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Feb 18 2011

New Gallery Complex Opens in Tokyo

by Ashley Rawlings

NOBUYOSHI ARAKITheater of Love, c.1965, black and white print, 12.1 × 16.4 cm. Courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.

Tokyo’s art world gathered in the Roppongi neighborhood on February 18 to celebrate the opening of a new gallery building located next to the Roppongi Hills complex of luxury apartment, retail and office space. Housing some of the city’s leading commercial galleries—Wako Works of Art, Ota Fine Arts, a branch of Taka Ishii Gallery dedicated to photography and film, and Zen Foto—the Piramide Building is an important addition to a central district that is already home to the Mori Art Museum and several other high-profile contemporary art and design institutions.

Tokyo’s art scene is notoriously inconvenient to navigate, with museums and galleries spread far and wide across the metropolis. Only a handful of neighborhoods—Kiyosumi, Bakurocho, Shirokane and Ginza—have similar gallery complexes or clusters of galleries situated within walking distance of each other. While Taka Ishii’s main space has occupied the Kiyosumi gallery building with several other blue-chip dealers since 2005, Ota, Wako and Zen Foto were more isolated from their peers in their prior neighborhoods of Hatsudai, Kachidoki and Shibuya, respectively. Yoshiko Kogi of Ota Fine Arts told ArtAsiaPacific that their new space “is slightly smaller than the previous one, but considering the location, right in center of Tokyo, it is a very decent size. We are very excited about our new start.”

For the inauguration, Ota held a group show that included Indonesian painter and photographer Ay Tjoe Christine and Iranian mirror sculptor Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, while Wako’s presented new and recent works by artists including Gerhard Richter, Yuji Takeoka, Fiona Tan and Wolfgang Tillmans. Meanwhile, Taka Ishii showcased some 100 of Nobuyoshi Araki’s previously unseen photographs from the mid-1960s, and and Zen Foto exhibited Chinese documentary photographers Liu Zheng, Mu Ge, Liu Ke and Yang Yankang.

The Piramide Building opened on the same weekend as the vernissage of the second G-tokyo Contemporary Art Fair, a boutique fair limited to 15 participants—including Ota, Wako and Taka Ishii—held in the neighboring Roppongi Hills complex. Also taking place in Roppongi Hills was “G-tokyo x New Tokyo Contemporaries Salon,” a one-day exhibition of seven Japanese and international artists that the fair co-organized with the New Tokyo Contemporaries association of seven young galleries. Even if visitors miss these events, the ongoing consolidation of Roppongi as a gateway to the city’s art scene is a positive step for the city as a whole.

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