Professor Ishiguro and hi-4, Kyoto, 2017
Happy to share our first article with you on the beautiful IBASHO Gallery that opened its doors in Antwerp in March 2015, with a focus on Japanese photography. Located in the South of the town, the gallery offers a selection of renowned photographers as well as the lesser known.
The Dutch couple Martijn Van Pieterson and Annemarie Zethof came from London to Antwerp to pursue their career in art. Despite both coming from a completely different background in their previous careers, they managed to establish one of the most charming galleries in Antwerp.
Let there be no mistake, Martijn and Annemarie were collecting art for the last 27 years, out of love for the field, so they were not new to it. However, their story is interesting because they’ve been in many different places and we were intrigued about what brought them to Antwerp and how they got into Japanese photography.
So what does IBASHO stand for? Ibasho in Japanese means a place where you feel at ease, a place where you can be yourself. Especially for the Japanese people this word has a bigger meaning, since feeling somewhere safe became much more significant after World War II.
The duo decided to move to Antwerp for the same reason, finding a safe space for their family and creating a new place for themselves. Needless to say, it helped that Antwerp was also an interesting choice when it comes down to housing prices. The gallery is on the ground floor of their house and on top of that there’s another part that functions as a guest room for the artists.
Martijn and Annemarie have known each other for a very long time: they met in high school and have been together ever since. Art has been a mutual hobby as of the start of their studies Econometrics and Dutch law respectively. Fun fact: as 20 years olds, they bought their first gouache from Jan van Eyck via an art purchase scheme, which can still be found in their living space.
Hereafter it snowballed and they kept expanding their art collection gradually. After their studies, as a fresh banker and lawyer they focussed especially on art from beginning of the 20th century. When Annemarie went studying photography, it sparked off their passion for photography. They bumped into a beautiful Japanese woodblock print from Kawase Hasui, and started becoming interested in Japanese visual culture. When they were visiting the big duo exhibition of photographers William Klein and Daido Moriyama at Tate Modern, London in 2012, they were so impressed by the work of Moriyama, that they decided to focus their art collection on Japanese photography.
Daido Moriyama - 1971
Daido Moriyama - 1986
After working for 18 years in finance, Martijn decided to change course. He was responsible for a global business, with 400 people under his supervision. Obviously this came with a lot of stress, that impacted his health and family life. So at his 40’s he decided to put a stop to this career.
Running a gallery comes with its challenges too of course. “We still work hard but it’s not comparable to the stress we had before. You’re building step by step with a gallery, however it comes with a lot of uncertainty as well. You could say that it’s a trajectory of more or less 10 years to really establish your gallery. That has to do with building your name and gaining trust. You also need to prove that you have a good program and build a fixed clientele at the same time.”
Another important note is that photography works with different prices compared to paintings. “At IBASHO you can buy a photograph within a price range of 500 to 35.000 euros. The circulation usually varies from 5 to 25 copies.”
Photography in Japan
Photography is big in Japan, most of the camera’s are from Japan (like Canon, Nikon and Fujifilm for example). Thereby there are a lot of proper photography courses, which results in a lot of good photographers.
As a gallery IBASHO works in two ways. One of them is on consignment, when working with contemporary artists. These works can then be shown in their gallery or at fairs. On the other hand they stay busy with the purchase and sale of more established artists. More specifically with work from beginning of the 20th century.
This period in particular is interesting because this was the time that Japanese photography started developing itself as an art form. When speaking about 19th century Japanese photography the couple tells us that this era is less appealing to them. “Pictures back then were a copy of the reality and were especially taken to show the West how Japan looked like. Involving a lot of landscape pictures and geisha’s, Japan was namely closed to the outer world until 1867.”
Issei Suda - 1976
Old Japanese traditions
“We have been seeing a lot of young photographers that refer to old Japanese traditions in their work. You can tell that they’re inspired by landscapes from the traditional calligraphy or painting.” Then there is also the paper, how could we discuss Japanese art and not mention the paper…
“In Japan there’s always been a lot of attention to the craft. There’s a revaluation of old photo print processes - the whole history that preceded the inkjet print. Some photographers print their photos on handmade paper and they certainly do value the making of photo books.
It’s important not to forget that in a traditional Japanese house, no art stands or hangs against the wall except for a calligraphy scroll. It's a very Western thing to hang art on your walls. Japanese photography has, in a sense, replaced Japanese printmaking and has gone its own way.”
Things are looking good for Japanese photography. The versatility and popularity has been growing over the years and you can tell that there is more interest for Japanese photo books from the West and that there’s a bigger presence of Japanese photographers in Western musea.
Annemarie and Martijn made a tradition out of visiting Japan on an annual basis. There they meet photographers, visit museums, bookshops, galleries and more. “We love to show a broad spectrum of photographers. Our competitors tend to go for the big Japanese names only but it was a conscious decision of ours to show both big names, and the ones that are unknown.”
“In a relatively short time IBASHO has built up a good name and we are happy to function as a gateway to the West for Japanese photography. We are glad to give photographers a chance to expose their work and give it the attention it deserves.”
Since the couple started IBASHO out of love, they felt there was another way to share all of this beauty. They went on doing this via organizing exhibitions in other places but also through publishing and selling (their own) photo books. From September 2019, IBASHO is collaborating with the Paris-based publisher the(M) éditions to build a catalogue of Japanese photo books.
Hereby we are very excited to announce that you’ll be able to buy some of their most beautiful publications on STOF from now on :))
The book 'so it goes, so it goes' by Miho Kaijoka
On a last note
“As a gallery you have to think of the commercial aspect as well of course. However, the most important thing to us when somebody buys a picture at our gallery, is that they enjoy this work for the rest of their lives. That the picture raises warm feelings, that’s exactly why art is so great. It evokes something different for everyone. All I hope is that people don’t buy a picture as a way to show off. I would’ve stayed in my old job if that’s what I wanted.”
At the moment, IBASHO gallery proudly presents two solo exhibitions: ‘Androids’ by Wanda Tuerlinckx and 'Hibi: fragments of daily life' by Issei Suda.
Laboratory of Waseda University, Tokyo, 2017
Wanda Tuerlinckx is a Belgian photographer, based in Amsterdam. She created an intriguing series about Androids. Since 2015 and in collaboration with a professor of Cognitive Robotics at Delft University of Technology, Tuerlinckx has traveled the world, mostly to Japan, to document the current robot revolution.
As the accelerating technological developments continue to anticipate the ethical and social consequences of robots in our society, we experience an increasing tension between acceptance and rejection. The Android robots, that look like humans with human emotional facial expressions and movements, are sometimes fascinating but also terrifying as subtle imperfections in appearance make them seem eerie.
Meiji University's Robot & Science Institute, Kawasaki, 2017
Tuerlinckx’s android photos combine art photography and scientific photography. She has been photographing robots using a very classic form of photography. Her wooden camera, which she calls Eduard, dates from around 1880. She uses photo paper as a negative, a technique from the earliest days of photography.
By recording the unfolding robot revolution with a wooden camera from the time of the industrial revolution, Tuerlinckx brings the past, present and future together in one image.⠀
Narita Airport, Tokyo, 2017
Hibi: fragments of daily life
The second exhibition is 'Hibi: fragments of daily life' by the Japanese photographer Issei Suda (1940 - 2019).
Issei Suda - 1976
In a small exhibition of 27 works in black and white in the front room of IBASHO, visitors can get to know the recognizable style from Issei Suda that recorded daily life in Japan over a period of nearly 60 years. He combined a pure appreciation of Japanese customs with a sharp investigative eye.
Suda sought to express the mysterious side of everyday life, and succeeded in capturing the extraordinary within the ordinary. Some of his work has received attention for being peculiarly subjective, while at the same time providing a new outlook on the standard images of Japan or Tokyo from an ethnological viewpoint.
Issei Suda - 1975
Issei Suda - 1976
‘Androids’ by Wanda Tuerlinckx and 'Hibi: fragments of daily life' by Issei Suda, both run until 06/06/2021.
Special thank you to IBASHO gallery for sharing their story!
From Thursday - Sunday from 14:00 - 18:00.
Other days/times by appointment.
Tolstraat 67, 2000 Antwerp