Online gallery of Japanese contemporary art

Interview with the organizer of TOKYO FRONTLINE, Shigeo Goto

The mission of the art fair, TOKYO FRONTLINE in the Japanese? contemporary art world

TOKYO FORNTLINE's organizer, Mr. Shigeo Goto

TOKYO FORNTLINE’s organizer, Mr. Shigeo Goto

We were excited to have an opportunity to hear a story from TOKYO FRONTLINE’s organizer, Mr. Goto about art fairs in Japan and Japanese contemporary art world. TOKYO FRONTLINE’s interesting and novel projects were born from his background as an art book editor and as a professor at Kyoto University of art and design.

Mr. Goto told us about TOKYO FRONTLINE’s effort to change the Japanese contemporary art world to be more aggressively engaging to the audience to enhance the market.

TOKYO FRONTLINE was born to create a place where people can see the promising young artists

TOKYO FORNTLINE's venue, 3331 Arts Chiyoda

TOKYO FORNTLINE’s venue, 3331 Arts Chiyoda

- Could you tell us why you decided to start the TOKYO FRONTLINE?

I realized that how Japanese art market is ossified, coming in touch with foreign art fair.?Japanese galleries are not creative enough with the way of selling art.?I thought if nobody didn’t do, I would do.

- What do you mean by “market is ossified”?

There are few galleries that are managed with strategy.?Some galleries went abroad and introduced the artists like Takashi Murakami or Yoshitomo Nara, which ended up with a certain success. But it’s still “few”. And there should be another way of promoting the artist.

- In that kind of situation, what effort does TOKYO FRONTLINE do?

We have three tasks to tackle – the one is developing a new business model, the second is training artists, the third is creating new buyers.

- Can you tell us more about it?

As an editor, I have worked on how to introduce the artist. I?think that can be applied to art marketing. Or for familiar example, when promoting a TV personality, they discover a new talent, give lessons, take a promotion photo, and get a stylist for the person. I think there should be a similar steps applied in art and?I don’t understand why the art world doesn’t do like that.

- I think I have never seen a person who has realized that kind of idea before.

In the art world in Japan, few people know how long it takes for an artist to succeed and get a good evaluation. Realistic thing is considered to be NOT artistic. I’d like to change that situation.

I am also a professor at Kyoto University of Art and Design, where I saw many students with full potential yet who are worried about their future. They don’t know how to promote themselves. Helping those talent is needed.

- Right, young talent needed to be supported.?

Also, now in Japan, there are a very few people buying contemporary art. In order to solve this problem, I’d like to work on creating a new market by developing a new business model and promoting artists with future potential.Speaking of artists with future potential, I am also a judge of Art Award Tokyo Marunouchi.

- Yes, you are wearing many hats. Please tell us about the award.

We discover new talents from all over the country by visiting art university’s graduate exhibitions. The selected students get a chance to exhibit at Marunouchi (building’s show window) The committee of the judge is consist of leading gallerists and curators. Through this award, we help them belong to a gallery, and in the future, show their works at TOKYO FRONTLINE. I hope the artists get wide audience including curators and collectors?through TOKYO FRONTLINE, and before long, get a chance to show their works at G-Tokyo, an art fair which Japanese top galleries get together.

- Why do you focus on young artists?

Because I believe that the best thing is good collectors buy the works by promising artists in the early stage. Artist is the?vehicle which_moves the art world.?Increasing fans who support that artists leads to the revitalization of the art world.

I don’t take it into consideration selling high-priced, value-fixed art works to the collectors who have investment purposes.

Novel projects to attract the audience to young artists

Mitsukoshi-Isetan's display window for TOKYO FRONTLINE

Mitsukoshi-Isetan’s display window for TOKYO FRONTLINE

- Please tell us about the novel projects of TOKYO FRONTLINE. It is a very new idea collaborating with a department store, Mitsukoshi-Isetan or an online store, PARCO-CITY. Where did you get this idea?

This is one of our strategy for spreading art widely. ?You may know, in the magazine, ELLE DECO, you can find a credit of art works hung on the wall as well as other furniture pictured in the photos.?”Life with art” like that is my ideal.

- I didn’t know that. In Japanese magazines, that unlikely happens. Do you aim to make people feel familiar with art by collaborating with a department store and online store?

Yes. We showed art works in display window cases in three branches of Mitsukoshi-Isetan department store. We’re planning to continue this project for next 3 years. This year, we used only display windows, but we’d like to try to exhibit and sell art works inside of the department store next. Just like a department store allocates multi-brands on one floor, I think we can exhibit and sell works by selecting those by a concept and mixing those from different galleries or different genres.

- How did you choose the galleries or partners participating in TOKYO FRONTLINE?

At the first edition of TOKYO FRONTLINE, we openly called for the galleries’ application who wants to join the fair. But this year, we have chosen galleries we liked to work with and offered them to cooperate this art fair.

Also, our target is not only Japan but the world. So it was an important point to choose PARCO as a partner that it has a branch in Singapore. Now, art is very hot in Asia.

Now, we’re having a plan to exchange booths with Asian leading art fairs. This year, we have invited Taiwan gallery,Galerie Grand Siecle run by Richard who organize the fairs in Taiwan. After this, we’d like to exchange programs by putting our booth in foreign art fair and vice versa. We put eye on the fair which is not just a?satellite fair which is opened around the large fair but the one which is quality oriented and has a originality in it.

Prosper the art market by engaging the young new collectors to TOKYO FRONTLINE

A lot of young people gathering at TOKYO FRONTLINE

A lot of young people gathering at TOKYO FRONTLINE

- What kind of people are you targeting as a collector for the fair?

The artists whom TOKYO FRONTLINE promotes are in their late 20’s to mid 30’s. TOKYO FRONTLINE sets the target to the same generation.

- Why do you choose the “same generation” instead of the 40’s or 50’s?

Galleries already have the customers in 40’s and 50’s and the art fair should provide new customer base to the galleries. Another important point is that the buyers’ generation should be close to the artists’. If promising young doctors or lawyers buy promising young artist’s works, they both have potential to prosper.?People like to support the one in the same generation.?I think educating young buyer will be a good answer to the growth of art market.

- Interesting. Then, what kind of people actually buy art works at TOKYO FRONTLINE?

Not extremely rich people, as you see.?Almost the same people who we targeted.

- Would you mind giving us an example?

On the other day, a web designer at the age of 33 bought an art work for the first time in her life. I’m very happy to hear that!

I think there are many people who are hesitating to buy art but willing to buy it if they are pushed a little more. Making the environment to let them take an action is necessary.

- I agree. Do you think the age that people like company workers buy art will come??

I think so.? Art is not only for rich people.?Nowadays the class that supports art fair is people who buy 5000 thousand yen to 1 million yen. The typical country which has a large collector-ship is Germany. I’d like to create that kind of market in Japan.

Broadening young collectors and global exposure for artists in the future of TOKYO FRONT LINE

- How will the TOKYO FRONTLINE evolve next year?

We have accomplished the goal like promoting young artists strategically by increasing artists’ exposure on TV or in an department store. Next year, we put more effort to create new buyers and exchange programs with the foreign art fairs.

It’s not our goal to just sell an art work. The ultimate goal is to create a new business model helping promising young artists grow with the market.

I’d like this art fair to be regarded as a place where “a lot of talented artists came out from that art fair!”

Interviewed on Feb 25th, 2012 by Yoshiko Anetai