Though Shibuya might not be the first Tokyo neighborhood that comes to mind when we think of art, it certainly has cultivated its own idiosyncratic creative culture over the years. Rayard Miyashita Park (stylized RAYARD MIYASHITA PARK) decided, when plans for its renewal were first set in motion, to pay tribute to this particular heritage. 

All around the retail complex, visitors will encounter art inspired by Shibuya, created by a host of emerging Japanese and international artists. This could be considered intimidating by those who might be interested in art but have no solid background in the subject. However, this is where Sai Gallery comes in.  

Sai Gallery is located on the third floor of the south building. You’ll be able to find it thanks to its recognizable floor-to-ceiling windows and distinctive entrance. Stepping through the front door will take you to a wide and bright gallery facing the Yamanote Line with, of course, trains passing every five minutes or so, giving the space the ultimate Tokyo soundscape. 

The curator of the gallery is Shunsuke Kimura, a contemporary art cognoscente and owner of multiple spaces around Tokyo. Kimura knows his subject and he clearly has a passion for introducing and supporting artists that break the status quo. His goal with Sai Gallery is to display art you would see nowhere else; art that is risqué in theme or aesthetic but ultimately reflects the contemporary human experience. 

A great example, Kimura mentions, is the gallery’s April 2021 exhibition which starred Okinawa artist Ryuichi Ishikawa. Ishikawa is well known in the art world for his raw photography. His exhibition at Sai Gallery, this spring, was in conjunction with the release of his latest book, The Inside of Life. Works on display featured mainly photographs of the insides of wild animals in strangely beautiful and natural settings. 

Ishikawa’s subject matter wasn’t just for aesthetic purposes or shock value. “These animals that you see, they were his source of food too,” Kimura explains to us. In fact, this series of photographs, as disturbing as it could come across, was produced during a time when Ishikawa immersed himself into the survivalist lifestyle.

“We had a lot of young students come in to see the exhibition,” Kimura continues. “I thought maybe they’ll look at the photographs and think ‘Ew, this is gross.’ But actually many would look and describe [the subjects of the photographs] as cute or stare at one work for a while, engulfed in thoughts.” This, he said, is a rare sight at other galleries and is one of the points that makes Sai Gallery stand out in Shibuya and even southwestern Tokyo.

Kimura sees no limits when it comes to art. Since its opening in 2020, the gallery has hosted artists from around the world, including its inaugural show featuring Kyne and the most recent exhibition introducing Swiss photographer Philippe Fragnière. The 2022 schedule has already confirmed artists from both Spain and the United States. 

Sai Gallery also aims to be a quasi-institution for young Tokyoites eager to learn more about contemporary art. Because it is free to enter and only a few minutes from Shibuya Station, it is much more accessible than galleries of comparable size in other Tokyo neighborhoods. 

This October, Kimura is holding his very first art auction at Sai Gallery. As he flipped through the first version of the catalog, we were impressed with just how many pieces would be available for purchase. The auction will present over 120 works from established and emerging artists. A few notable names, in case you have some yen to spare, include Yoshimoto Nara, Kaws, Kyne and Futura 2000. 

For this next chapter, Kimura established another company, New Auction, which will officially launch in tandem with the event. Through this new endeavor, the curator hopes to further share his love for contemporary art with a wider audience, all the while making it as approachable as possible.  

The auction is open to all and will be held from October 30 to November 6, 2021. A second part of the auction will also take place at Ba-Tsu Art Gallery in Omotesando, also on November 6.

Essential Information

Sai Gallery
3F Miyashita Park South, 6-20-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku

New Auction

Photos by Ryoko Ogawa

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