The year 2019 marks the centennial of the Shiseido Gallery. Shinzo Fukuhara, first president of Shiseido and founder of the Shiseido Gallery, is well known for laying the groundwork for the design and manufacture of Shiseido cosmetics and playing an important role as a pioneering photographic artist in modern Japan. Looking back on and closely examining his activities many years later now, it can be said that he was an extremely contemporary artist who engaged in social creation proactively by going beyond his sphere of activity as a corporate manager of Shiseido and a photographer.
What kind of creative brilliance will Fukuhara’s aesthetics unleash in today’s society as it is scrutinized after a century has passed since the Shiseido Gallery was established? The Shiseido Gallery will organize two special exhibitions to commemorate its centenary, entitled “Going beyond and participating in beauty: Shinzo Fukuhara’s aesthetics” Shinzo Fukuhara / ASSEMBLE, THE EUGENE Studio, from Friday, October 19, 2018 to Sunday, March 17, 2019.
(Part 1: Friday, October 19, 2018 through Wednesday, December 26, 2018;
Part 2: Wednesday, January 16, 2019 through Sunday, March 17, 2019)
“Going beyond and participating in beauty” were the exact words of Fukuhara; this represented his resolve to create beauty by going beyond a certain sphere. What he meant might be to transcend the boundaries of artistic genres, such as those between paintings and photographs or photographs and haiku, or those between artifacts and industrial products, or to transcend stereotypes and established views. Fukuhara’s attitude toward creating beauty by going beyond these boundaries meant going back and forth between the boundaries separating art and economy and connecting a wide variety of creative activities in society one by one, thereby making society a more beautiful and better one. These could offer a real picture of Fukuhara, which has remained unknown to this day.
In order to promote these activities, Fukuhara valued the roles of open spaces, such as the Shiseido Gallery and the Shiseido Parlour in Ginza, where people meet and hold dialogues freely, share new values, and influence one another. His network of artistic activities centering on photography was linked to these places, which in turn discovered a wide array of new values present in society and sent them back to society. He also introduced them to Shiseido and disseminated such information across the nation through Shiseido’s own “Shiseido Monthly Newsletter” (the predecessor of “Hanatsubaki”). His socially creative activities, which could be referred to as a circulation of values, had been underpinned by his unique aesthetics.
In this project, ASSEMBLE and THE EUGENE Studio, which have handed down Fukuhara’s intrinsic values to the modern world and presented how socially creative activities and new forms of art should be in a different way, have been invited to collaborate in the exhibition transcending 100 years, where they and Fukuhara attempt to work together creatively and dynamically. Although ASSEMBLE and THE EUGENE Studio have different activity bases and employ different approaches, both have easily transcended the conventional creation sphere, clarified how today’s collective and collaborative creation should be through dialogues or mutual challenges or support, extended received ideas, and linked art to society or economy, thereby presenting a completely new style of creativity.
Through this project, a space or platform is created which allows us to witness fractions of Fukuhara’s creative thoughts of “Going beyond and participating in beauty” up close, and encourages us to have encounters or dialogues today. In Part 1 of the exhibition, THE EUGENE Studio is in charge of the planning whereas ASSEMBLE is tasked with building the space as a whole.
ASSEMBLE is a British group of architects that won the 2015 Turner Prize, a prestigious contemporary art award in the U.K. (In Part 2 of the exhibition due to open in early 2019, a workshop of their Granby Four Streets in Liverpool, their winning project, will take place in Tokyo’s Ginza district in an attempt to create beauty that goes beyond where you are.)
Meanwhile, THE EUGENE Studio is a Japanese studio for artists and has been drawing immense attention both at home and abroad in recent years. One of their leading works, “White Painting,” sought to update art history on a greater scale with people’s collaborative awareness of today’s global environment in mind. (THE EUGENE Studio held a private exhibition entitled “1/2 Century Later” at the Shiseido Gallery in November 2017.)
The three parties—Shinzo Fukuhara, ASSEMBLE, and THE EUGENE Studio—have one thing in common: all of them take part in creation by going beyond conventional spheres along with their respective aesthetics, thereby working on social creation that circulates value and produces synergies. To commemorate the centenary of the Shiseido Gallery, this exhibition, which could be restated as a tripartite project for an archive exhibition, will be an unparalleled and challenging one that transcends time and space by the three parties. We believe that this exhibition is exactly where we can share creative activities today that Fukuhara had put into practice and willed a century ago.
To examine his aesthetics closely for this project, we applied artificial intelligence (AI)- and automatic language processing-based morphological analysis to more than 200 texts including 1.45 million letters in which Fukuhara mentioned art or beauty that he had left behind, and made our own interpretations of his philosophy that served as the guideline for his activities. This new and unique approach-based curation is another noteworthy feature of this exhibition. We would be pleased if a unique perspective or attempt presented in this project would provide you with a valuable opportunity to identify a new form of beauty and the potential of its creation in our society.