Art News Definition – Coming from the world stage, Japanese curator Yoichi Nakamuta is blazing new trails for Singapore’s new creative culture.
Three years ago, Japanese curator Yoichi Nakamuta decided to leave his native Japan and plant his roots on our sunny shores. Nakamuta built a reputation overseas discovering and working with talents such as Tom Dixon, Michael Young and Christophe Pillet for his E&Y furniture company before they became international names.
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After arriving in Singapore, her keen design sense and foresight helped raise the profile of local creatives through a variety of projects. In 2012 he curated Creative Culture: A Singapore Showcase, the first book of its kind here. Produced by Underscore magazine, it featured a curated selection of local creators of music, design, fashion, architecture and art who are at the forefront of their craft. In 2014, he took on the role of international curator of the Singapore Design Week spin-off event SingaPlural, leading several innovative installations and exhibitions, and launched Industry+, a furniture brand promoting Asian designers and manufacturers. As if his portfolio wasn’t impressive enough, Nakamuta is also the founder of Tokyo-based Clear Edition & Gallery, which he founded in 2007. An innovative platform that pushes art beyond the usual genre , including photography, design and other non-traditional sources, exhibited at Art Stage Singapore 2015 in January. Despite his busy schedule, Nakamuta managed to find the time to share with us his thoughts on the art and design of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
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Briefly describe your journey to becoming a curator. What interested you in art? Where are the artistic influences of your youth?
My journey to becoming a curator or collector began in 1981 in New York, where I lived. My first art purchase was Tom Dixon’s Bull Chair. I didn’t have a lot of money, I couldn’t afford expensive paintings, but I found something as beautiful as art and sculpture. I never met Tom Dixon but I was so happy to have him. I lived in Soho for two years in the early 80s, where I attended art openings every night and met many intriguing personalities. I still remember the smell of the freshly painted walls when it premiered. This led me to become a gallery owner one day.
How does Clear Edition & Gallery extend or diversify your career with E&Y, the furniture company you founded in Tokyo?
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After returning to Japan in the mid-80s, I wanted to open a contemporary gallery, but I didn’t have enough money to open one. So I changed my mind and created my own designer label E&Y in 1985. I sold art furniture from Tom Dixon, Danny Lane, Andre Dubray, Ron Arad and more. At the same time, I worked on furniture production for Rem Koolhaas, Stephen Hall, Mark Mack, Michael Graves and many other Western designers and architects. I was doing press for the Aldo Rossi project and a photography exhibition with Shigeru Ban, who had just returned from the Cooper Union in New York. Therefore, my youth was full of encounters with foreign designers and architects. I have a good education sales design!
Clear Edition & Gallery was created much later when I finally decided to open an art gallery eight years ago. As the owner of the E&Y design label, my interests in photography, design and street art continue to grow. It happens immediately. So I feel bad for my employees who work hard and do so many different projects at once.
The philosophy of Clear Edition & Gallery is to combine art and design in its selection of works. There is a fine line between what is considered art and what is considered functional design. What guidelines do you use to organize your gallery content?
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Of course, from a market perspective, art and design are very different. However, especially in recent years, we do not want to completely separate these two aspects when it comes to gallery programs. What is good is good. What we consider good or what we consider good are those who defy boundaries.
The art scene in Asia, particularly in Singapore, has grown exponentially over the past few years. Is there room for even more growth, in terms of the quality and quantity of what is done? What do you blame for the functioning of art in this climate?
I don’t know about the quantity, but I hope for the quality. In any case, they are closely related to each other. Singapore works well as a hub. I think more international attention should be given to local talent.
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At Art Stage Singapore 2015, Clear Edition & Gallery presented works by Japanese artist Ei Kaneko, photographer Yovian Lim, artist Soph Oh (Sophia Ong) and designer Jackson Tan from Singapore. Kaneko’s deconstructivist collages, Lim’s atmospheric images inspired by eurythmy theories, Ong’s fantastic images and Tan’s symbolic “DREAM” sculpture and “Dot” artwork are so different from each other. Tell us why you chose these particular works and artists to feature in this exhibition.
First, I like photography, design and urban art. If you go to international art fairs, you will often find many galleries displaying these types of art, but here at Art Stage Singapore, I don’t see many of these [types of] art. I wanted to explore those areas of art that might be new to Art Stage buyers. Clear Edition & Gallery Tokyo features contemporary fine art/photography and contemporary design artists in its program. We did not hesitate to show the same thing in Singapore.
I like the works of Yovian Lim, Jackson Tan and Sophia Ong the most and would love to showcase more works by Singaporean artists at future art fairs!
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In 2012, you curated Creative Cultures: The Singapore Showcase, showcasing the best creative minds in Singapore’s architecture, design, art, music and fashion. Could there be other editions for talents from other cities?
Many of your recent projects have been Singapore-based or Singapore-related, and you’ve even moved here to stay. Obviously, you see the potential of this city as a creative hub. Can you tell us what you think about it?
The potential I felt was speed and passion. The people at the heart of the creative scenes here are very young compared to people in Tokyo. They are very passionate, stimulating and very international, which is very different from the mature scenes in Japan.
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You are a veteran of the international design scene who has researched, produced and exhibited the work of emerging designers since the 1980s. How do you think the furniture design climate has changed in Europe and Asia since then?
I think the changes only affect the market. Results may vary from moment to moment, but talent comes from all over the world and that hasn’t changed much.
You used to spot the talents of designers like Tom Dixon and Michael Young before they became famous. With such promising names, who do you think are the ones to look for in design these days?
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How do you think the internet has affected the art world over the past decade? Do you think it changed the definition of artist and designer?
In terms of definition, no, it hasn’t changed much. But the Internet has given everyone the opportunity to speak for themselves and has made the world smaller. I would say that the function of the galleries has changed a bit. as? Artists today are more engaged in self-promotion. They have a lot of tools to reach the public, albeit in a gallery. So I don’t think artists need to rely heavily on galleries to bring their work to the masses. But commercially, the relationship hasn’t changed much, at least for us.
How would you define Japanese contemporary art, and how would you define Singaporean contemporary art as it exists today?
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I don’t feel the difference. We have never chosen our artists by nationality at Clear Edition, and it’s basically the same at Industry+. Sure, they all have their roots, and some of the people we work with have their roots reflected in their work, but it’s about persuading the message they want to convey, not where they’re from.
What other interests do you have besides art and design? For example, what do you do on weekends?
I’m producing several exhibitions, including an upcoming traveling exhibition by the late master of Japanese industrial design Sori Yanagi, I’m preparing a book called Underground Idols with Yonehara Yasumasa, I’m also working on many furniture projects and many galleries. You will soon learn more about them. “Artists use mediums to create their works of art” – already heard! But what does “Medium” mean in art? Curiously, the medium can be either oil mixed with pigments, the human body in performance, or even a print. Related Articles: What is
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