Art is all around in BnA Hotel Ikebukuro. Photo/BnA Hotel Ikebukuro.
By Miki Yabuki
Passenger ships and hotels are increasingly setting aside gallery space for emerging artists
Art exhibitions are taking over an increasing number of unconventional places in Japan, adding to the entertaining factor for viewers.
Ships and bank buildings and hotel lobbies and guestrooms are now exhibiting art.
The move is intended to provide young artists with more venues and attract more people to the places themselves. Casual visitors to the facilities are usually pleasantly surprised and amused to come across artwork.
The Kurashiki Royal Art Hotel in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, has been displaying art since June in its lobby, corridors and breakfast hall.
Aspiring graduates of Kurashiki University of Science and the Arts are responsible for what’s on view in displays that change every six months.
The interior actually looks like a gallery, and a lot of visitors to the hotel arrive at the recommendation of staff at nearby art museums. Rather than just the usual guests checking in, the hotel greets a lot of art aficionados popping by to see the displays.
“We wanted to make Kurashiki more appealing, since it’s being promoted as an art city,” says Tomohiro Wada, one of the hotel staff members in charge of the exhibitions
Art is displayed in the two guestrooms at the BnA Hotel Koenji, which opened in March in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward. Local artists not only hang their work on the walls – they’ve actually painted the walls.
The added attraction has boosted bookings among foreign tourists. Guests pay between 15,000 and 20,000 yen (Bt5,000 and Bt7,000) per night and the profit is shared with the artists.
Meanwhile the Nippon Maru, a large passenger cruise ship operated by Tokyo-based Mitsui OSK Passenger Line, has a section called the Nippon Maru Gallery that exhibits works by emerging artists.
The gallery occupies aisle space on an upper deck and shows 10 to 20 works by a single artist at any given time, changing the display every three or four months.
A Mitsui OSK spokesperson says the reaction from the passengers has been good. One of them evidently declared, “I never imagined that I’d be able to enjoy art at sea!”
Business operators along Maebashi Chuo Dori Shotengai Street in Maebashi made a similar effort by turning a vacant store into Gallery Artsoup last year. “Art has the power to energise a town,” says Tomohiro Nakabayashi of the gallery.
Artists from all over the country seeking places to exhibit gather on the shopping street. The gallery thus not only helps foster artists, it brings more business to the neighbourhood restaurants and bars.
The reasons behind the trend in unusual art spaces seem to include a rise in the number of skilled young Japanese artists, many of whom earn praise overseas, as well as increased public interest in their work.
“Supporting artists can help improve a company’s reputation because it contributes to society,” says Kyoko Ikawa, a consultant on omotenashi – traditional Japanese hospitality – at the Tourism Culture Labo. “It can also be instrumental in drawing visitors from all over the nation.
“These efforts are also motivated by the fact that events featuring the works of local artists have been successful in many parts of the nation.”