"Funakoshi Katsura Prints 1990-2006" at Maeda Hiromi Art Gallery (Dec. 1-11, 2011)
On display are some 10 prints and a small-scaled bronze sculpture by Funakoshi Katsura (1951- ), who is famous for his wooden sculptures, as well as prints and drawings, establishing his unique style attuned to the Flemish religious paintings or icons. The prints are portraits of androgynous figures, which can often be seen in his enigmatic camphor wood sculptures.
The items shown at the gallery are all fine and of good quality. Each print comes with the artist's signature and serial print number.
The gallery recommends the print "A Room the Night Comes" (2001), 42.0 x 30.0 cm. $3,500.00
Also another must-see is the bronze sculpture that captures a tranquil but melodious atmosphere called "Water Sonata" (1999), 28.5 x 40.5 x 19.0 cm. $10,900.00
Price range: $3,000.00 - $10,900.00
I talked with the owner, Mr. Hiromi Maeda, who opened his new gallery of the same name this August after his 20-year career in the art gallery scene and in the business side of the art world. The owner mentioned that galleries are struggling to sell art works because there is no established collector's market in Japan, especially for up-and-coming young artists.
I understand that few rich or middle-class people spend their money on art in Japan. They have no knowledge about which works to buy, how to go about investing in artworks, how to display and maintain them, and how to sell those items in the future. The audience’s passive engagement with artworks and the closed nature of the Japanese art-gallery scene seem to create a disconnect among artists, the audience of potential collectors and the galleries.
However, the scene doesn't resemble the “wild west” USA art scene of the late 1960s-early 1970s. Both Tokyo and Kyoto have hundreds of galleries. Japan is not a cultural desert or wasteland on a superficial level. The three — the audience, the galleries and the artists — completely lose touch with each other. The audience believes that art exists only in museums, or artworks are too expensive and out of reach. The galleries are wasting their time to wait for rich people to come and shop, even though the nouveau riche are spending their money on new houses and new cars and yet the thought of buying artworks never crosses their mind. Artists are usually working hard on their artwork, indifferent to the art market.
Lack of art education and lack of depth in the audience to appreciate the profundity of the art may be causing problems. Perhaps they are too busy worrying about their work, children's test scores and grades, and the deadly radiation.
In response, galleries are seeking new ways to attract potential customers and opportunities for their business.
Galleries across the country—including Maeda Hiromi Art Gallery—regularly participate in hotel art fairs like the Kobe Art Marche 2011 (Sept. 30-Oct. 2), which was held at a Kobe hotel at which more than 30 rooms were turned into temporary gallery spaces.
The various art pieces were displayed in bedrooms, bathrooms and even on balconies and in closets, allowing art enthusiasts to imagine where and how to display artworks in their own homes.
“Bring art closer to the people!” is the kind of wish that people in the art world seem to have.
Maeda Hiromi Art Gallery (Kyoto, Japan); near Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae subway station