Disrupting the Norms of the Japanese Art Scene through ArtXAuction

Left to right: Yuu Watari, Riko Shuri Monma and Yuki Hariguchi. Photo: Stefan Dotter

Meet Yuki Hariguchi, Riko Shuri Monma, Yuu Watari and Ryusei Iriki, who are rethinking how art is accessed and appreciated today

Game changers are essential to every industry, with the art world being no exception. Yuki Hariguchi, a prosperous tech innovator, entrepreneur and vivid collector, has teamed up with Riko Shuri Monma, a former chemical engineer turned independent artist, to introduce ArtXAuction to the Japanese art scene. Their team is further enriched by Yuu Watari, whose upbringing in a family deeply rooted in contemporary art and Japanese tradition provides a unique perspective. Additionally, Ryusei Iriki, a former gallery director, independent curator and editor, contributes valuable expertise to the team. This platform, leveraging technology and a multidisciplinary approach, represents a notable shift in how art is accessed and appreciated today in Japan.

The inaugural auction, ‘The Perennial Curation’ will take place both at the prestigious former residence of Count Ogasawara in Tokyo and online. It aims to enhance transparency, offering a carefully curated selection of rare pieces to both novice and seasoned collectors. The curation ranges from ancient Roman artefacts to artworks by avant-garde modern artists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Henri Matisse.

We sat down with the team from ArtXAuction to gain insights into their innovative approach to the Japanese art world.

Ogasawara Hakushakutei will host the auction

AR Will your diverse backgrounds offer you a fresher perspective on current practices in the art world? If so, how?

Yuki Hariguchi My tech background offers a fresh outlook to the art world, traditionally viewed as opposite to tech. While tech focuses on tangible solutions, art addresses deeper human needs. This contrast sparks innovation. Integrating tech into the intangible art realm allows for novel art experiences. Inspired by tech’s democratizing role, I seek to break art’s exclusivity. By leveraging tech tools, I aim to make art more accessible and inclusive, challenging norms in the art world.”

Riko Shuri Monma Initially disparate, chemical engineering and the arts share a foundational approach. Both involve keen observation and interpretation, albeit through distinct lenses. At their essence, they seek to understand our world and challenge societal norms. ArtXAuction aims to integrate interdisciplinary perspectives, collaborating with partners from diverse industries. This showcases that despite differing methodologies, our shared objective remains: to make sense of the world and provoke reflection on societal norms.

Yuu Watari With roots in both the disruptive energy of contemporary art and the timeless beauty of classical culture from my family background, I felt compelled to bridge the gap between these seemingly disparate worlds. This revelation inspired me to seek ways to connect these realms and create new value. We curate exhibitions that highlight the intrinsic value of artworks, spanning from ancient to contemporary pieces. Beyond mere auctioning, we offer educational programs aimed at fostering a deeper understanding of art and its cultural context. Ultimately, our goal is to enhance art literacy and contribute to society through the transformative power of art.

Thomas Heatherley, A Dream of Fairies, c.1860

AR What inspired you to create ArtXAuction? How do you see ArtXAuction disrupting traditional norms in today’s Japanese art scene?

RSM The inspiration behind ArtXAuction was born from a desire to create a more inclusive and enlightening art collecting experience. Traditional auction houses often segment their collections by specific epochs—contemporary, modern, ancient, and so forth. We saw an opportunity to innovate within this framework by curating art across all civilizations and epochs. Our goal is to underscore the universal themes that humanity has revisited throughout history, showcasing the timeless and borderless nature of artistic expression.

YW In doing so, ArtXAuction aims to be more than just an auction house; our aspiration is to create an educational bridge between the art and its potential collectors. We are committed to offering this depth of understanding alongside the market opportunities typically associated with auction houses. This dual approach allows us to highlight the rich narratives behind each piece, providing our clients with a fuller appreciation of the art’s significance beyond its aesthetic appeal. By integrating the educational aspects with the commercial opportunities, ArtXAuction is positioned to enrich Japan’s art landscape, making it more accessible, understandable, and engaging for a wide range of audiences.

Lucian Freud, An Illustrated Letter from the Artist to Caroline Blackwood, 1952

AR What do you hope to convey through the title ‘The Perennial Curation’?

RSM As phrased by our curator, Ryusei Iriki, ‘Perennial’ echoes the everlasting and continuous essence of art, parallel to the continuous bloom of its flowers throughout the year. Our inaugural auction celebrates the diverse and enduring legacy of artistic expression spanning epochs and civilizations, reflecting on the universal themes that connect us together.

AR What criteria do you use when selecting artworks for inclusion in your auctions? What are your favourite pieces personally (respectively)?

YW In selecting artworks for the auction, we prioritize timeless themes that resonate throughout human history. Our focus is on revealing the enduring exploration of humanity across diverse mediums and styles. By bridging artificial divisions in art, we aim to showcase the universal essence of human expression.

RSM Our selection process emphasizes the narrative coherence of each piece and the dialogue they spark collectively. This cohesion underscores art’s universal theme of humanity, fostering meaningful conversations among viewers.

AR What are some of your favourite pieces?

Ryusei Iriki Lucian Freud’s An Illustrated Letter from the Artist to Caroline Blackwood (1952), which stands out for its intimate portrayal of the artist’s thoughts and feelings, offering a glimpse into Freud’s personal life, all while resonating with timeless themes of love, loss and the complexity of human relationships.

RSM Thomas Heatherley’s A Dream of Fairies (c.1860) embodies enchanting beauty intertwined with a profound societal message, advocating for women’s rights to education. Inspired by his suffragette wife, Heatherley, an artist of the 19th century, portrays a spectrum of female beauty. The Roman glass, with its captivating silvering effect, captivates me as a former chemist. Despite debates surrounding its artistic merit, it epitomizes the intricate interplay of time, human craftsmanship, and nature, emanating a timeless allure.

YW David Hockney’s My Mother is Sleeping and Jean Honoré Fragonard’s A Statue in a Garden portray everyday scenes, evoking feelings of love, leisure, and joy. Despite changing times, these emotions remain universal, reflecting the enduring beauty found in life. Through rich narratives and societal contexts, these artworks exemplify art’s timeless exploration of humanity. Their ability to resonate across generations speaks to the enduring relevance of their themes.

David Hockney, My Mother is Sleeping, 1982

AR Can you share some insights into the technological innovations driving ArtXAuction?

YH Our global engineering team enables real-time updates and improvements to our platform, ensuring agility in development to meet evolving user needs. This sets us apart in a traditionally slow-changing field. With expertise in both technology and art, we’re well-positioned to enhance the art industry’s potential, making it more accessible and enriching. Future plans include a dedicated app for streamlined user interaction and AI integration for personalized collecting experiences. These advancements reflect our commitment to revitalizing the art auction sector, fostering dynamism, accessibility, and engagement for our audience.

Left to right: Yuu Watari, Riko Shuri Monma and Yuki Hariguchi. Photo: Stefan Dotter

AR What new collecting experiences do you hope to bring to your clients?

RSM A key aspect of our innovative approach is the choice of venue for our inaugural auction. Hosting this event at the former residence of Count Ogasawara allows us to blend the realms of art and architecture, showcasing how both disciplines reflect and shape human experience. This venue, steeped in history and architectural beauty, not only serves to underscore the artworks’ significance and beauty but also provides a relatable context – in contrast to sterile white cube – that invites our guests to envision these pieces in their own spaces.

YW Ultimately, ArtXAuction aspires to build a diverse and knowledgeable community of art collectors. By demystifying art and providing enriching educational content, we open doors for individuals to experience the profound joy and personal growth that comes from interacting with art.

Jean Honoré Fragonard, A Statue in a Garden, (date unknown)

AR How do you encourage novice collectors to make their first bid?

YH At ArtXAuction, we’re dedicated to making the art auction experience welcoming for novice collectors. Our online platform features an easy-to-use interface, making it straightforward for newcomers to navigate the auction process. This ease of access is key in encouraging first-time bids. We also cater to a wide range of budgets. This inclusivity allows individuals from various financial backgrounds to find art that they can afford, broadening the appeal of art collection. These strategies are designed to lower barriers for new art enthusiasts, making their first steps into art collection as accessible and enjoyable as possible.

AR Can you share any memorable experiences or anecdotes from your journey with ArtXAuction so far?

RSM A standout aspect of my journey with ArtXAuction is our tightly-knit team, comprising diverse experts from engineering, design, and art fields. We’ve cultivated vital partnerships, notably with Global Coralition, an NPO focused on marine ecosystem revitalization. Committed to giving back, we pledge 3 percent of proceeds to their cause. Our vision transcends challenging norms; we strive to cultivate a culture in Japan where art’s cultural and societal significance is as valued as its market potential. Through our efforts, we aim to nurture a more informed and engaged collecting culture, fostering a deeper appreciation for art.

Ogasawara Hakushakutei will host the auction

The Perennial Curation —— Curation Beyond Eras

Auction Date: March 16th, 2024
Press Preview: March 14th, 2024

Public Preview: March 15th, 2024

Bidding: Online, Pre-bidding, Phone Bidding and On-site Bidding
Venue: Ogasawara Hakushakutei 10-10, Kawadacho, Shinjuku, Tokyo 1520064

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