AFAF2022 Art Collectors Talk ‐ how to build a collection and enjoy the fair ‐

In advance of ART FAIR ASIA FUKUOKA 2022, we gathered three collectors. They talked about what to look for at the fair, how to choose works to collect, and other know-how to enjoy the art fair more in the form of interviews.


interviewee(honorifics omitted)

Hiroshi Kamei

Takahumi Kumano

Kenichi Kuroki

Interviewer:Shintaro Sumimoto


-Please briefly introduce yourself and tell us about your collector history.


Kamei)I am an animation producer at a broadcast station.I bought my first one the year I started working and have been a collector for about 12 years now!


Kumano)I work for a company called CAMPFIRE, and I am actually in charge of crowdfunding for this AFAF.I started my collecting career in 2019, so I will soon be entering my fourth year.


Kuroki)I live in Tokyo, Japan, in Takaido, Suginami Ward.I work for a toy manufacturer as an office worker.I started my collection in 2011, so this will be my 11th year.


-What got you interested in art?


Kumano)My origin in art is Jan Švankmajer, an artist I fell in love with when I was in high school.My interest in Švankmajer expanded to "fin de siècle" art such as Klimt and Redon, and I majored in art history in college.

When Mr.Kamei and I were university students in the late 2000s, many books on contemporary art by Takashi Murakami and Tomio Koyama were published and new artists were emerging with great vigor.In this atmosphere, my interest in contemporary art gradually grew stronger.


Kamei)Since I was a student, I have enjoyed visiting art galleries and museums. One of the most memorable was the Jeff Koons exhibition at the Palace of Versailles. As a backpacker, I went to many places and saw many works of art, but Jeff Koons' exhibition had a far greater impact on me than Leonardo da Vinci's ”Mona Lisa” at the Louvre. Later, when I moved to Tokyo for work, I began visiting museums and galleries that dealt with contemporary art.


Kuroki)I clearly remember the year I became interested in art, 2001. At that time, the Internet was not widespread enough and it was still the age of magazines. I was interested in fashion and often read fashion magazines, and one magazine had a special issue on the collaboration between Junya Watanabe Comme des Garçons and Yayoi Kusama. As I turned the pages of the special issue, I was surprised to see a woman with strong eyes, Yayoi Kusama herself. It was as if she jumped out of the magazine. I liked fashion and read magazines, but I was shocked by how powerful she was. This was the first time I became interested in art.


-How did you start collecting and what was your first collection?


Kamei)I did not go to the gallery because I wanted to buy something, but when I happened to see an exhibition at a gallery I entered, I was fascinated by the works of Sato Makoto displayed there, and I used all my savings to purchase two pieces. The fact that Mr. Sato was the same age as me was probably one of the major factors in my decision to collect. One of the attractions of collecting contemporary art is that the artists are still alive and you can look at their careers from a contemporary perspective. My first collection was of Mr. Sato, who was the same age as me, so it is very enjoyable to feel as if I am walking alongside him in his career.


Kumano)The first time I began to consider purchasing artwork was when I purchased my home. I purchased the house with the intention of renovating it, and as I was working on it, I remembered that I wanted to display some artwork. At first, I thought that ukiyoe prints and Japanese paintings would be more compatible with my home, since it is located in the area known as "Kanazawa Hachikkei," which was painted by Hiroshige Utagawa, an ukiyoe artist from the end of the Edo period.

When it came time to start collecting, I realized that I still did not have enough knowledge of art. Therefore, from that time until I purchased my first piece, I spent about a year looking around at different galleries. One gallery had introduced an online art marketplace, "Oil by Art Techo," and was holding an exhibit where prices could be easily checked online. I purchased a piece of drawing by Rikako Kawauchi, who was exhibiting here, because it was within my budget and because I felt something emanating from its rawness and inside. I thought that this gallery would be a good partner for us in the future. Perhaps the most important factor was that I had a gut feeling that this gallery would be a good partner for us in the future.


Kuroki)I started my collection in 2011, the year of the earthquake. I happened to be in China for work, so I was not experience it firsthand, but the horror of that time left a deep impression on me. The same year, I had the opportunity to visit Naoshima, and the first thing visitors see at the port of Naoshima are Kusama's pumpkins. When I saw it, I felt a sense of relief from the sense of being so deeply involved in the work. I experienced that the fear and scars from the earthquake were healed by seeing the artwork. Luckily, a postcard-sized drawing by Kusama became my first collection.


-Has anything changed in your life since you started collecting?


Kuroki)As I mentioned earlier, when I started collecting in 2011, I was personally feeling very down. I still vividly remember the first piece of artwork from the collection arriving at my house, and when I came home from work and stood in front of it, I felt relaxed, almost as if I were taking a bath in a forest. Thus, in the early days of my collection, the art collection brought a sense of comfort and healing into my life. Perhaps as an extension of that, I feel that my life itself has become richer. One example of this is the fact that I have been able to interact with so many people of different generations, and I believe that art has been a catalyst for this interaction.


Kumano)As Mr.Kuroki mentioned, the connections I have made through art are probably the biggest change for me as well. There are many other people I have come to know because I am a collector. One of the most influential was when I was thinking about changing jobs, I had the opportunity to talk to Kazuma Iiri, the president of CAMPFIRE, where I currently work, who is also an art collector, through our connection on SNS.

At the time, I was looking for a new job on the condition that it would be compatible with setting up a gallery. When I mentioned this to Mr. Iiri, he said that CAMPFIRE would allow me to manage both the gallery and the business. That was one of the reasons I decided to change jobs. This was one of the reasons I decided to change jobs. Last year, I decided to open a gallery at the same time as my new job, and I feel that my life itself has been greatly changed by art!


Kamei)Like everyone else, I think that expanding new relationships is a very big change for me. Another big change for me personally is that I am learning more and more about the world that I never knew before through art, and I feel as if my horizons are being broadened.

It is often said that contemporary art is a mirror of modern society, and it is refreshing to be able to learn about the times through art. New artworks and themes are constantly being created that cannot be contained in textbooks, and the more one learns about them, the more one finds out about the next one, and the more one's curiosity is aroused, the more one gains new stimulation. Therefore, I feel that art collection is a hobby that can be continued for a long time and that can be enjoyed over the long term.

Also, speaking from a businessman's point of view, for example, when I have a dinner with someone important, if I tell him that I like contemporary art and often buy artworks, it is sure to be a lively conversation.


-What do you pay attention to when you look at artworks, and when you see many works of art at a fair?


Kumano)I tend to look at things like the potential of young artists rather than the works of established artists. I am often attracted to works that have a certain "abnormality" to them, even if the artist does not have a solid reputation at the moment. What I mean by "abnormality" is that the artist's own will and persistence are very strongly expressed in his or her work.

Even at fairs where many works are displayed, I pay particular attention to the strong sense of obsession and spirit expressed in the works of young artists.


Kamei)I'm not very sure of myself, not just in art, so I try to input as much information as possible before I do anything. When I do that and find something appealing, I can't really explain why, but it is often correct.

The same is true when I am looking at artworks. I look at a lot of artworks and read art-related news, etc., and when I select a collection, the ones that strike me as good are the ones that I like.

In the case of a fair, if I concentrate on looking at each piece one by one, I would run out of time, so I try to rely on my own input and focus on the pieces that intuitively caught my attention.


Kuroki)An art fair is basically a place where you can buy all the artwork on display. I usually have the habit of looking around very quickly. For example, at a fair, I go around and overview the entire fair and look for works that I feel I like first. Since I am a collector after all, I go back to the pieces I liked and now I think about whether I want them or not. Finally, if I am considering a collection, I check to see if it fits into my collection concept or not.


-Do you have any criteria for deciding which pieces to collect?


Kuroki)First of all, more than half of my collection consists of video works. I have established six collection concepts as criteria for my collection. As I mentioned earlier, the most important criterion for my collection is whether or not it is in line with these collection concepts.

To explain the collection concept in more detail, I am interested in the general themes of "death" and "life," or to be more specific, "war and disaster," and "diversifying love and sex". Derived from this, I have established the following six criteria for collecting video works.


 (1) History that must not be forgotten

 (2) Current issues that must be faced

 (3) Expose suffering and sexuality

 (4) Minorities shining brightly

 (5)Excessive interference and mental domination

 (6) Distance between parents and children, married couples and lovers


If I like a piece when I see it, I carefully view it and decide whether or not it fits this criterion at the end of the day and whether or not I will collect it.


Kumano)When I hear you talk about something like Mr.Kuroki's collection concept, I find it amazing and wish I could form my own collection with a concept! But actually, my collection doesn't have much of a core concept, and I think it is a bit more intuitive.

One of the challenges you face when trying to build a collection is the budget. In my case, it is difficult to collect works by artists who have major galleries attached to them or artists with established reputations who also sell at auctions.

So, this leads me to my motivation for starting my own gallery operation today, but when I meet a young artist with a visionary story that I think is interesting and that I hope will be active in the future,  I get very excited! As a collector, maybe I have a kind of desire to be the first to recognize the potential of a certain artist before he or she becomes a hot topic.

The only rule I have for my collection is that I always collect pieces that I think are good, without being influenced by other people's opinions, such as that they are sold out or that everyone says they are good.


Kamei)When I collect, I set a budget that I feel I can buy instantly, somewhat intuitively. If I am interested in a piece that exceeds that amount, I do a lot of research and thinking, and so on. After checking the current price, I then look at how much potential the artist has. I research the artist's following, what kind of transition the artist has gone through, etc., and imagine the artist's future and how he or she will change and grow.

Also, and this is very important to me, when I collect works by any artist, whether domestic or foreign, I consider whether or not there is something unique about them within a certain global standard.


-What are some of the moments that you find the most enjoyable, good, or happy in your collection?


Kumano)When an artist whose work I collect is exhibited in a major exhibition or fair after his career, or when he becomes popular, I am very happy because I feel that my sensibility was not mistaken. To give one example, I had been inquiring about the possibility of purchasing works by an artist named Hiruma Kishi through SNS before he had even entered art school. Since then, Mr. Kishi's career has progressed rapidly, and I noticed that he had a solo exhibition at √K Contemporary Gallery. When something like this happens, I get very excited because it seems to prove that my sensibilities are correct, and for me, it is one of the best parts of being a collector.


Kuroki)When a work is stored in a private collector's collection, only one collector can view it during that time. I think this is a waste of the work. Therefore, I am very happy when I invite people to view and enjoy the works in my collection, which I exhibit in my home, for example. Of course, there is a desire for approval and self-satisfaction, but more than that, I feel like the work shines when people see it, and I think that is the best part of it.

Basically, I think of my works as being in my care because I happened to have a chance to be associated with them temporarily. I am more than happy when more people see these works of art at collection exhibitions and other events, and when they are pleased with them.


Kamei)There are several patterns in the moments when I find the most enjoyment in art collecting. One is, as Mr.Kumano mentioned, when I purchase an artist's work at the beginning of his/her career and later appreciate the artist and his/her work. In such cases, I am also happy when I have a longer relationship with the artist than the people around me.

Also, as a guideline for my collection, I basically do not buy edition pieces, so most of the pieces in my collection are one-of-a-kind, unique pieces. It is not that I am happy to be exclusive, but I feel a little proud when I imagine that this piece is in my house, not anywhere else in the world.


-What are your expectations for ART FAIR ASIA FUKUOKA 2022?


Kumano)I have never been to Art Fair Asia Fukuoka, so I am very much looking forward to going. Many of the galleries exhibiting in the Asia section are galleries that I really like, so I am particularly interested in seeing what kind of lineup they will have on display.

Also, I am actually from Fukuoka, and Gallery Soap, which is located in my hometown, is also exhibiting there, but I have never had the chance to visit them, so I am looking forward to seeing what kind of exhibition they will create.


Kamei)Art Fair Asia Fukuoka will focus on artists and galleries in the area that we have only been able to see in JPEG so far, and that is what I am very interested in. The lineup will be completely different from the artists we have been able to see up close, so I am looking forward to seeing what kind of exhibits each gallery will create!


Kuroki)Fukuoka is a district with a very large collection of Asian artists. Among my own collection of foreign artists, there are many Asian artists. I have a strong interest in Asian artists, partly because they are culturally close to me, and partly because I happen to have the opportunity to purchase their works. This may be a bit exaggerated, but I hope that Art Fair Asia Fukuoka will become a hub in Japan as the art scene in Asia continues to flourish. Unlike Tokyo and Kansai, we are geographically closer to Asia, and I expect that this will bring some interesting features to the fair. I hope that new encounters and opportunities will be created there.