Sukiyastyle Setting for an Art Gallery

Located in the central part of Japan, Tajimi City in Gifu Prefecture is well known for its Mino pottery. In this city, Masanobu Ando. an artist from a family of pottery wholesalers, has created a dramatic gallery called Galerie Momogusa, which is housed in an equally dramatic Sukiya-style building. Built in 1896. this house with its delicate timber and an exquisite interior was originally owned by a doctor in Nagoya and was slated for demolition when Ando saw it and decided to purchase it for his gallery After reconstruction, the house forms a fitting backdrop for this talented potter's collection of beauti ful ceramics and other objects.

Although every room in this house is made of wood, tatami mats and shop doors each room has a different character. The earthen floor and eight-tatami room adjoining the porch (pen-an) is meant for relaxation and is used for the family's daily activities. In contrast, the ten-mat drawing room (zashiki) and the ten-talami anteroom in the innermost part of the house are very formal and meant for receiving guests. A six-tatami room and a Buddhist altar separate these two parts of the house. This central area has an air of sacredness, quite distinct from the other parts. Ando considered the character of each room as well as seasons and annual events while designing the interiors of this house.

Ando's displays are simple yet dramatic. A serpentine line of wooden boards bearing art objects runs throughout the house, from the earthen floor to the back rooms. The boards were originally meant for making sturdy paper stencils (¡se-kntagnmi) with intricate patterns for pnnting kimono fabrics. The line intentionally culminates in front of a hanging scroll (kakejiku) at the alcove (tokonomo) in the innermost room. Although hanging scrolls usually have paintings or calligraphic work on them, this particular one made by Ando himself is simply a composition of white paper To Ando, this work sig nifies a void or inanity (ku). This concept comes from the Zen verse "shiki-soku-ze-ku. which means, 'all is vanity" or "every form in reality is empty.' Ando also enjoys expenmenting with the subtle nuances that the placement of simple objects and light can convey about the accessibility or sacredness of spaces. Large pieces of art are displayed with stage-like lighting, while the empty spaces around them amplify their presence.

Ando unites the Eastern and Western influences in his life in Galerie Momogusa. While he was busy creating European-style contemporary art in his 20s, he began to wonder if he did in fact have a cultural or ethnic identity as a Japanese. In order to understand himself better, he took up the study of ceremonial tea (chcnoyu) just before he turned 30 Twenty years later, Ando feels that he has been imbued with the spirit of the tea ceremony which for him consists of attaining an intuitive and open state of mind. He feels that he can now appreciate works of art simply for what they are. with a clear perception, unhindered by thoughts about their background. With this attitude as his starting point, his exhibits include things regardless of whether they are Japanese or Western, old or new.

Ando created this large art object using rolled up corrugated cardboard. He believes that its location gives the elevated space a feeling of sacredness similar to a kekkai, an unseen barrier that demarcated hallowed places in ancient Japan. Its positioning also gives it the role of separating the secular world in front of it from the sacred world behind it. Special tatami mats without cloth borders (ryukyu-datami) have been used in this interior. These types of tatami mats are used for judo gyms or farmers' workshops because of their durability. They provide an element of informality to die spaces in which they are placed. The square lighting fixture was designed by Ando and custom made by a stained glass artist. The vertical and horizontal lines of the lamp as well as those of the structure emphasize the roundness of the art piece.


Above: A wooden door made of an intricate pattern of woven shingles (ajiro) partitions the hall. Individual shingles were torn off by a hatchet instead of being cut evenly with a saw, giving this door a special effect. A ceramic sculpture created by Keiji Ito, an artist admired by Ando, is displayed with dramatic lighting at the far end of the hall.

Left: A simple white ceramic art ob|ect, a large wooden dish, light and shoji screens have all been used to create a dramatic stage-like effect. Wooden boards like those that run through the house for display have been used here to subtly define the area beyond as inaccessible. This room had been previously used as a Buddhist altar.

The zigzag line of wooden display boards runs through the various rooms and comes to rest in front of the tokonoma. This line of boards is designed to remind guests of a meandering path in a tea garden, with the bowls of varying shapes reminiscent of stepping-stones. By removing the sliding doors, the 16-tatami anteroom and the drawing room have been combined to make a sizeable exhibition space.

Above: These bowls, made by Ando, are of the type used in tea ceremonies, and have been strategically placed on the zigzag line of display boards.

Left: Ando made the contemporary scroll hanging in the tokonoma using layers of white Japanese paper. The void in the center of the scroll is designed to represent "ku," a three-dimensional void. The tool hanging near the window is a wooden hammer used to ring the bell to announce the start of the tea ceremony.

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