A new alternative art space and cafe opened yesterday in Kichijoji, Tokyo. It is called Art Center Ongoing. Ongoing are a group of students who have been putting together exhibitions of young artists in vacant spaces and, more recently at art spaces like BankArt Yokohama. Ongoing's Director is Nozomu Ogawa, who we invited to speak at our school at AIT when they first started, four years or so ago. In the current climate of a booming contemporary art market in Tokyo,with mass media magazines and even television programs zooming into all things 'Art', the state of other, non market-oriented approaches or art spaces is something to think about. With no city or state funding for this sector, things are invariably led by the commercial side, with top gallerists like Tomio Koyama and Sueo Mitsuma becoming spokespersons for 'Japanese contemporary art'. This is fine, as things go, but crucially remains tilted heavily towards the private, commercial side of things. Is there any counter-balance to this?
So it is good to see the opening of an art cafe and space which is committed to different visions. I have always felt that a 'healthy' art scene (if this is not a contradiction!), is one which accommodates many layers of activity, from the high-end commercial through to non profits, artist spaces, schools, functioning museums and a critical media. With the current paucity of public support for contemporary art in Tokyo and public institutions under funding pressures to create block-buster shows, things are critically tilting towards a market-led scenario. But, I feel that different things keep happening on various scales. In times of prosperity the media tends to ignore tactical things in favour of bigger, easy to understand stories. Another recent example of a different layer in Tokyo was Central East Tokyo.
Art Space Ongoing will open Fridays through Sunday. There is a cafe on the first floor and a gallery space upstairs. The first exhibition showed a new installation by Masahiro Wada - a very interesting artist who founded the artists collective 'Homebase' - Wada's webpage is here. We have worked with him at AIT a number of times, and his show at Ongoing combines various elements which he has worked with including kebabs, fairy lights, neo-primitive wooden carvings and large rotating plaster shapes. Some images of the space and the show below: