Last week, I went to a newly opened Ultra Super New x Subject Matter popup art gallery & concept store in Harajuku that showed its very first exhibition called “Four legs good, two legs bad” featuring animals by artists from all over the world. I really loved that the concept was presented not only in the art pieces but also in the spacious airy layout, natural light and even sound. The sounds of wild animals were playing in the background which immediately sharpened my sensibility and put me in the right mood to perceive the displayed art.
I have to mention that although I am a big art lover and often go to museums, I almost never visit private galleries that sell art. The atmosphere in such places is so intense. I always feel intimidated and pressured to buy something. I was surprised at how different this gallery was. Not only the atmosphere was casual and the staff was super friendly but not overly attentive (there was no hovering over the shoulder), the prices were surprisingly affordable too. They were even lower than at an average Tokyo museum gift shop.. I couldn’t really believe my eyes. I spoke with Liezel Strauss – the curator of the exhibition and the founder of Subject Matter & My Japan and she confirmed that “un-approachability”of an art gallery is something they want to change. They want art to be affordable and present in every Japanese house. Right now, it is often nothing more than an afterthought. People may spend a couple of thousand dollars on a sofa but they tend to finish the room design with mass-produced IKEA posters. I have experience with the opposite extremity as well. Some people look for deep meaning in art which prevents them from buying it altogether. My husband won’t let me buy anything for our living room for this exact reason. He wants a painting or a photograph to have some special meaning and until we find it, our walls should remain bare. I was lucky enough to find a painting of a small bookstore in Buenos Aires that was located right in front of a cafe where we had breakfast every morning during our honeymoon trip so now it is decorating our hallway but how often do you really come by such pieces? Art is fun and it should reflect not only our experience but also our mood. We can also change it with seasons, occasions and perhaps even colors of the linens in our bedrooms. Why not?
The staple of the exhibition was a collection of Zoo portraits by renown Spanish photographer Yago Partal. Artist’s favorite piece and mine as well is a bear in a knit sweater.
Each animal to me seemed to wear an outfit that was amazingly matched to their personality and background. The limited edition pieces were mounted on permallure (the print goes in between aluminum plate and UV-cut acrylic glass) which is an amazing technology that lights them up from within.
The pieces on frame mounting were also stunning and really affordable. The prints were available without mounting as well at a price you cannot find anywhere else. You can actually check the prices and buy the pieces online.
I was thoroughly impressed with each piece of the exhibition but the most amazing to me was the ostrich chandelier by Haldane Martin – an artist from South Africa. It was meticulously made and the way it swayed with the lightest breath of air was mesmerizing.
Another favorite was “Ant invasion” – the collection of tableware by Nicki Ellis , also from South Africa. I bought myself some ants on a sugar bowl and a big wooden plate for fruits. Can’t wait for them to be delivered.
Kenau Botha is an African sculptor who has an amazing eye for color and composition. After becoming a mother, she switched toxic metals to wooden blocks, creating amazing one of a kind pieces.
Heather Moore from Cape Town was represented with these super cute herds cushions. Her brand Skinny Laminx has a store on Etsy where you can find other interior items with her bold modern-retro prints.
There were also whimsical skull plates and monkey cushions by British designer Sarah Lidwell-Durnin from her collection “Natural History”. I have seen these couture plates before at one of Daikanyama select shops. I also often see goat skulls being represented by British designers. Take All Saints Spitalfields for example.
I really loved the lively and vibrant handmade embroidered pouches by Swedish designer Sophia Edstrand from her line Sophia 203. The designer believes that “handmade products represent the ultimate luxury” and I couldn’t agree more. They were a bit pricey but the curator said that because the product is being sold at many Japanese select shops, they had to match the prices.
Most curious were the space bunnies by the African artist Tanya Laing. Their faces were reflecting those of the viewers which is a cool concept. I have also seen these bunnies around Tokyo which tells me they sell well.
Liezel herself is from South Africa. I told her that I used to tell Japanese people I meet for the first time but have no intentions of meeting again that I was from South Africa. Whenever someone hears that I am from Russia here in Tokyo, they tend to immediately put a certain label on me. I didn’t really care for that so when I thought of a place that noone really knows anything about, I came up with Johannesburg in South Africa and it had worked brilliantly until I met someone at a social event who had a business in Johannesburg. It was really embarrassing to say the least..^-^
The exhibition is going to last for only two more weeks till October 26. If you have some free time, drop by to look around, take pictures and just enjoy the atmosphere. ^-^ http://ultrasupernew.com/gallery/
The upcoming exhibition called ‘Strangeland’ opens on the 31st of October. It is going to be darker and will feature amazing photographs and jewelry by Australian artists. Can’t wait!!