I wrote a short article for Tokyo Art Beat 1 about two shows that are currently up around Tokyo: Tazuko Masuyama’s “Until Everything Becomes a Photograph,” which I introduced very briefly here 2, and “The Exposed #7,” a group show of young Japanese photographers. I think it will be obvious that I am at an early stage of dealing with the ideas introduced in this article.
I had a good conversation last week with someone who works at a photo gallery in Tokyo. Her gallery deals with all kinds of work, but personally we are both interested in young photographers. We talked about how the successful galleries which attract a “young” audience are built on a Shibuya-centric model of “cool,” where, you know, everyone is wearing the right pair of Nikes and looks really great. Thankfully the concept of “hipster” doesn’t make sense in Japan—there’s no PBR or Tecate here, after all—but we can identify these galleries by looking at their relationship to fashion. G/P Gallery is probably the most obvious example of this kind of place. My friend said that, at least in G/P’s case, the gallery is set up so that cachet of being a cool person at a cool gallery functions like a decoy to get young people interested in photography.
The uncool point I want to raise is that there are plenty of young people who shoot and look at photographs very seriously. These people don’t need the lure of a chic experience to go to a gallery. But the question for the gallery owner here, though, becomes: “is there any money in those people?” Somewhere behind cool—behind fashion—there is money. I don’t think that G/P is a “bad” gallery for doing this, but I wonder if there is another way to attract a young audience. Can serious trump cool?