Covid-19 has not only shaken global business, but also drastically affected artists. Without the usual opportunities to show their work at exhibitions, they have lost a primary means of connecting with audiences—and being able to sell their work.
This is where Tagboat has played a dynamic role—a contemporary art gallery dedicated to in-person exhibitions and a dynamic online presence that spotlights the many artists they represent.
And one of its most engaging recent projects is the Art Liberation Zones, which bring the work of dozens of artists to neighborhoods around Tokyo. They held the first of these events in Daikanyama in 2019. Ninety artists participated and more than 5,000 visitors came to see the pieces displayed. Last year, they held a Zone in Ginza, but it had to shut down in its early stages due to the state of emergency declaration.
This year they’ve returned, and in a new neighborhood. The east area of Tokyo Station (EATS) is a vibrant part of Tokyo that has long ties to the city’s past as well as connections to developments that are shaping its future, which makes it a perfect location for Art Liberation Zone EATS Nihonbashi. The event, which began on March 19 and runs until May 9, brings attention to Tagboat’s stable of artists and this area that serves as a nexus for art and creativity.
We recently spoke with Kenji Tokumitsu, president of Tagboat, about the Art Liberation Zone concept and the importance of giving artists a much-needed forum in the middle of the pandemic.
What is the overall philosophy behind Art Liberation Zone?
In today’s world, even if you are asked about your profession and say “artist,” it’s perceived as a side job, rather than a main job. I’m often asked: “Can artists live just by being artists?” In order to make the world less difficult for artists to live in, Tagboat wants to create a space where artists can express—or liberalize—their minds and bodies. This “Art Liberation Zone” is created with the desire to create an environment where artists can freely grow and immerse themselves in producing art without being limited by restrictions, such as studio location or size.
We open spaces at offices and commercial facilities for artists, and allow them to create and display their favorite art there. In the past, we have held our Art Liberation Zones in prime locations such as Ginza and Daikanyama, and have drawn many attendees. Tagboat really wishes to realize a world where artists can freely express themselves and make a living.
What inspired you to hold the Art Liberation Zone in Nihonbashi this year?
At the Tagboat Art Fair held on March 6–7, more than 1,000 works by 61 people were exhibited. We thought that exhibiting for only two days was not enough exposure, so when I consulted with Mitsui Fudosan Co. Ltd., through their cooperation they provided six different locations, such as in Muromachi and Ningyocho, where you can see and purchase artwork.
During the pandemic, why is it even more important to give artists an opportunity to share their work with the public?
Last year, many artists lost the opportunity to exhibit. Our planned exhibition—and many others—were canceled, and a great number of artists lost opportunities to earn money. Some artists tried selling their works online because they couldn’t exhibit in real life, but this proved to be extremely challenging. What we can do is protect such artists and increase their sales opportunities. Since it was not possible to physically exhibit overseas, we decided to significantly increase the scale and schedule of our exhibitions in Japan last year.
How have members of the EATS neighborhood community responded to having the exhibition there this year?
They have welcomed us with open arms.
What do you hope that people from other parts of Tokyo come to see about the EATS neighborhood through this exhibition?
It is really necessary to develop multi-dimensionally by connecting art and fashion with businesses such as cafes and restaurants. Nihonbashi is the best place to envision it, especially in the areas east of Tokyo Station, such as Ningyocho and Bakurocho. I think these areas make it possible to create a city that is full of art.
What are your longer-term goals for this project?
We would like to expand, not only to art exhibitions but also to urban development.
More details in Japanese