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.
I don’t need an iPad or Wii. I’ve got enough electronics.
I don’t need clothes either. My closet is overflowing.
There are some things I want though—very badly. I need your help and most of all I need your influence.
You’ve got connections, you know people and you’re a player. This year, just forget about gifts for me. I want to see if you can do something that will benefit the art world.
I promote art. There are other gallerists, museums, writers and collectors doing more of the same. But it’s not enough. We need some help.
Here’s my list of what I would like for the holidays. It’s a short list, but one that could have great impact. Can you use your influence to make my wish list come true?
1. More fellowships for artists. Artists need time to create. They can create more if they can take a break from their part-time jobs that put food on the table and focus on their art. They need money for materials. I’d like to see more paid fellowships for artists. They can be funded by governments, private corporations, universities, or individuals. Some universities in the United States have the right idea—they have artists in residence. Arts Initiative Tokyo (AIT) invites artists from all over the world for a three-month residency in Tokyo. They give them an apartment, a budget and an opportunity to absorb the smells, sights and sounds of the city. Why can’t more cities and companies do this? There are foundations that provide fellowships for overseas studies. But it’s still a drop in the ocean. Santa, can you find others who might fund more fellowships for artists?
2. Art in Public Spaces. As I walk through the cities of Asia, I don’t see very much art in public spaces—inside or out. The exceptions really stand out. It’s a pleasure to see all of the public art in Hong Kong, Singapore and the murals in Jogjakarta. But how about the rest of the places? The times that I see outdoor art in Tokyo can be counted on one hand. Sure, there are outdoor museums, but having these pieces in one place just reinforces the idea that art is something special that you have to go somewhere to see. I want to see art everywhere—not in outdoor museums. I want to see art on every corner, subway station and open space. Like what you can see at the modern multi-functional spaces like Midtown and Roppongi Hills in central Tokyo. Yes, I love the well-known spider monument by Louise Bourgeois at the latter.
Art makes people think; it takes people’s minds off the conventional and usual. It’s a tourist attraction. We don’t need any more museums with overworked staff and without any budgets to buy anything. We need to see art everywhere. And Santa, if you know any company executives, please see what you can do to get them to put some art on the walls of their companies. I am ashamed to admit how many companies and banks I have entered that have blank, empty walls. Art on the walls gives people something to be proud of. It shows that management cares; it gets employees thinking. I love it when I walk into Morgan Stanley and UBS in Tokyo and see the art on the walls. I recently went into a pharmaceutical company that only had picture wires on the wall—no pictures, just the wires. They consulted me on creating a more imaginative work environment for employees. Huh? As you can imagine, my recommendations went way beyond training and consulting. Why shouldn’t companies have an annual art budget?
3. Financial incentives for the purchase of art. The art market wasn’t in a slump for very long, but Santa, it would be great if you could help in creating a more dynamic art market. One clear way you can do that is to make it easier for people to buy art. How about interest-free loans for the purchase of art?
Many galleries help younger collectors purchase art on a payment plan, but what if the government did this? As long as there isn’t too much paperwork, it could only help. How about subsidies for the purchase of art that is displayed in public spaces? People can buy art and show it to all in exchange for a subsidy or a tax deduction. How about enabling people to purchase art as part of their investment portfolios, such as IRA and 401K accounts? Until recently, Australia had this programme that was a factor in developing the strong art market there. It’s not easy to get governments to take action—anywhere in the world—so this is also something that the private sector can help with. Art subsidies or loans could be an employee benefit for companies that want to win the talent wars.
Well Santa, that’s it. There are more dreams and wishes that I have, but I’ll stop here.
Any progress you can make in these areas would have a big impact. If you have any questions or want to talk more about these, just let me know. You can reach me [email protected] or via my chimney.
Happy Holidays, Bob
On another note, if you’re looking to start your own collection or for art gift ideas for loved ones that won’t break the bank, I’d suggest the sets of ceramics from celebrated young potter, Ryota Aoki (around $200) or intricate horoscope prints from master Japanese printmaker Yoshio Imamura (around $500). These can be found at this link and international shipping is available. Also for those in Tokyo this December, the unique Jun Ogata painting show, Zen Garden, continues through December 24 at the Tobin Ohashi Gallery.
Images: inoc / Flickr (top), rdesai / Flickr (middle), Engin Erdogan (bottom)