Sometimes there is a perfect alignment of technology, interests, free time, and friendship. When this happens, you can build anything, and in October 2004, Olivier Thereaux, Kosuke Fujitaka, and a few more of us were celebrating the launch of TokyoArtBeat.com in a café. TAB was the culmination of months of hard work over late evenings and weekends. We were all set to open the doors of the Tokyo art scene to the world when…one of us abruptly stood up and ran back home to remove the password we had set on the site’s main page.
“What’s going on in Tokyo? What shows are happening right now or closing soon? I’d love to have an online search engine for art events! Isn’t this what the Internet is for?!” I was thinking this to myself in 2003, a few months after arriving in Tokyo from London by train. I had spent four years in the UK studying design while floating from gallery to museum in a daze with a Time Out London in my back pocket. Here in Tokyo, the art landscape was leaving me confused. I started asking friends where they found out about art and design events, ending my sentences with “Wouldn’t it be nice if all this info could be shown on a bilingual website with easy categories and smart lists?” The answer was invariably the same: They got their info from flyers, magazines, and a couple of blogs. Also, “‘Yes, we’d love a website like this!”
Sixteen years later, Tokyo Art Beat is one of the longest-standing art websites in the world. The reasons for its success are multiple:
1. It was built by art-goers, for art-goers, and not as a tool for the art industry or the actors of the art industry.
2. It was built by dozens of kind volunteers, and then a core group of paid staff and Gadago NPO volunteers who never stopped visiting museums and galleries and spreading their love of art and design: Tomomi Sasaki, Kaori Sakai, Sayo Tomita, Xin Tahara, Chikako Yamamoto, Natsuki Morooka, and many others (listed below).
3. It was built as a non-profit organization and structured to be financially self-sustainable (from 2005 onwards).
4. It was built to be and remain bilingual in English/Japanese from the beginning, not as an after-thought or gimmick, but as a foundational echo to the power of art to bring distant cultures and communities closer.
5. And finally, it was built to list all (or close to all) of the art and design events happening in the Tokyo area, not a selection of some events judged worthy of the site. (It was later expanded to New York and temporarily the Kansai region with partners).
These five principles together are why TAB has been resilient enough to survive a major financial crisis, a major earthquake and nuclear accident, witnessing the birth of smartphones, social media, and Covid. For a more complete history of the platform, including our artist t-shirt collections, the beloved Tokyo Art Maps, the Mupon discount apps etc., please visit our NPO website.
A couple of years ago, Taihei Shii of the art x blockchain company Startbahn approached us to share his vision of what his new company was building to power the art world of tomorrow. As we continued to exchange over time, we realized that Startbahn represented the type of energy that TAB needed to enter a third decade with confidence. Sixteen years is a long time on the internet, and the last few years have been challenging. With all the founders and board members of the NPO having moved abroad or on to other activities, the site has cruised along with its popular iOS app and coupon offers, but with few new ideas and an aging infrastructure. Starbahn has stood by us over this trying past year and our operating teams have grown close.
With the Covid crisis, it’s become clear that combining the technology they are developing and the community we have built are the best way forward for the TAB platform and community. A month ago, the NPO members unanimously voted to transfer all operations of the TAB services with the existing staff to Startbahn, Inc. in a non-financial deal to respect the non-profit principles of our NPO.
What will change for the regular TAB art-goers? Nothing at first, and over the next year, the newly grouped entities will be listening to the community to reimagine the future of art-going in Tokyo, in Japan, and beyond. The site and apps will continue to operate and will likely be updated – hopefully to fit this new exciting decade ahead of us. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming!
For me and my co-board members, it’s time to take a step back and wish TAB and Startbahn a very stimulating 2021 and beyond. I also wish to thank once more all the people and staff who have selflessly helped TAB and its team over the past 16 years with their time, good will, ideas, passion, and kind hearts. You are the TAB Family.
I hope that we’ll all soon be able to walk the Tokyo art beat once again, see familiar faces, discover new art, and create new dreams. Until then, stay safe.
Paul Baron – Co-founder and chairman of the board of Gadago NPO
And many thanks to:
Akiko Imaizumi, Gen Kanai, Raphaël Mazoyer, Jacob Simon, Arata Nomoto, Jun Kanai, Yoko Omori, Romain Daumont, Hanae Sakai, Hiroko Makuuchi, Hatsumi Izawa, Mitsuhiro Kokita, Yoshida Akiko, Tadafusa Honda, Jeffrey Ian Rosen, David d’Heilly, Aya Matsuura, Kaori Honda, Kosuke Sakai, Jim O’Connell, Chris Heathcote, Adam Greenfield, Yuji Miyazaki, Miho Aoki, Yukiko Nakano, Kohei Aida, Asaka Barsley, Andreas Bovens, Raye Fukuda, Hisako Hashimoto, Tetsuo Hashimoto, Haruna Hirose, Chiharu Hisaki, Yukito Inoue, Miho Kazama, Akiko Kogiso, Shigeo Kon, Satoko Koike, Hiroko Makuuchi, Kaori Matsumoto, Haruna Mizogaki, Yumie Morohoshi, Renna Okubo, Hiroo Otsuka, Kozue Ooyama, Takae Sato, Sang-Hi Suh, Bram Vanmeirhaeghe, Kanako Fujimoto, Yoshihiro Kanematsu, Tomomi Sasaki, Ai Kikuchi, Chris Kobayashi, Kevin McGue, Manami Kamikawa, Mari Mukai, Andreas Bovens, Christophe Sautot, Patrick Benny, Makoto Hashimoto, Ashley Rawlings, Mayuko Kohno, Nozomi Koga, Motoko Shima, Naoki Matsuyama, Juri Okuyama, Hanae Iwamoto, Yohei Ogawa, Mai Kito, Chika Yamasaki, Eimu Matsumoto, Leiko Dairokuno, Akane Miki, Ayaka Sugiyama, Eri Takimoto, Yui Takeshima, Takashi Suzuki, Tatsuro Ide, Aoi Higuchi, Wataru Aoyama, Satoko Shimizu, Ai Kiyabu, Kohei Tsurumoto, Mari Hattori, Kana Koike, Emika Kono, Satoshi Ito, Yusuke Miki, Kumiko Nagaso, Erika Mori, Tomomi Iwamoto, Yuuka Matsuoka, Nen Hyo, Maho Otani, Hitomi Imasu, Asumi Kitahori, Shion Inaba, Nozomi Tanaka, Misaki Tachibana, Haruka Kouchi, Kosuke Shimizu, Nanami Yasuda, Satomi Ogata, Sachiko Otani, Kiwako Kitahata, Chihiro Ikegami, Hiroko Tsukagoshi, Marina Yoshimura, Aya Kuroki, Minaco Takayama, Junko Shimada, Konatsu Yamaguchi, Narumi Hirata, Shizuka Kitani, Ayako Kawachi, Yuko Sakaba, Tomomi Ogino, Ayami Ueda, Mana Yamagiwa, Kokoro Sakuma, Satomi Saruwatari, Kazuki Kameshima, Mizuho Oshiba, Atsuko Matsumi, Ayano Maekawa, Time Sakai, Namiko Obara, Yuki Saiki, Chihiro Ouchou, Risako Okabe, Mao Ono, Mako Saito, Rikako Kashima, Chiu Tze-Min, Rieko Yanagisawa, Yuri Miyazaki, Kaori Sakai, Chikako Yamamoto, Yuya Yamamoto, Kaoru Wada, Darryl Jingwen Wee, William Andrews, Emma Ota, Jessica Howard, Sayo Tomita, Kazuhiro Matsuura, Chris Palmieri, Jérôme Sadou, Patrice LaFlamme, Mei Fujie, Sadayuki Baba, Junya Komatsu, Jennifer Pastore, Emily Wakeling, Nick West, Stuart Munro, Tracy Jones, Randy Swank, Justin Egli, Jesse Freeman, Simon DeBoer, Michelle Zacharias, Mac Salman, Jeremy Woolsey, Magda Rittenhouse, Emily Saya Niemann, Finnegan Campbell, Joshibi University Art Writers, Paul Heaton, Neil Callender, M. Downing Roberts, Rachel Carvosso, Rebecca Milner, Jong Pairez, Anna Gonzalez Noguchi, Katrina Grigg-Saito, Chihiro Murakami, Jason Gray, Dominick Chen, Naomi Crowther, Patrick Brzeski, Winnie Shiraishi, James Way, Fuyuko Sugiura, Jessica Niles DeHoff, Ian Chun, Jun-Pierre Shiozawa, Toshiro Mitsuoka, Megumi Matsubara, Lori Kornegay, Karl, Andrew Conti, Tiffani, Kevin Mcgue, Michael Balderi, A. S. Feinberg, Meighan Ellis, Melaney Lee, Majken Kramer Overgaard, David Willoughby, Matthew Hayles, Naomi Matsuura, Aneta Glinkowska, James Jack, Andrew Woodman, Kenneth Masaki Shima, Mark Feary, Amy Fox, Marcus Bird, Erika Raberg, Sophie Knight, Maurizio Mucciola, Cheri Pitchapa Supavatanakul, Fritz Schumann, Lena Oishi, Sol Jung, Meg Kaizu, Alicia Tan, Vicente Gutierrez, Barnaby Lambert, Olivier Krischer, Cameron McKean, Martina Gahn, Yuma Tanaka, Matt Wyatt, Nick Narigon, Dan Abbe, Elyse Eunhee Lee, Mio Coxon, Chisako Izuhara, Carolyn Hashimoto, Saka Matsushita, Gary McLeod, Yelena Gluzman, Ikuko Kohno, Kumiko Odaka, Yoshiaki Kai, Rie Yoshioka, Koushiro Tamada, Taichi Hanafusa, Xin Tahara, yumisong, Rei Kagami, Chiaki Noji, Junko Okada, Wataru Otsuka, Ayumu Saito, Bunmei Shirabe, Noriko Yaegashi, Hana Ikehata, Tomoco Makino, Nana, Sayaka Shibata, Yuki Okumura, Yukiko Ishii, Yoko Furukawa, Sayako Mizuta, Yohei Yasuda, Nobuhiko Terasawa, Futoshi Hoshino, Yuya Suzuki, Haruka Ito, Tomoki Sakuta, Miki Takagi, Arina Tsukada, Daisuke Katou, Shoko Yorozu, Aie Shimoguchiya, Baba Shinichi, Natsuki Morooka, Takamitsu Mizutori, Tomoki Hirano, Paul Baron, Olivier Thereaux, Kosuke Fujitaka