October 20th, 2016 marked the press preview of Complex 665, a new space built to embark towards the future of contemporary art in the heart of Roppongi. Three major Tokyo galleries, formerly located in the torn down Kiyosumi warehouse, reunite within a brand new structure. Guests were invited to view the opening exhibitions in each gallery with great aims to move art forward.
Complex 665 as New Art District
When approaching Complex 665, one of its most noticeable features is a silver outer-surface gleaming with streamlined edges. The modern exterior is marked by loops brushed onto one of the squared edges resembling signed cursive, yet spelling out no particular name. In fact, designer Yoshihisa Tanaka imagined the marking as the collective signature of all artists represented by Complex 665. The three galleries together declare that artists themselves will craft the future of contemporary art from the central point of Roppongi, the site they envision as Tokyo’s next big “art district.”
Shugoarts Revisits Masato Kobayashi
To view gallery exhibitions, visitors enter past the first floor made as an art viewing room for broadbean interior design showroom. One gallery we find on the second floor is Shugoarts, opening with the solo-exhibition, “Thrice Upon A Time,” as a reflection on Masato Kobayashi’s career. We immediately enter a vast, polished white interior and notice a large teepee-like canvas splattered in bright red and yellow collapsed against the wall. Although it displays the elements of painting (frame, canvas, paint), there is no telling what the artwork represents. Likewise, other paintings hanging on the surrounding walls deny meaning. Drawn in wisps or rough brushstrokes, they may portray a horse, people’s faces, or a cowgirl – but always lack a sense of realistic volume or space, perhaps framed by a cut canvas exposing stacked and jutting wood, nails and all. Kobayashi gathers artworks through incompletion, where anything (“bad” or “beautiful” in the artist’s words) forms ever-changing associations between matters as subject, composition, material, and texture, combined with the expressions of the artist’s own actions. Shugoarts revisits Kobayashi’s career of exploring the use of imagination in painting to further build experiences of new meaning, fit for a new art space.
Tomio Koyama Gallery Lights Up With Mika Ninagawa’s Photographs
Immediately adjacent to Shugoarts, we find the new space of Tomio Koyama Gallery. We notice an eclectic gallery design from wood panel doors detailed in gold at the entry, to interior areas laid in brick. The first room introduces Mika Ninagawa’s solo-exhibition, “Light of,” with photos of hands extended under bursting lights, as if in unison at a concert or festival. There is a constant sense of human contact with light as we view photos exposing textured layers and patterns of elements such as clouds, smoke, fire, and electricity in rhythm with the crowds. The final room presents lit up images of countless effervescent white and neon sparks in the night skies glowing with fireworks. Appropriate to the opening of Complex 665, “Light of” makes us feel shared emotion and physical connection from within society. Ninagawa’s newest works presented at Tomio Koyama can be viewed as embodiments of Roppongi’s vibrancy, where all walks of people gather in colorful festivity throughout the year.
Taka Ishii Gallery Makes its Move With a Masters Showcase
Moving up to the third floor, we enter the sleek space of Taka Ishii Gallery with charcoal-coated flooring and catalogue “island” elegantly decorated by a silver-polished box full of luscious vegetation. The gallery space resembles a montage filled by selections of its usual repertoire of photography, paintings, and video, placed at varying heights and spacing throughout the white walls. Our immediate space is also interspersed by three-dimensional artworks by artists such as Yuki Kimura, and even a sketch stuck to the window incorporates the outside terrace filled with potted plants. While the diversity gives off a dynamic vibe, rather than developing a new concept for its collection, Taka Ishii Gallery spotlights works by the famed masters it sponsors such as Araki and Sterling Ruby. The exhibition represents the gallery’s strategic move to open yet another addition to its collective locations across Tokyo and abroad.
Home to huge institutions such as Mori Art Museum and National Art Center – Tokyo, Roppongi is undoubtedly one of Tokyo’s core art centers. Just a few steps from the central area of Roppongi Hills, Complex 665 can easily become part of an art tour by foot. Keep in mind, prior planning will come in handy as Complex 665 (along with the other major museums and galleries) are packed in maze-like streets, and may require further walking to the other major section of Roppongi known as Tokyo Midtown.The complex itself is nestled in the backstreets with the Piramide Building – containing the acclaimed Wako Works of Art and Ota Fine Arts – allowing visitors to explore the many art spaces of Roppongi all at once. As the complex aims to lay a future path for the Roppongi district, it will be interesting to see how these three galleries will further diversify and invigorate Tokyo’s contemporary art world.
Text and photos by Emily McDowell