2020 10/3(Sat) - 11/3(Tue)

Gallery closed Sun/Mon, Open 11:00am ~ 6:00pm



“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare


Yufuku Gallery was founded by my father Mitsumasa “Tom” Aoyama in 1993 upon the unglamorous backstreets of the Minami-Aoyama district, tucked away from view in an obscure and slightly unattractive Postmodern building completed right as the Japanese bubble burst into a kaleidoscope of tears and shattered dreams.


My father was the first tenant of this new office, coined Annecy Aoyama in lieu of the building owner’s affection for the idyllic alpine town in France, and little did my father, nor the owner of the building, ever fathom that the gallery he had founded there together with his second wife, to not only pass the time but to sell porcelain pots from the kilns of Kyushu, would not only last 27 years in the same location it had started in, but would be owned by his son from his first marriage (that would be me), and that this tiny gallery would grow into a dynamic business exhibiting in global art fairs from Maastricht to Miami, placing works in over 50 museums the world over.


Life moves in strange ways, indeed.


Little did I expect to work with my father. I barely knew the man, as my parents separated when I was 9, and I did not see him again until I was 18. My mother had raised my sister and I on her own, and we moved from Tokyo to New York, to Chicago and then back to Tokyo in a span of 7 years.


But after leaving Oxford in 2003, I suddenly found myself immersed in a world I did not know before. There was a deeply Eastern beauty still underappreciated in the West, and I took upon it as one of my missions to work as a cultural ambassador, to promote and support artists that were unique, who created works that could not be made 100 years ago, nor 100 years from now, which would stand the tests of time, that would inspire generations into the future, yet could be embraced from persons from all creeds and cultures, in any day and age of humanity.


It was not Japonisme that I wished to promote, but an aesthetic that was inherently Japanese in concept and in creation, and was something essentially different from the contemporary art that was prevalent at that point in time. Our artists pointed to a Return to Innocence, to a story of art that was not dictated by the preconceptions of the West, of a time when art was made with beauty and an underlying technical elegance lacking in the mass-produced fabrications often found within contemporary art.


It is because of these artists that I am here doing what I am doing today, and I am forever with passion, adoration and pride in being able to do what I do for you.


I quit my job and founded my own art dealership, Toku (Eastern Skies), in the Spring of 2007 in a tiny one room apartment with my wife Namiko, whom I married that same Summer. I only had a glimpse of what I wanted to do, but without an artist or a client to my name. Yet slowly and surely the pieces melded together, and we grew and grew until my father and I ultimately combined our businesses together in 2011, with me helming the eccentric mantle that was Yufuku.


The name Yufuku is comprised of two characters – Yu, more commonly read as Tori, is the word for the Chinese zodiac symbol of the Rooster, and Fuku meaning luck. As Yufuku was born in 1993, the Year of the Rooster, my father’s second wife’s fortune teller dreamt up this name, claiming that the name was an auspicious one. The “Lucky Rooster” stuck around.


Yet as you well know, the Yufuku of 2020 is no longer the Yufuku of 1993.


The artists and its aesthetics have changed greatly. We are no longer a domestic gallery but an international one. We’ve outgrown our place of birth, and must now move to a larger home, thereby leaving behind the postmodern temple of Minami-Aoyama for that of a modest tower at the famed intersection of Nishi-Azabu. And not only are we moving, but we will be shedding our name as well.


The Yufuku Gallery of tomorrow will be renamed A Lighthouse called Kanata.


Kanata means “Beyond” or “Far Away” in Japanese, a romantic ideal imbued by the two characters that comprise it, literally meaning “Towards” and “You.”  Towards you, I wish to be, but you are far away. This is a quintessentially Japanese ideal, filled with ambiguity and nuance.


Like much in our language, it gives the impression that you, of all persons, is far from me, and yet, we long and yearn to be together. It is adoration, adulation, respect and reverence yet from a distance, voyeuristic, metaphysical and indivisible.


Yet essentially, the way it rolls off one’s tongue is simply beautiful.


Kanata.  KA.  NA.  TA.


Coincidentally, the word is also comprised of the initials of my family: my daughter Kii, my wife Namiko, and my son Towa.  But, of course, this is merely coincidence.


And why a lighthouse?  The lighthouse is a symbol of many integral ideals we hold dear.


Firstly, there is a saying in Japanese called “Ichigu wo Terasu”, or to “Illuminate a Corner”, words spoken by Saicho, the founder of the Tendai school of Japanese Buddhism. There are many talented artists in Japan today who are unknown, forgotten. We will shine a light on these artists, regardless of accolades, name recognition, age, sex, or credentials, and only look at the beauty they create. The overwhelming majority of our artists today have been found in this manner, and we will continue to do so. The lighthouse serves to illuminate dark and forgotten corners where artists lie waiting to be discovered.


Secondly, there is another old saying in Japanese that reads “Todai Moto Kurashi”, or “It is dark underneath the lighthouse”. The closer you are to something, one cannot see what’s standing right before your very eyes. Most Japanese are oblivious to the wonders of their own culture and aesthetics. Yet those who are far away can see the light. The West, in fact, have long supported Japanese aesthetics, and were often the first to pick up on the beauty of things that the Japanese could not see.  Ukiyoe, Jakuchu, the Gutai School and the Mono-ha, Kurosawa, Sugimoto, Kusama, Ono… the list goes on and on, all Japanese art and artists that had been forgotten in Japan, but were greatly appreciated in the West.  By highlighting Japanese aesthetics outside of Japan, we hope for greater recognition of today’s artists by those who are willing to support them, and in turn, we hope to reintroduce and influence Japanese eyes for future generations with the beauty that is lying right in front of us.


And lastly, these are challenging times, the future uncertain. The night is dark and full of shadows. This is exactly why our artists need this gallery more than ever. And we will continue to shine a light at the dark and cold waters of the vast ocean we call life, hoping to steer these ships to safety, to the future, and to the beyond. My gallery will serve, and will continue to serve, as a beacon of hope for today’s artists and the artists of tomorrow.


And I will be unable to shine this light without the support of you, our dear friends and clients, who have supported our mission with grace and generosity. This new gallery is not only for our artists. It is for you.


And lastly, it is for us, my team, my comrades, the people who make us “us”. You are doing incredible things, and this new home is for you to dream anew.


At a Lighthouse called Kanata, a new dawn rises.

The light nears.


Wahei Aoyama


A Lighthouse called Kanata


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