Posted:Jul 1, 2009

It’s Crunch Time!

New York and London contemporary art galleries have been closing, moving or decimating. Auction results are sagging…Now what about Tokyo?

Even this isolated art & design city has been feeling the crunch, slowly but surely.


Galleries that participated in the Armory Art Fair in New York last March came back home with a shrug.

Art Fair Tokyo, which took place the following month, was great for galleries with young and still relatively affordable artists (Kodama Gallery re-did their installation once their first batch of works sold out) but galleries with works over 500,000 yen had a harder time convincing the crowd (45,000 visitors over 4 days, an increase from last year) that it was a good time to invest in the arts.

AFT had this to say: “The current mood of cautiousness in the art market prompted many galleries to price works affordably, resulting in pleasing sales results despite the poor economic conditions. According to a survey conducted by the Art Fair Tokyo Committee Executive Office, estimated total sales were approximately one billion yen (US$10 million). Several galleries completely sold out on opening day, while other gallery operators commented that ‘the economic crisis has had little influence on sales. Many even managed to sell some of their more expensive masterworks.”

Contemporary galleries this year mostly seemed to use AFT as an opportunity to show rather than sell. That was one reason why the installations in the booths looked pretty tight.

Art Fair Tokyo 2009
Art Fair Tokyo 2009
Photo: Kaori Sakai

At the same time 101Tokyo took place again and was attended by 5,000 people. But quite how that translated into real sales for the galleries is more difficult to say. No one wants to break face!

Also, although it is meant to happen twice a year, Takashi Murakami’s GEISAI will not be held again until 2010 it seems.

Shifting around…

Nanzuka Underground moved from its former Shibuya basement location to be closer to other galleries in the new Shirokane complex. And Zenshi has pulled out of the Kiyosumi-Shirakawa building (although this move may not be solely for financial reasons).

Beginning of the end?

Tomio Koyama Gallery will be closing its Ryue Nishizawa-designed Daikanyama space in June (as reported on TABlog).

But the struggle is particularly evident in other areas, especially in the media industry.

Esquire Japan went on an “extended break” (although a petition has been launched to try to bring it back!), along with many other magazines.

Ping Mag closed over the New Year, followed by Tokyo Art Cross (as reported here on TABlog).

ART iT will no longer be printing their glossy issues, but instead will offer their articles and reviews via their new website.

Martina Gahn

Martina Gahn

Hailing from Long Island, NY, Martina Gahn has been in a love-hate relationship with Tokyo since 2002. Having dabbled as a mixer of drinks, instructor of the English language and editor of verbosity, she is now working on a book about railway gropers. She has an affinity for spoonerisms, shoes, Deleuze, and Weezer, and in her free time likes to walk her pugs Hil & Loh through the various business districts of Tokyo. Martina, who loves all things Art (from the Greeks to the hedge funds), hopes to relay what lies beyond the sex, lies, and youtube links of the art industry. If you have any art news or gossip that you would like to see Martina nitpick on TABlog, email her at martina [at] tokyoartbeat [dot] com.