academia to smother it with snobbery. Shohaku vs Jakuchu? Okyo vs Rosetsu? Eitoku vs Tohaku? Bring it on!

And for those who aren't able to visit the show, there's an excellent English-language interactive website which features some of the works online. Please check it out here.

Lastly, for those who can read Japanese and are also interested in contemporary art, one of the most talented (and popular) Japanese painters today, Akira Yamaguchi (山口晃 1969- ), has painted images of each and every artist featured in the exhibition. You can take a look at his images here. The site's a gem, and I had a laugh whilst reading his comments on the artists and art history in general.

Softly melting away in summer sun,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited
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2008年04月16日

Various On-Going and Up-Coming Exhibitions

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(Haikaku Vase by Kako Katsumi, photo courtesy of the artist)

Among the many solo ceramic exhibitions that are currently taking place in Japan, I'd like to turn your attention to three shows that may prove interesting.

Firstly, Kako Katsumi 加古勝己 1965- )
will be exhibiting for the 10th consecutive year at Ikebukuro's Tobu Department Store, from April 17th to the 23rd.

One key aspect of Kako's works that I have always enjoyed is the lack of pretentiousness. There is a soothing and gentle ambience to his forms and glazes, and perhaps such is why the artist has many female fans. Not only this, Kako's works have at their core the fundamental element of functionality. His works are easy to use, and are meant to be used. Lately he has been working on a new style which incorporates the pigment of red: I hope to visit the show and report on this artist's progress in the coming week.

kawabata kentaro up.jpg
(Highlight of a recent Kawabata work, photo courtesy of Gallery Utsuwakan)

Kawabata Kentaro (川端健太郎 1976- ) is a young artist who is currently having an exhibition at Kyoto's Gallery Utsuwa-kan until the 29th of April. Having won a flurry of prizes since his debut in 2001, Kawabata is quickly gaining acclaim for his surreal world of twisted shapes and swirling colours. Although I won't be able to visit the show, I do hope that fans in the Kansai region will take note.

ichino masahiko untitled.jpg
(Ichino Masahiko "Untitled" at Nihombashi Mitsukoshi, photo courtesy of the gallery)

Lastly, Ichino Masahiko (市野雅彦 1961- ) is having a major exhibition at the prestigous Nihombashi Mitsukoshi from April 22nd to the 28th. In this exhibition, Ichino will be taking on the theme of ceramic "cocoons", which he calls "the vessels of life." I first saw Ichino undertake this style during last year's Paramita Exhibition. I thought it was excellent then (esp. as I enjoy Ichino's organic forms as opposed to his rigid and tense works), and I look forward to reviewing the evolution of this imaginative artist in the next few weeks.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

Bonus: Tsujimura Yui makes some of the most splendidly seductive vases in Japan today. Just see the curves on this piece, and even more unbelievable is that milky-way firing! This piece is one in a million. Kudos to Yui-san.

tsujimura yui new work.jpg




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2008年02月22日

In Search of Relevancy

Honoho 1.jpgHonoho 2.jpg

After returning from London, I was happy to find a preview copy of Honoho Geijutsu's latest issue jammed into my overflowing mailbox, in large part due to the fact that from this issue, I had undertaken to become the translator for its much-expanded English section, together with helping out with the translation of my friend and mentor Robert Yellin's English article into Japanese.

Confessions are in order -a large part of my fascination and education in Japanese ceramics directly came from reading each and every copy of Honoho's back issues during my apprenticeship at Robert's Mishima gallery. Like a hungry child, I basically devoured every word, image and detail in their pages, and with a rather-decent memory, I essentially memorized the history and progression of Japan's ceramics -as told by Honoho- by heart.

Of course, memorizing the preachings of magazines and books is hardly satisfactory or sufficient when it comes to the evaluation of a work's quality -actually interacting with works first-hand at Robert's gallery and my father's was what really trained my eye- yet to have a hard drive full of facts in one's own brain does come in handy when writing and talking about ceramics, as well as when evaluating a work (to a certain extent).

In any case, the sense of euphoria which had swept me when first reading the pages of Honoho is no more, and with good reason. There's simply nothing new in its pages to be excited for, other than, perhaps, added English content which is of no joy to myself, its translator.

The problem is clear -Honoho no longer pursues the topic of yakimono from a dynamic and ambitious focus on current trends and issues, but rather is quite content in re-selling issues by recycling the same content every year.

Take this particular issue (#93) with its focus on Bizen. After reading through it, I was numbed by the fact that they have hardly evolved from their last issue on Bizen (#84). The issue before that (#67, I believe) was still more interesting than this current issue.

Contemporary Bizen has had a few revolutionaries -Isezaki for his resurrection of the anagama during the heydey of the noborigama, Kakurezaki for his forms, Abe for his theories into Momoyama-Bizen and evidenced by his firing and clay processing techniques, and Mori for his ambitious pursuit of recreating the o-gama.

But what comes next? Nothing is alluded to within the pages of Honoho, and the reader is left hanging with the sense that Bizen is at a standstill.

Perhaps it is not Honoho that frustrates me, but is Bizen itself. There are too many artists preoccupied with imitation, and far too few who are interested in breaking new grounds and advancing the cause for genuine innovation. A bleak future is in store for Bizen if a new star does not come around to transcend the works of its current stars -Isezaki, Kakurezaki, Abe, Mori, and Harada.

I speak not as an art dealer but as a passionate fan of one of Japan's greatest kiln sites.

Let us look ahead to the future, and not simply dwell on past glories.

With a touch of sadness,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited


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2008年02月07日

In Celebration and Gratitude: Mihara and Takeyama Works Sold to the V&A

IMG_3172.JPG IMG_3176.JPG IMG_3197.JPG

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Needless to say, Collect 2008 was incredible. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I would like to sincerely thank each and every person who had helped us in making our debut participation at Collect such an astounding success.

We sold virtually all works that were put on display, and I believe this is fine testament not only to the calibre of art and artists we had chosen for the show, but also to the ever-growing potential for Japanese art throughout Europe.

The time is indeed ripe for the world to recognise the beauty made from Japanese hands and heart.

Deep gratitude is firstly and rightly sent to none other than our six exceptional artists who so graciously heeded our wishes and fulfilled our expectations by providing us with work that were nothing less than sublime.

Deep gratitude to all the staff at Collect, including the Craft Council, G&W and Stabilo, for helping us with the smooth operation of our stand.

Deep gratitude to the fine curators at the Victoria & Albert Museum, who chose two of our artists, Takeyama Naoki and Mihara Ken, to have the great honour of being acquired by the Museum for its Permanent Collection.
Well done to Takeyama-san and Mihara-san!

And lastly, I would like to thank each and every visitor who took the time to visit our stand and cherish the works that were exhibited. Your kind comments and eager enthusiasm for our art helped warm our hearts, making the toils of many months of preparation and hard work melt away like summer snow.

Kansha, kansha, kansha.

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

Hakutai by Takeyama Naoki.JPG
Hakutai by Takeyama Naoki
Permanent Collection
Victoria & Albert Museum

Kigen by Mihara Ken.JPG
Kigen by Mihara Ken
Permanent Collection
Victoria & Albert Museum
(Apologies for the lack of a better image of this fine work)

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2008年01月27日

Collect 2008 -Beyond All Expectations!

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(Entrance to the V&A)

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(Reception at the V&A)

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(Our booth)

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(My dad and a Nagae piece which was nominated for an award)

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collect 039.jpg

We've been so overwhelmed with new clients and visitors that we hardly have had time to take photos of our stand during the show. It seems we should have brought more work, as we're now nearly sold out and are faced with having to take orders on popular artists. Two more days to go, but I believe it's safe to say we've had much success at our first participation at Collect.

Will write more after I've recuperated.

With best regards from London,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited
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2008年01月20日

New Year Announcements

mihara ken collect.jpg
(Mihara Ken, Kigen, 2007)

Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu.

We quickly find ourselves in 2008, and oh how time flies. I've spent a good half year in preparations for the upcoming Collect show, and as the art fair is now less than a week until opening day, I've been swamped with last minute preparations.

But much more than the vicissitudes of stress or fear or anxiety, a positive adrenaline pumps through my veins, and all of us at Toku/Yufuku are sincerely excited to be a part of the show. We're proud to hold a special opportunity to be able to show to the world, firsthand, true works of contemporary Japanese beauty, and such, in itself, is a culmination and materialization of our life work.

We've built a fantastic collection of works to show on display, and from the response we've received from those who have taken a peek at our official previews, we're judging the show a success even before its opening.

For those who had missed receiving an original copy of our official Collect 2008 catalogue, you can Download it for your viewing pleasure. I've written every commentary, and I hope they help to elucidate the works by our artists. Of course, these are but only 6 of the 30 or so works we will be exhibiting at Collect, so please expect to find a wide array of beautiful objects to be held, touched, and caressed by visitors to our stand.

Our team leaves for London tomorrow. I'll be sure to bring up-to-the-minute updates regarding our stand when we arrive, and will definitely upload quite a few images of the exhibition floor as the show progresses.

Yet before my departure, there are a few ceramic shows in Tokyo that I'd like to bring your attention to.

kochukyo2008_09.jpg hayashi kuniyoshi.jpg
(Kato Kozo) (Hayashi Kuniyoshi)

kakurezaki.jpg maeta akihiro.jpg
(Kakurezaki Ryuichi) (Maeta Akihiro)

The Japan Ceramic Society's Annual Exhibition that features the works of past award winners will be held this year at the classic Kochukyo from February 4th to the 9th. I think the show is an adequate introduction to surveying the art of what many pundits believe to be "worthy." Of course, accolades don't necessitate good art, and nepotistic politics often help blurry what really should be recognized. But for all its flaws, it still provides a compelling view of Japanese ceramics today.

Below are images of the work of Hayashi Kuniyoshi (林邦佳 1949- ), one of my personal favorites.

Hayashi Kuniyoshi Yufuku.jpg hayashi up.jpg

Lastly, a young ceramic artist that may be bound for greater things is Hattori Makiko (服部真紀子 1984- ).

hattori makiko.jpg

She's currently having a exhibition at the INAX Galleria Ceramica in Kyobashi until February 2nd. Please take a look. I was quite enamored with her work, and look forward to seeing more of Hattori's art in the near future.

I will be sure to write again when we arrive in London. Until then, I send my best regards from Eastern Skies.

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited
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2007年12月31日

With Many Thanks from Eastern Skies

hiroshima golden week 134.jpg
(Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima -a National Treasure and UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Time flies much too soon, and we soon find ourselves at the twilight of a year that will soon become just another page in the story of life. And at the same time, we find ourselves at the dawn of a new year, of another future, of starting anew with hopes for more beautiful things to come.

I hope that 2007 had been as special a year for you as it has been for me.

2007 marked the birth of Toku Art - 'twas was a small yet important first step for us, and was one that will remain imbedded in our memory for many years to come.

We will only continue to grow in 2008, and I assure you, there will be many surprises in store for our future, some surprises that we believe will be quite exciting for those with a penchant for Japanese ceramics in particular. We extend our deep appreciation and gratitude to all who have helped and supported us along the way, and we humbly ask for your continued guidance and support as Toku Art enters its 2nd year of life.

From all of us at Toku Art Limited, we wish you a very happy New Year.

良いお年を!

Wahei and Namiko Aoyama
青山和平・南海子
Toku Art Limited
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2007年12月21日

Yufuku at Collect 2008

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Toku Art and Yufuku to Exhibit at COLLECT 2008 in V&A Museum London!

Toku Art, along with its partner Yufuku Gallery, are proud to announce their official participation in the upcoming Collect 2008, the premier European international art fair for contemporary applied and decorative objects.

The exhibition will be held at London's venerable Victoria & Albert Museum, the world's largest museum for applied art and design, from January 25th (Friday) to the 29th (Tuesday).

Toku Art/Yufuku's booth number is 20, to be found in a central location within Gallery 39.

At the show, we will be presenting the latest works by the following artists.

Ichino Masahiko (Tamba Stoneware)
Mihara Ken (Sekki Stoneware)
Nagae Shigekazu (Seto Porcelain)
Suzuki Mutsumi (Kyoto Lacquer)
Takeyama Naoki (Shippo Cloisonne Metalwork)
Yede Takahiro (Woven Metalwork)

Collect 2008 will be the first time Toku Art/Yufuku will exhibit at an international art fair, and all of us are extremely excited to be able to present the finest contemporary Japanese art directly to the European market.

We sincerely look forward to seeing you at our booth this January.

In the meantime, all of us at Toku Art and Yufuku wish you a very merry and heartwarming holiday season, full of good health, spirits, and much laughter.

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

(For any inquiries on Collect 2008, please email us at info@toku-art.com )


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2007年09月27日

54th Japan Traditional Arts & Crafts Exhibition

osanai yozo.jpg

The 54th Nihon Dento Kogeiten (Japan Traditional Arts & Crafts Exhibition) kicked off its annual celebration at Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi from the 18th of September, and like many years, the exhibition brings to itself much hype yet few inspirational works. In particular, the ceramics presented here are, quite often, highly unmemorable.

As a polar opposite of the Nitten, which typically advocates more progressive works, the Dento Kogeiten is the mecca for orthodox art.

Which, however, is not always the case. As many may know, there were days when the legendary Kamoda Shoji and Kakurezaki Ryuichi dazzled visitors with their imaginative works.

Of course, it can be said that what was exceptional about these artists was their emphasis on the contemporary and new, while at the same time, revering past traditions. In essence, they had their feet in two aesthetic realms, and perhaps this was a reason for their success.

To make a long story short, there are not many works that excite me at this exhibition. However, there was one piece that I thoroughly enjoyed, and it was this red lacquer plate with handle by Osanai Yozo (which also received the Grand Prize of the Exhibition).

Osanai, a lacquer artist working in Tokyo, was said to have been inspired by the death of his mother when making this piece. I was suprised to see a lacquer artist create such a seductively luscious piece through the technique of kanshitsu, or dried lacquer painting, and it was a happy discovery indeed. I did not know of this artist before, but surely, I will be looking for his works in the future.

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Among ceramic works, I enjoyed this Gosu Plate by Fukushima Hiroko. A self-taught artist working in Yokohama, what makes this work interesting is that she uses three different shades of Gosu (cobalt overglaze) to bring rhythm to the piece, instead of simply painting the motifs like sometsuke (cobalt underglaze). Along with its slight curvature, such characteristics make for an intriguing work from a relatively unknown artist.

Like Osanai's lacquer, there are many artists in Japan who make great art, yet are often times questionably ignored or eschewed in the art world.

Of course, this situation exists in any art scene. But isn't it much more interesting to go and find what is beautiful with one's own aesthetic instincts, rather than dwelling on fame or fancy titles?

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited
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2007年09月04日

Put That Shino On

Asahi.com, the internet version of Japan's supposedly liberal daily, just released an interesting article on 2008's Tokyo Collection Spring/Summer.

Asahi.com focuses on up-and-coming brand Matohu, which has always placed emphasis on incorporating traditional Japanese tastes into Western style clothing.

This time, Asahi says the designers of Matohu has focused on, of all things, the Shino tea bowl (see below).

Unohanagaki.jpg (the famous national treasure Uno-hana-gaki)

As we pottery fans are well aware of, some key characteristics of good Shino are warm, soft, almost creamy white/pink feldspar glazing intertwined with red firecolor from the yohen kiln firing, strength within its curves and asymmetry, along with a delicate tetsu-e iron painting, among others.

Matohu designers Horihata Hiroyuki and Sekiguchi Maki went to great lengths to bring such traits and textures of Shino into their new collection.

TKY200709030210.jpg (photo by Ohara Hirokazu)

The article explains that it took the artists a full year to recreate the textures and beauty of a Shino teabowl into their fabric, particularly in bringing out "both the gentleness and the strength of Shino, along with its wavy distortions". Can you see the resemblence?

All in all, it is wonderful to observe young Japanese designers striving for new forms of beauty by tapping their rich heritage, in particular the beauty of Keicho era (1596-1615) art.

They also seem to have made some designs using Oribe as well. Refreshing, indeed!

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited
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2007年08月20日

While In Absence...

Firstly, my apologies for not updating this blog sooner. I was preoccupied with two projects; one, the English documentary of Living National Treasure Isezaki Jun (Bizen), produced by Pola Museum and Nikkei Visual, and two, a book by Kodansha on famed Japanese sculptor Sumikawa Kiichi.

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Isezaki is well known not only for his creative skill, but for his ability to teach. He has taught the greatest number of artists in all of Bizen, in particular the stunning Kakurezaki Ryuichi. I believe it is Jun's adroitness at passing on the techniques of the anagama (subterranean single-chamber wood kiln), and not only his masterful play of politics, which has elevated him to a "retainer" of an Important Intangible Cultural Property for Bizen wares.

The documentary is excellent in its production/visuals, and I highly recommend it for anyone who may be interested in Japanese ceramics. Great depth and focus were instilled in this project, some highlights being kiln firing, the demonstration by Isezaki himself on making his trademark square vases, and the demonstration of the hikidashiguro technique by Isezaki's son Koichiro.

Sumikawa is perhaps the most famous contemporary Japanese sculptor working today, without counting the likes of Murakami Takashi, Tanada Koji or Nara Yoshitomo. Well, let's put it this way. Sumikawa taught Murakami and Tanada during their time at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music (the prestigous, or should I say infamous, Geidai), as Sumikawa was not only professor but President of the university for quite some time.

kodansha 1.jpg

He is distinguished for integrating the aesthetics of Brancusi-esque Abstract Sculpture,large scale public works, and traditional Japanese forms (sori upward curve and mukuri downward curve) into a coherent whole, and has been awarded a dizzying amount of awards. His commemorative book is well anticipated, and should be a fun read.

Thus these two projects, as well as a book on tea artist Richard Milgrim, were more than enough to make my wedding (held last July) a blurry memory.

I look forward to bringing you more updates, esp. in regards to new works by Seto artist Nagae Shigekazu, my time spent last week with Tsujimura Yui, Suzuki Mutsumi (who will be having a Yufuku exhibition beginning Sept. 1st), and Yamada Jozan IV (formerly known as Yamada Emu).

With many thanks from heat-drenched Tokyo,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited
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2007年05月07日

Past Articles from E-Yakimono.net/Japanesepottery.com

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A short update from Tokyo.

Quite soon, this blog will be uploading all past articles written by Wahei Aoyama for Mr. Robert Yellin's www.e-yakimono.net .

Yet until the uploads, you can find the past articles, written predominantly on Japanese pottery, below.

http://www.e-yakimono.net/html/aoyama-wahei-stories.html

Many thanks to Robert Yellin, my dear friend and teacher, for his gracious support.

We hope you enjoy them.

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art
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2007年04月30日

Suzuki Exhibition Closes, Yede Exhibition Nears

exhibition 005.jpg
An Update from Toku Art

The Suzuki Lacquer exhibition was a great success. From all of us at Toku Art, we thank you for your support.

Toku Art has only just begun. We look forward to adding new artists to our gallery, with several already listed up. They are some of the best and brightest in Japan, and
we look forward to introducing such artists to the world
in the coming months.

In the meantime, our next offering to the world is the work of the most, in our opinion, interesting metalwork artist in all of Japan. His name is Takahiro Yede (1962- )
(家出隆浩), and his work shatters our preconceptions of metal craft.

Yede Takahiro Woven Metalwork.jpg

Imagine weaving strips of metal together to form objects at once fragile yet brimming with the vitality of metal.

He is an artist quickly gaining attention in Japan, winning a slurry of awards at the Dento Kogeiten (Japanese Tradition Arts and Crafts Exhibition). He is, without question, an artist who's prestige will only continue to rise. We hope you enjoy his work as much as we do.

Wahei Aoyama

Exhibition of Woven Metalware by YEDE Takahiro
Place: Yufuku Gallery
Open 11:00 to 18:00 daily except last day by 16:00
May 10th through May 26th, 2007/closed on Sunday and Monday





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