12 Kashiwa Sato (Art Director)

Kashiwa Sato (Art Director)

The fun of contemporary art

The word "art" refers to diverse genres; my favorite genre is contemporary art. I find in it the fun of a role-playing game. You enjoy a role-playing game by following a long story. The fun of contemporary art is not just in the work itself, but knowing about the background, including the periods and history. You need to have a certain amount of knowledge in order to appreciate the contrast between the numerous contemporary works that artists have created over the years.

Within the big encompassing genre of "contemporary art", artists come up with their own new interpretations. Knowing about Andy Warhol and the factors behind his works helps you to have a deeper appreciation of the works of artists such as Damien Hirst, Jeff Koon and Takashi Murakami. When you get to know the rules of contemporary art, it becomes interesting because you can feel that you are also taking part in it.

Expanding the market for contemporary art

Mobile Suit Gundam at Gundam Front Tokyo

Mobile Suit Gundam at Gundam Front Tokyo
A life-size figure of Gundam, the TV animation hero, was set up at the Gundam Front Tokyo in Shiokaze-koen park in 2009, attracting much attention. The statue can now be seen at DiverCity Tokyo Plaza in Odaiba. (as of Oct. 3, 2012)

If contemporary art is a role-playing game, New York is its stage. There are lots of other art cities, but New York is definitely the center of contemporary art. It would be difficult for Roppongi to become the center... There is the problem of the locale, but it's not just that. You can have lots of galleries, or lots of artists or curators, but they are not the solution in themselves. In addition to all of that combined, you need collectors.

In New York, contemporary art is a business and there is a proper system and a market for it. Of course, there's a market in Japan as well, but it's small. That's why it's important, as I mentioned earlier, to gain people's attention by making an impact. Without igniting interest, there is no way for the market to expand.

I don't mean to talk just about the business aspects of art, but it's a fact that without attracting people and things and money, the quality of the works will not improve, and things don't become interesting. So I think it would be good if, for example, a gigantic artwork sits on top of the National Art Center, Tokyo. People and companies who see it might offer to become sponsors and this could turn lead to new projects in Roppongi. That kind of chain reaction would be ideal.

The importance of simply grabbing people's attention

I talked earlier about ridiculously huge things; in order to make an impact and get people's attention, I start by looking for things which are shamelessly conspicuous. It doesn't necessarily have to be big. It could be something that is extremely tiny, or terribly gaudy or strikingly neat and tidy. To send a strong message across, it should be simple so that a single glance will be enough; it should not require the comprehension of anything complicated. You just need to grab people's attention. If you succeed in doing that, you have done about 80% of the basic work. Then you just need to pay careful attention to the details and complete the project. It's important to strike a right balance between those two aspects.

I'm not talking about making an interesting project plan. The most important thing is the concept that comes before drawing up the plan. The concept is the big goal; it is what you actually aim to do, and it is the keyword of the project. There are times when simply grabbing people's attention can be the concept itself.