I suggest that by getting to know the artists and artworks, you will feel familiar with contemporary art and find your favorite works.
I hope to convey to you the pleasure of decorating your home with contemporary art and incorporating art into your daily life.
This time, I will focus on a gallery called [SPACE・u], which was located in Tatebayashi City, Gunma Prefecture.
Contemporary Art Activities in Local Cities
In the 1990s, there were only a few galleries in Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, and Saitama prefectures that dealt with contemporary art, and the number of exhibition venues was limited.
As a resident of the area at the time, I had little information about art and was ignorant about contemporary art.
For artists to create and express their works, they need an audience and a place where they can be appreciated.
What were the artist’s thoughts in a situation where that was not enough?
What were they thinking when they created the work?
At SPACE・u, in addition to exhibitions, the artists formed an organizing committee and planned events such as live concerts, poetry readings, dances, etc. in conjunction with a jazz cafe in Ashikaga City, and an art camp with the theme of exchanging consciousness with the “Kijutsu-kai” cherry blossoms.
I was fortunate enough to become involved with SPACE・u as a teenager.
Along with my experience working in the gallery and learning about the current state of contemporary artists, I wanted to know what kind of impact SPACE・ u had generated for the artists and the community.
This led me to reflect on [SPACE・u], which I feature in this article.
【SPACE・u】is a gallery in Tatebayashi City, Gunma Prefecture, that functioned from 1991 to 2008 as a non-profit “artist-run space” run by artists.
The Birth of a Mysterious Gallery in a Residential Area of Tatebayashi City
I started going there when I was in high school and spent many meaningful hours viewing the exhibitions, having drawing sessions with people I met there, and participating in an art camp called Kijutsukai.
I was curious about the neighborhood of the house I was living in at the time, and was drawn in, but my neighbors regarded it as an odd space, and took a distant view of it.
But it was a space that welcomed me comfortably, even though I knew nothing about contemporary art, and there were brain-stimulating exhibits every week!
At the time, I took it for granted that it existed there and did not think about it, but now I feel that it was a valuable place.
How did a contemporary art gallery come into being in the middle of nowhere (a residential area far from the station)?
There, I spoke with the owner, Fumie Wada, and learned about the background and direction of SPACE・u.
She practiced Sogetsu-style ikebana and ceramics. She was a student of potter Seichi Ogawa at his 【Pottery studio Ogawa】 in Tatebayashi City, which led to various future connections.
SPACE・u is a house with an exhibition space (box-like space) attached to it.
A person who met at the pottery studio moved out and purchased a vacant house as a storage space for ikebana and pottery materials, and the space that will be used as an exhibition space is being expanded.
She thought of it as a materials storage area, so there are no windows and the space is empty.
The room was also used as a darkroom, and some artists held exhibitions in the form of pitch-dark exhibits.
At the ceramic studio, she met contemporary artists such as Shigeyuki Cho and Takayuki Obana, and learned that artists have trouble finding places to exhibit their work because there are so few places to hold exhibitions.
Therefore, she decided to offer it as a “place to explore” to those who are willing to engage in the arts for a rental fee (2,000 yen per day, 10,000 yen per week).
SPACE・u, which began in 1991, has been attempting to explore and exhibit a wide range of artists, including contemporary artists, ceramic artists, and ikebana artists.
I bought a small desk at a handmade furniture exhibition and still use it with great care.
In 1994, the coffee corner “Coffee u” was added.
Mrs. Wada went to Tokyo to learn how to make coffee and began serving authentic coffee.
The idea was to encourage people unfamiliar with contemporary art to drop by casually.
Around the same time, she began to visit the gallery on a regular basis. Until then, in addition to Mrs. Wada, Seichi Ogawa, Shigeyuki Cho, and TakaYuki Obana had been in charge of the planning and management of the exhibition, leaving everything to the artists who had loaned their works to the gallery.
I started visiting at this time of the year, and it was very easy to enter the exhibition space because one could enter through the coffee shop corner and go to the exhibition space without having to go directly into the exhibition space.
The exhibit is also displayed in the coffee shop corner, which can also be enjoyed.
Some of the exhibits were unfamiliar to me, but I often found myself in the coffee shop corner talking about the exhibits and artwork, so I could look at them without feeling uncomfortable or unsure.
There were a variety of exhibits: two-dimensional, three-dimensional, installation, photography, words, and poetry.
It could be said that one of the charms of the place was its large capacity to accept a variety of things.
In addition, this location, which is neither in the city nor far from the station, inevitably attracts many visitors who come just to see the exhibitions at 【SPACE・u】.
The atmosphere was dense with people who took the time to come see the exhibition, so they appreciated it thoroughly and tried to enjoy the exhibition and its space.
A place to explore
Artists often tell Mrs. Wada that this space was a ” a space to explore” for contemporary artists in the northern Kanto region in the 1900s, and that this has influenced their activities to this day.
Artists seemed to visit not only from the northern Kanto region but from all over the country, and the exhibition schedule was always filled. I felt that even without advertising, people were calling people and artworks were calling people.
I asked if the gallery was profitable, but she said it was not difficult to maintain because it was her house.
It can continue if it is profitable only for maintenance, that is, if the basis for living is elsewhere and the income from the gallery does not have to be used for living.
This is considered to be the reality of the difficulty of gallery management in general.
If gallery management is your business, you need to consider sales. A certain amount of money from the space fee and sales of artwork is considered as income each month to run the gallery.
If you cannot control income and expenses, it is impossible to continue.
I now understand that SPACE・u was established as a “place to explore” because of this background.
So the artists were able to explore the expression of pure contemporary art, and the viewers were able to see their worldview.
She enjoys at home the works she purchased at the exhibition.
When artists with whom she interacts come to visit, she has a place to talk with them where they put their works all over the room.
Each piece has its own memories, and I’d rather display and enjoy them than put them away!
It was made possible because she is a person who enjoys the place, the work, and the people.
DE art is ” exploring” its development on SNS. When I want to explore expression, there is already no place for it.
The gallery was as valuable to me as it was to the artists in the northern Kanto region.
Changes since 2000
According to [Material SPACE-U Activity Record (1991-2008) edited by Tatsuya Tanaka], SPACE-U owner Fumie Wada left the planning and management of the gallery to TakayukiObana in 2000 to take care of her relatives.
The gallery name is changed to “SPACE-∪” (originally, a line is inserted in ∪ as if it were a medium lid, but since it cannot be written as a letter, it is written as ∪), and “Coffee yu” is renamed to “SPACE-yu”.
“∪” means “vessel” to hold the celebrant.
The guide for use says, ” SPACE-∪” is a place for individuals to travel deep into their hearts, bring something indescribable they have found there, and exchange it as they start the 21st century. (The fee is 25,000 yen per 6-day unit.)
The gallery is defined as a place where people bring what they have “found,” encounter each other, and give to each other, where it does not matter whether they are art or not, artists or not.
Here every person can be an artist.
In this way, SPACE-∪ presented a form of art that was outside of the existing framework, broke down the barriers between artists and visitors, and created and nurtured a large number of people of expression.
In 2008, TakayukiObana closed SPACE-∪ to take care of his mother. It is stated that.
At this time, I was unable to attend frequently due to a move, and unfortunately did not have much opportunity to see the activities from 2000 to 2008.
However, the numerous exhibition names in reference materials suggest that it was a place of highly spiritual expression.
This article was prepared from interviews with Fumie Wada and reference materials.
From “Tatebayashi Junction,” Tatebayashi Museum of Art, Gunma, 2012
Materialー [Space・u Activity Record (1991-2008)] Tatsuya Tanaka, ed.
Thank you for reading to the end.
Have a good encounter with a work!
This was DE art.