A fragile as well as slightly disturbing tunnel entirely structured out of ordinary hangers: "Hanger Tunnel" by Mikangumi, exhibited at BankART Studio NYK in Yokohama.

BankART: Creating Art Spaces in Yokohama

Urban redevelopment through art and culture has been highly profiled in Europe recently, and now, Nantes in France, C2090-612 Essen in Germany and Gateshead in England can call themselves “creative cities.” In Japan, we certainly have similar concepts too! Take a look at the “Creative City Yokohama,” for example: Just about one hour from the capital, the BankART project is housed in, as its name indicates, a renovated former bank. We showed you already some of the pretty amazing rail track art exhibited there. So for today, PingMag talks to Mr. Hosobuchi of BankART to lay out what they do to promote the arts. C2090-558

Written by Ayana
Translated by Natsumi Yamane

BankART itself was founded in 2004 as a pilot program to promote the arts by reusing two historical buildings, namely the former Fuji Bank and the former Dai-ichi Bank. The project focuses its activities on two major themes: One is to be the instrument of the cultural programs, the C2090-614 other is to revitalise the city through said use of old buildings.

To start, we’ll introduce you to the areas of the BankART program. The spaces, BankART School and events:

The Five Art Spaces

1. BankART 1929, Yokohama C2090-559

This is the main building of the BankART, and, as already mentioned, the project name originates from this stone building of the former Dai-ichi Bank built in 1929 for the promotion of art. The building features a reception, a shop and a spacious hall on its first floor and another shop and the BankART office on its second floor.

The former Dai-ichi Bank building renovated into the “BankART 1929” cultural facility.

The shop on the first floor with a wide selection of art books.
Quite spacious for Japanese atmosphere: A seven metre high ceiling is truly intriguing. The hall is now mostly used for parties or conferences and such.

2. BankART Studio NYK

After the former Fuji Bank building was turned into the graduate school for Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 2005, the “BankART Studio NYK” was opened in an old dock warehouse along Kaigan Dori as a substitute facility. There is a BankART Pub and Café located here; a hall and 9 studios of varying sizes for hire by artists. However, currently the building is undergoing a refurbishment in preparation for the Yokohama Triennial scheduled in 2008.

Nice atmo! The BankART Studio NYK building used to be an old dock warehouse.

The friendly pub offers a space for a chat among artists. For your interest: It serves an original Yokohama beer called “peruri” at ¥500.

Artists in one of the studios. These are available for hire on a bimonthly basis.

Artist at work – according to Mr. Hosobuchi, it is not unusual to see artists collaborate in the studio after they hit it off in the NYK pub…

3. BankART Sakura-so

Sakura-so is the centre of crime prevention, art and town planning in the Kogane-cho. It was first established in a vacant shop space to promote arts and culture. After a mass crackdown on the area’s former red-light district, Sakura-so was supposed to rejuvenate this then deserted town centre. The first floor is an open space for various meetings including town planning, and the second floor functions as accommodations for artists being featured at the BankART NYK studios.

BankART Sakura-so in a former shop.

Having breakfast at BankART Sakura-so.

4. BankART Tsumari

BankART Tsumari: renovating empty houses.

BankART Tsumari was created in collaboration with local artists. It is part of the “Empty House Project” of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial. The project renovated empty houses to convert them into art spaces and workshops during the Triennial.

5. BankART Strong Room

The BankART Strong Room brick facility.

Covered with coins all over! The “Shigosen” exhibition by Mikangumi just ended this December.

The 4th and 5th floor of the City Council Building just across the road from BankART 1929 used to be empty. Today, eleven artists and architects reside here. Also, an old strong room in one corner has been turned into BankART 1929’s satellite gallery for small exhibitions.

From Children to Adults: BankART School

The BankART School was founded in April 2004 as a part of the BankART program to provide a modern-day Temple School. Its two-month curriculum covers art in general, including: fine art, drama, photography, architecture, music and dance. Workshops are held for two hours per week and taught by pros from these fields. So far, the school has hosted more than 103 types of different workshops for around 1,400 students.

One of the inspiring workshops at the BankART school.

Workshops for kids are also available!
The school’s application information for the second semester of 2007; the courses at BankART school usually consist of eight weekly classes of two hours. Have a look at the workshop for the fifth term; it includes “enjoying dance with the body” and “what the curators feel today!”

Exhibitions and Weddings: BankART Events

Regarding events, either BankART organises their own venues or rents the space to interested people, as long as it is related to arts and culture (there has even been a wedding for two artists in the past.) According to Mr. Hosobuchi, BankART venues are mainly to promote Yokohama City’s existing collection to as many people as possible by utilising the city’s assets and NYK’s spaces. For the latter type of events, BankART sometimes participates as joint organiser or a co-operator depending on the venue.
Let’s have a look at some of the past events at BankART:

“Food and Contemporary Art”

The “Food and Contemporary Art” exhibitions have been organised annually since 2005, exploring the wide-ranging nature of food cultures from an art perspective. During the exhibition, there will also be workshops and events by artists and gastronomers.

A gauze column with food art: view inside the “Food and Contemporary Art Exhibition Part 1” in 2005.

Performing in the halls: the “Café Live Series” is held several times a month.

“Café Live Series”

This is a series of performing arts events that have been hosted frequently since BankART opened. Basically, it is about doing live performances by making good use of the BankART facilities’ atmosphere. Beginning this year the live performers are being selected by competition.

”Find the Modern Boys and Modern Girls!”

This was a citizen participatory program where townspeople created a network in the process of finding Modern Boys and Modern Girls of the pre-World-War-II era. It’s more commonly know abbreviation is Mobo and Moga in reference to young men and women who adopted Western style clothes and behaviours between the 1920s and WWII in the five Japanese ports open to international trade (Hakodate, Niigata, Yokohama, Kobe and Nagasaki.) Mr. Hosobuchi has told us that “this project would have never taken off without so many participants, various volunteers and others that were looking for old photos…”

The poster for “Find the Modern Boys and Modern Girls!”

As you can see, BankART is doing quite a lot to make Yokohama a “creative city!”. Mr. Hosobuchi comments on its mission:

I often feel that the creators are trying to see things that are usually hidden from our eyes and express the essence of it rather than seeing things in just an ordinary way. By seeing, listening to and getting in touch with the creators’ works and activities we get fresh perspectives. Arts and culture sometimes encourages us to ‘do more’ – and that is what I would like to deliver to the people of this city.

Yes, the power of art! We are looking forward to the continuing activities of BankART. Mr. Hosobuchi and everyone involved, thank you very much!


Next month, the theme of “Food and Contemporary Art Part 4” will be “Dinning Building 1929.” The first floor of BankART 1929 will be transformed into a restaurant, the second floor into a coffee shop and the basement into a bar to fill the entire space with food and art. Also, artists and restaurants around BankART collaborate once again in the second part of the “Yokohama Geijutsu Norengai” project from 2006.

Oh, we know this reference well… Poster for “Food and Contemporary Art Part 4.”

“Dinning Building 1929 – Food and Contemporary Art Part 4” Exhibition:
Venue: BankART, BankART Studio NYK and some selected shops in the area.
Date: January 11th to 29th, 2008.
Open: Daily from 11:30am to 7pm.
Participating artists include Taro Izumi, Shinji Yokoteyama, Shigeaki Iwai, Koki Tanaka, Takahito Kimura and more.

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    Bankart rocks!

    What I love about the scene in Yokohama is that its small enough and affordable enough that it is accessible to artists and thus much more conducive to an actual scene evolving. The scene in Tokyo by comparison is too spread out, and space too expensive that it really stifles a lot of opportunities for a such community to develop.

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