Mr. Daisuke Suzuki, Representative Director of ARTLOGUE
Note: This article was originally published on the website of the INCF (the predecessor of ICF) in August 2020.
Art not only enriches our lives, but is also capable of highlighting societal issues. We interviewed Mr. Suzuki, who is involved in various activities to revitalize the art industry, including commercialization and information dissemination.
―Could you tell us what motivated you to start the business and what issues are you aware of?
Suzuki: I used to work as a designer and creator. As I continued to work in these fields, my interest in art grew and my work related to art increased. I participated in a study group on social inclusion and art at Osaka City University and realized that art had the power to highlight societal issues and make people aware of them. As I also realized that art was not easily accessible in rural areas, I launched the CURATORS TV project, a university project that distributed online videos of gallery talks (explanations of works) held at art museums. In the process, however, I realized that using research grants to fund our activities was not a viable strategy in the long term given the limited amount of funds available. So, I decided to conduct the activities as a business and started the art venture ARTLOGUE after the establishment of a general incorporated association.
Many contemporary artists are struggling to make a living as a result of many completed works remaining unsold, which I think is a big issue. The size of the art market in Japan is about 250 billion yen, which is about a 3% to 4% share of the world market. It is small compared to Japan’s economic scale, and so the industry can support only a small number of artists. In fact, even in Japan, 55 million people visit art museums every year, which is more than twice as many as are professional baseball spectators. However, one of the causes of the issue is that an extremely large portion of the people are attracted to exhibitions of established works, such as impressionist works, and do not have much interest in contemporary art.
―What kind of business do you mainly do?
Suzuki: Our company is engaged in a wide range of businesses, including the rental and sale of art, the production of new businesses that make use of art, the VR business for art museums, the operation of ARTLOGUE (an art-related information dissemination media), and activities to influence art policies. What we are currently focusing on the most is the rental of art. With this service, you can rent works of contemporary artists at a fee starting from 227 yen per piece per day. While it is difficult for companies to buy art works, rental services make it easier for them to sign up. Renting art, rather than outright buying it, allows for new and more frequent flashes of inspiration with every new piece that’s changed regularly in addition to the direct connection to each artist as you rent their piece.
We also conduct activities to influence policies. For example, in the election of the House of Councillors in summer of 2019, we engaged in ManiA (Mania Manifest for Arts), a project to examine what cultural and artistic policies the candidates had in their manifestos. This is because the promotion of culture and art will not move forward in part unless it is taken up in the political arena.
|Number of employees：6|
|Main businesses：Art rental business, VR art museum business, and art-related information dissemination|
―How is your dream coming true?
Suzuki: We had positive talks with many companies about art and launched a painting rental service in April 2020. However, COVID-19 changed the situation drastically; there were no people in offices where we were to put paintings, and we could not meet our business partners. Despite continued adverse conditions, we were able to make the first art delivery to Nakakita Seisakusho Co., Ltd. at the end of July. For Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd., we held an art thinking workshop developed jointly with a Kyoto University teacher. In Hida Takayama, Auberge Genju, for whom we act as a partner, opened, and we are launching an art project in cooperation with Takayama City. We are feeling confident about these results.
―Are you taking any new measures against the COVID-19 pandemic?
Suzuki: I think that VR is a powerful new way to enjoy art in the wake of COVD-19. The history of art is also the history of human creation and an archival technology. The technology has gradually advanced from painting to video. What comes next is VR, which has seen recent advances in both technology and cost. For example, we have provided our VR art museum services to several art museums and organizers, including the Mori Art Museum and The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. The selling point is that you can experience a museum even online using Matterport, an overseas system that enables easy conversion to VR. We are also developing a billing system necessary for full-scale commercialization and now have the prospect of launching the system when we have clients. I think we can make this a model for a new art museum.
―Do you have any difficulties such as conflict with conventional values?
Suzuki: Some aspects of the art museum industry are conservative, and I feel that there is a strong resistance to new initiatives, such as VR art museums. For example, some art museums worry that if they post information online about works displayed in the museum, people will stop visiting museums. However, just as you do not think seeing the Mona Lisa on screen is enough, the value of seeing the real thing will not be lost. With the understanding and support of opinion leaders in society, we are promoting dissemination activities to gain support as much as possible.
―What are your expectations and aspirations for the future?
Suzuki: We would like to go public first. Although art is not fully commercialized at present, I hope that our listing will attract attention to the art industry and lead to the creation of a market and new services. For example, I think it would be good if there were chips and game services available like sports. I hope that ARTLOGUE will become a symbol for the Japanese art industry to be a 1 trillion yen industry. As our company is also a social enterprise, we will keep conducting our activities including those for art-related policies and awareness raising.
|We feel that VR art museums have great potential as a new way to enjoy art in the world with and after COVID-19. We hope that the business will lead to viewing in the real world, gaining inspiration, and inspiring new actions, rather than being completed in a virtual space.|
This article is part of a series of articles introducing venture companies working together as INCF members to resolve societal issues.