New Emissary

More Art Savvy Tips

If you want to expand your overall knowledge and enjoyment of art, here are two expert ideas for getting started.

Each week 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.

Last week, I shared a couple of tips on becoming more art-savvy in the New Year. I’ve got a couple more this week—ideas that I’ve followed myself and that won’t cost you much (if anything), but should help to dramatically expand your overall knowledge and enjoyment of art:

1. See the Documentary Film Herb and Dorothy. This is a ‘feel-good movie’ about one real-life couple (he’s a postal worker, she’s a librarian) who put together a first-class collection of 4000 art works. Dorothy and Herb Vogel visited countless museums and traipsed to hundreds of artist studios in pursuit of art. (I particularly liked one segment where they visit the studio of James Siena and choose works for their collection.) They collected mainly minimalist and conceptual art by visionaries such as Robert and Sylvia Mangold and Donald Judd, who are also featured in the film.

Herb and Dorothy

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The movie shows the couple’s love for art and for each other. They are modest people who are not motivated by money, but by a passion for art. Art filled every corner of their 80 square metre apartment. ‘Not even a toothpick could be squeezed into the apartment,’ recalls Dorothy. In a day and age when major collectors create their own museums or auction their works off at Christie’s or Sotheby’s and walk away with the profits, the Vogels donated their entire collection, worth several million dollars, to the National Gallery of Art. You can learn more about the film here at this link. It’s been playing in Japan for the past month, and you can also get it on DVD or as a download on the website.

2. Buy something. There’s no other way for me to say it. When you buy something—a painting, a print, a piece of sculpture or ceramics, you’ll be propelled to learn more about art, the artist, the technique. You’ll bring home something that has the potential to change your life. Your own art will change the feeling and atmosphere in your home.

Buy something and you can point to with pride—to a piece of art that represents your own personal taste. I know from talking with visitors to our gallery in Tokyo that buying that first piece isn’t easy for some people. It’s a hump that takes some thought to get over, but once our visitors do buy something and bring it home, almost everything changes for them.

They shift from an observer to an active participant in the art world. They look at art as part of their lives, want to meet the artists and they come to all the openings and enjoy them. They start going to museums, and they bring their friends and kids to the gallery too. They rush home after work and bask in the enjoyment of the art in their home.

Think money is an obstacle?

Lack of money is an easy excuse, but there are works in every price range. Herb and Dorothy were public servants with modest salaries. The tagline for the movie, Herb and Dorothy says it all: ‘You don’t have to be a Rockefeller to collect art.’

Meanwhile, on another note, if you’re in Tokyo, drop by the Tobin Ohashi Gallery where we’ve just launched a show featuring two young Japanese artists, Joji Shimamoto and Mario Tauchi. Joji’s just 26 years-old but already on international lists of top photographers. He’s had shows throughout Japan and the United States where he went to school. Mario Tauchi spontaneously creates colourful mandalas on wood, paper, and canvas that reflect his interest in world religions and Japanese spirituality. He has had shows throughout Europe and Japan. These shows will continue at our gallery through February 10, 2011.

Joji Shimamoto


Images: Mirage floors (top), Richard C. Anderson (middle), Photo by Joji Shimamoto at the Tobin Ohashi Gallery (bottom).