Each Thursday on the New Emissary, art consultant and Tokyo art gallery owner Bob Tobin reports on the contemporary art scene in the Asia-Pacific, sharing his unique insights into some of the emerging trends and artists from around the region.
There are three galleries that I highly recommend in Asia. One is in Hong Kong, one in Bangkok and one in Tokyo, and all have proven track records in finding young talent.
1. Plum Blossoms Gallery in Hong Kong is an established art space, having opened back in 1987. It holds exhibitions of contemporary Asian art along with ‘museum-quality ancient textiles,’ and was one of the first galleries to work with Beijing artist Zhu Wei. It played a major role in the development of his career.
2. Numthong Gallery is a gallery in Bangkok. Despite its rather elusive location, it’s known to all serious collectors of South-east Asian art. This gallery is famous for its ability to spot and nurture young artists. It was owner Numthong Tang who discovered Thai artist Natee Utarit back when he was still in his first year of university. Tang told me that he knew there was something great about Utarit that was evident even in his early drawings. I agree. I have one of those drawings in my home, and everyone comments on it.
Utarit has become a superstar in the art world and holds the auction record for a Thai artist. There are two other artists that Tang is presently promoting. Attasit Aniwatchon paints very dreamy landscapes of his internal emotional life. He’s a friend of Utarit’s and has now held exhibitions of his work in Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan, Poland, Yugoslavia and Finland. I also like the work of another of Tang’s artists, Nattawut Sing-Thong, a Chiang Mai artist who does black-and-white charcoal drawings inspired by his study of Buddhism and meditation.
3. In Tokyo, Gallerie Humanite is another gallery that does a noteworthy job of discovering and nurturing young talent. Originally established in the less vast city of Nagoya, Japan, this gallery has special shows every summer of recent young graduates they’ve discovered. It was there that I first saw the playful drawings and paintings of Haruna Takamatsu who casts an appreciative, somewhat comical view on Japanese life. She won the Shanghai Mayor’s Prize when she exhibited there and had a show at Tokyo Opera City Gallery when she was still in school. Her works are guaranteed to make you smile.
Gallerie Humanite is one of those galleries you won’t just happen to come across, as it’s located in a building basement in the Kyobashi district near Tokyo Station—but it’s definitely worth the trip. When you’re there, ask to see their backroom and see if they can show you the elegant ceramics of Eri Dena or the large sculptures of the very young Natsumi Tomita.
You may not be somebody, like me, who feels inclined to stop at every passing gallery. But when you’re in any of the cities I’ve mentioned put these three galleries on your must-see list—it’s likely that you’ll see artists that may be future superstars and whose works you’ll one day see on museum walls.
Images: Plum Blossoms Gallery by ben dalton (top), Zhu Wei's Utopia 46 (second from top), Natee Utarit work (third from top), Natsumi Tomita work (bottom).