For sure, you can spot graffiti all over the Shibuya streets – some people may see the tags as nothing but scribbles on the wall, others truly value them as street art. The latter have found a haven in a recently opened gallery in Shibuya’s Center Gai. GALLERY SCENE aims to promote young and upcoming street artists. The gallery space is pretty close to Shibuya Station, and is an initiative by non-profit organisation KOMPOSITION. PingMag talked to its director, Motokazu Terai, about his new project.
Written by Chiemi
Translated by Natsumi Yamane
The logo of GALLERY SCENE by KOMPOSITION. It just opened this June.
Motokazu Terai, first, what is KOMPOSITION about?
There are many ways to express in all sorts of media out there, and some of them are more recognised than others. KOMPOSITION as an organisation wants to support lesser established media with artistic value. We are not limited to street art and our mission is to back anything we regard as good regardless of public opinion.
That’s so punk, isn’t it? (laughs)
Yes. (laughs) But that’s the hotbed for finding something truly interesting.
In the past, KOMPOSITION also did a project called Legal Wall, as kind of predecessor to GALLERY SCENE, where you cleaned some walls and legally provided this space to street artists…
Basically, that was a project to turn the whole town of Shibuya into a gallery. For us, every single wall here is a potential canvas. But in order to realise that, we have to be the ones to restore it first and it wouldn’t get anywhere if we don’t make any contributions to the local community. That’s why we started off with the act of cleaning.
I suppose you’d have to achieve credibility first in order to use public spaces.
That’s certainly true. I think our statement to society and our contribution to the community are two sides of the same coin.
Then what made you open the gallery?
The gallery is an experimental thing. At the moment, an artist’s rise and fall is based on the system of an exclusive “art circle.” That is why we have always been wanting to create a space where anything goes. We managed to realise that up to a certain extent with our “Legal Wall” project. At the same time we felt that the writers needed a space to exhibit and sell their works indoors as artists.
GALLERY SCENE, located in Shibuya’s Center Gai (‘gai’ meaning ‘street’). This wall was painted as part of the “Legal Wall” project in 2006.
Incidentally, the gallery is on the upper floor of this building in Center Gai (street) near Shibuya Station, but its whole outer surface serves as billboard. I heard that it was a Japanese artists who did the outer walls. I know you won’t tell me his name out of legal reasons as he is spraying on other locations too… What made you choose him?
As for the outer walls, we thought a first glance at it and the feeling you get from it would be quite important. So, we went for an artist with one quite direct way of expressing himself. Regarding the actual work, we just asked him to do as he liked and we didn’t even see the initial sketch! We certainly liked it when we first saw his finished work.
What makes this gallery so special must be its location – the town of Shibuya is closely related to street art but when it comes to the crowded Center Gai area, with all its fast food joints and karaoke places, it couldn’t be further away from art. For me, a gallery in such a place seemed intriguing and unique in itself.
There are all kinds of people in Center Gai – to put it simply, it’s chaos. And yet, I don’t think there has ever been a space like this before. It wasn’t like we had our minds set on Center Gai from the beginning, but it was important to have the space right in Shibuya. Now, we are really lucky to have our base in the Center Gai area of Utagaya!
From the “URBAN ART” exhibition currently at GALLERY SCENE: “war by numbers” by OBEY.
More from the “URBAN ART” exhibition: BAST’s work titled “Paris Hilton.”
Apart from its location, what makes this gallery special?
The greatest difference is that it’s a feature gallery. Of course, we have to think about earnings, but we have no intention of selling works by putting the profit first: We will prioritise supporting the artists in a way we think is best.
Another point is that everything, including the interiors, is handmade. There used to be a gallery space in a vacant store in Nakameguro where artists could change the outside and the interiors freely to make either an exhibition space, shop, atelier or a gathering space out of it. I think this gallery comes fairly close to that.
A work by Japanese artist NOVOL, who was inspired by a powerful Jazz performance and the performer’s face.
A work by L.E.T (Les Enfants Terribles) based in Germany.
Where do you find your artists – literally on the streets?
That would be the best, but that’s not all. We discovered some when we did the “Legal Wall.” Others such as OBEY are coming from abroad.
Any future plans for your gallery?
At the moment, we are exploring how far exhibiting talented street artists can help them get more recognition. And also, we’d like to see more Japanese people keep artworks on their walls at home. So we want to be a positive influence for both artists and young people that aren’t into art so much yet. That’s what we are providing this environment for.
Inside the GALLERY SCENE
Another view inside
Motokazu Terai, thank you for your time today. We look forward to seeing GALLERY SCENE further enrich the Shibuya art scene!