Jeffrey Rosen, co-founder and co-owner of Tokyo-based gallery Misako & Rosen, takes questions from Catherine Rose, collector, philanthropist and co-chair of the Dallas Museum of Art 2013 Art Ball.
Take us to the beginning. What’s the story behind the start of Misako & Rosen? Where and when did you and Misako meet? We met for the first time in Tokyo in 2002. We’d both been working for Japanese galleries for 10 years prior to opening our own space at the end of 2006. I’d first worked for the Los Angeles branch of Taka Ishii Gallery before moving to Japan, and Misako had been working for Tomio Koyama Gallery since she was 19 years old. We were both involved in the growth and development of the first generation of Tokyo contemporary galleries. Though we were helping to facilitate an original vision particular to that generation, we felt that there was a need and that the time was right to represent our own generation in Japan.
What drew you to participate in the Dallas Art Fair 2013? In 2011, following the natural disaster that struck Japan, we had the good fortune of taking a trip to Dallas as one of our artists — the Irish Fergus Feehily — was having an exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art. During this visit, we were treated with unimaginably generous hospitality; we had an opportunity to visit local collections, which were astonishing in terms of breadth and quality. The atmosphere of the city and, in particular, the community associated with the museum encouraged us to return, and the fair offered us a perfect excuse! Friends from galleries such as The Green Gallery, Milwaukee, and Canada from New York also provided positive feedback about the Fair.
Misako & Rosen is one of the stand-outs in a wave of second-generation gallerists. How would you compare Tokyo’s art scene to that of New York, London, Berlin or L.A.? What is unique and what stands out? The scale of the art world in Tokyo is incredibly small. We have very little in the way of a market, and spaces are tiny and at a premium. Most artists live and make work at home; the home is the studio and this is Tokyo style. One noticeable difference between Tokyo and elsewhere is that we’ve adopted a highly cooperative model. There is little to no gallery infighting; rather, we are mutually supportive and are often working together to build a strong art community.
How would you describe your gallery’s aesthetic? Our aesthetic is extremely literal-minded. We have an interest in abstraction, which somehow manages to manifest itself in contradictorily figurative ways. We are committed to a modest aesthetic rooted in the everyday. I should also mention that we value highly a sense of humor and art that speaks to a general audience — without compromise.
When looking at new artists, how do you know it’s a fit for your gallery? What are you looking for? We are interested in creating a conversation between like-minded Japanese artists and artists from abroad. So, we are looking for artists who make work that relates to the specific context in which we are situated — Tokyo — but which also speaks to an international audience. Again, it often helps if the work makes us both laugh.
Is this your first time to visit, or have you been to Texas often before? What connections do you have already in Texas in terms of curators, other gallerists or artists? Well, I was born and raised in Houston! Misako and I had our wedding in Houston in the Rothko Chapel, and many of our friends from the Tokyo art world visited at that time. Dallas’ own Gabriel Ritter, curator at the DMA, is a good friend of ours from the time he spent researching Japanese art in Tokyo. The list of our friends from Texas could fill this page, so our ties are deep. Another important connection is with Yasufumi Nakamori, a curator of photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Misako has known Nakamori since her earliest days in the Tokyo art world! Not to mention my family, still based in Houston, whom we visit every year.
Can you reveal any surprises for your Dallas Art Fair booth? We plan to exhibit a major new painting by an artist whom we represent from Los Angeles, Nathan Hylden.
Are you bringing any of Takashi Yasumura’s exquisitely nuanced photographs? We are happy to hear you mention Yasumura’s work, as we’re genuinely fans ourselves and feel privileged to have an opportunity to work with him. His book Domestic Scandals is a landmark within the history of Japanese photography. We’ve exhibited Yasumura’s work at other fairs recently, so this time we’ve decided to focus on another photographer, Josh Brand, whose photographs are not often seen outside of the museum context and whose work creates an interesting conversation with the Japanese side of our program.
What is on your bucket list of must-see exhibitions and travels for 2013? “Painter Painter,” an exhibition opening soon at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, promises to introduce a novel approach to abstract painting. The newly reopened Migros Museum in Zurich will present a major solo exhibition with Texas-born artist Stephen G. Rhodes, and we will definitely be making the trip for this. We are also excited about the second edition of the Frieze Art Fair in New York, where we’ll be presenting Japanese artist Kaoru Arima. Highly recommended is a visit to Tokyo in September for the next “Roppongi Crossing,” to be presented at the Mori Art Museum; this is our version of the Whitney Biennial and will provide insight into the present generation of artists working in Japan. Far from Japan but close to Dallas, J. Parker Valentine, an exceptional and challenging young artist, will be exhibiting in March at Artpace, San Antonio, as part of the International Artist-In-Residence program.
DALLAS ART FAIR
April 12 – 14, 2013; Preview Gala April 11, 2013