The Gallery-Share Model Is Finding New Life in Tokyo With an Initiative That’s Bringing a Slew of International Dealers to Japan
Onsen Confidential wants to help form new partnerships and relationships—while offering participants the chance to steam in ancient hot springs.
A group of Tokyo-based and international galleries are planning a business-retreat-meets-conference and gallery-share in Japan this March. The concept, dubbed Onsen Confidential, will bring together a global assortment of galleries that form a loose network of kinships. But don’t expect boring lectures and typical roundtables; the 34 local and visiting gallery teams will head to a traditional Japanese hot spring, called an onsen, and steam while they hash out the sticking points of the current market before celebrating the opening of 12 exhibitions in Tokyo.
The event kicks off on March 26, with openings on March 28 across the Japanese capital. “Onsen Confidential is partially a tribute to previous gallery-share platforms, many of which we took part in,” says Onsen Confidential’s co-founder Jeffrey Rosen, from Tokyo-based Misako & Rosen. “However, the prime incentive is not about selling art; this is about a longer term investment in one another,” he adds.
Misako & Rosen–whose space will be hosting Lambalambdalambda from Prishtina, Kosovo, Lulu from Mexico City, and New York’s 47 Canal–initiated Onsen Confidential together with Tokyo’s artist-run space XYZ collective; the latter will be hosting New York’s Queer Thoughts and Schiefe Zahne from Berlin. The gallery-share concept is not dissimilar to increasingly popular initiatives, like Condo. “Our idea had been brewing in Japan for years; we’ve been wondering how we can contribute to this international scene in a way that feels right,” says Rosen. And while detoxing in mineral spring water may sound like an exotic set-up for a meeting of industry professionals, it’s a rather usual occurrence for Japanese business retreats.
Rosen said that Onsen Confidential’s participant list grew naturally through friendships with dealers who participated alongside him at unique fairs like Paris International and the now-defunct Paramount Ranch art fair in Los Angeles.The galleries are mostly all so-called post-Lehmann galleries, formed after the financial calamities of 2008; as such, they’ve been quick to embrace collaboration and new ways of working in an increasingly difficult marketplace.
“I think it’s clear at the present moment that galleries that are not completely profit-driven have got to work together,” says Rosen. “While we each have our various strategies to survive, in coming together we can probably help each other see various blind spots and hash out how we can try to make our situations better.”
Dealers are set to arrive to install work a few days after what would have been the end of Art Basel Hong Kong (a small wrench in the plan for those who were planning to head to Tokyo off the back of participation in the Hong Kong fair). Before the shows open to the public on March 28, the whole Onsen Confidential crew will head to Hotel New Akao for a night and a day. There, Forrest Nash, founder of Contemporary Art Daily, will be in attendance to moderate a semi-formal conference.
Even though it’s a long trip for many of the galleries, for some the decision was easy. “We love Jeffrey from Misako & Rosen and had talked about the idea of this project with him since 2016, so it’s really exciting that it’s now actually here,” says Grace Schofield and Nigel Dunkley from London-based gallery Union Pacific. They will be hosted by MUJIN-TO Production alongside Galerie Gregor Staiger from Zurich and Jan Kaps from Cologne. The gallery is planning to show a drawing by Koak (priced at $2,000) and a ceramic lamp by Tokyo-born, but now Glasgow-based, Urara Tsuchiya (priced at $6,500). “We are pleased to be showing Tsuchiya back on her home turf as she has never shown in Japan before,” add the dealers.
Rosen says that the Onsen Confidential organizers have been encouraging participants not to bring too much art, an advisory Union Pacific has heeded. The Japanese art economy, though highlighted by some dedicated and informed collectors, has always been slow, a fact he admits can be difficult and frustrating for galleries, in a business sense. “The people that are collecting here have been doing so for non-speculative reasons,” says Rosen. “The economy in Japan does not lend itself to speculative collecting, art flipping is squashed immediately, and there are no tax benefits here—it is very pure that way.”
When asked about the vitality of gallery-shares in general, Rosen has optimism—but stresses that new models should not be solely focused on selling, but more about facilitating new connections, unique projects, and a wider viewership. “If we present a show in our space it is somewhat in isolation, given the shift away from the gallery show as the dominant mode of seeing and experiencing art,” he says. “The anarchic spirit of gallery-shares seems to have, to some degree, fallen by the wayside and the events are now being dealt with as as one might deal with an art fair. We all need to find the original energy for gallery-share models and retain that spark.”
See the full list of participants below.
Satoko Oe Contemporary (host) – Arcadia Missa (London, UK), Good Weather (Arkansas, USA), and Federico Vavassori (Milan, Italy)
MUJIN-TO Production (host) – Galerie Gregor Staiger (Zurich, Swiss), Union Pacific (London, UK), and Jan Kaps (Köln, Germany)
THE CLUB (host) – Balice Hertling (Paris, France)
ANOMALY (host) – Roh Project (Jakarta, Indonesia) and Emanuel Layr (Vienna, Austria)
AOYAMA | MEGURO (host) – SVIT (Prague,Czech)
MISAKO & ROSEN (host) – 47 Canal (New York, USA), Lulu (Mexico city, Mexico), and LambdaLambdaLambda (Pristina, Kosovo)
Fig. (host) – Max Mayer (Düsseldorf, Germany)
XYZ collective (host) – Queer Thoughts (New York, USA) and Schiefe Zahne (Berlin, Germany)
HAGIWARA PROJECTS (host) – Crevecoeur (Paris, France), Bodega (New York, USA), and Jonathan Hopson Gallery (Houston, USA)
4649 (host) – Bel Ami (Los Angeles, USA) and Edouard Montassut (Paris, France)
KAYOKOYUKI (host) – The Green Gallery (Milwaukee, USA) and Galeria Agustina Ferreyra (Mexico City, Mexico)
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