Master Artisan conducted an insider’s interview with Professor Kyoji Tsuji of Seian University, the curator of the outstanding contemporary art collection held at Hotel Granvia, to find out more about the curating process and about how he successfully sourced and arranged the array of outstanding works that exist there today.
(Right, from left to right: Jean-Christophe Burckhardt, Director of Master Artisan; Professor Kyoji Tsuji of Seian University; Dr. Atsumi Fukui, International Relations and Translator, Master Artisan).
Curating is a delicate and informed process. The curator must be highly trained in their field of expertise in order to fulfill their role to conduct research on objects and guide the organization in collecting of the particular works. An art curator is expected to be a subject specialist in whatever field in which their gallery works with. In the realm of contemporary art, curating involves picking objects and arranging them to attain a particular outcome. The outcome is usually achieved through distinguishing a theme suitable for all works in combination, or selecting works that fit a particular theme. The curator also provides supportive information about the works, collates relevant content for the exhibition, and writes labels for the artworks. Curators are also expected to be familiar with the current market in terms of dealers and collectors, and must also be knowledgeable in the applicable laws and ethics regarding collecting. A curator may be a permanent staff member, a guest from an affiliate, or a freelance consultant.
Professor Tsuji is a freelance curator and teaches at Seian University of Art & Design in Kyoto, Japan. He has extensive experience in his role as an advisor and curator of various exhibitions over the past 20 years both internationally and in Japan. This work includes exhibitions in Western Australia, Ontario Canada, and Seoul Korea. He holds a number of positions on committees for arts and craft organizations and has judged at competitions and exhibitions. The Professor kindly provided Master Artisan with a real insight into the curating process in the realm of contemporary Japanese Arts and crafts.
(Left: "After Hunting Stop 493" by Mr. Shoichi Ida")
Master Artisan asked Professor Tsuji about the selection criteria for the works that he curated for Hotel Granvia, to gain an understanding into the curating process. The professor revealed the research, selection, and display involved, and emphasised the importance in collaborating with business on such projects.
The CEO of Japan Railway West ,Mr. Ryutaro Sato, initially conceived the idea of having art displayed in the hotel, and approached Professor Tsuji who was working as a freelance Art curator. Professor Tsuji teamed up with the Hotel's marketing department and they discussed the marketing strategy for the hotel based on their preferred clientele. After much discussion, they decided on a common objective: aiming for clientele that would prefer a longer stay in Kyoto – a city renowned for leisure, peace, and history. This would be in opposition to the clientele of Tokyo, which consists of business professionals who travel for shorter business trips.
Once deciding on the target clientele, the team was recommended to focus on the traditional and modern arts and crafts so dominant in Kyoto, as a way to publicise Kyoto’s unique flavour. Prof. Tsuji was also concerned with determining a selection of works that would both satisfy and create pride in the people of Kyoto, and ensuring that the hotel too, would be accepted and approved by the people.
Japan Railway also had criteria with respect to this collection, and the company itself has a large art collection from which they wanted Prof. Tsuji to select works from. Prof. Tsuji then spent one long month reviewing the many pieces of art available, and selected several pieces. He was then asked to develop the hotel’s collection from the existing large company collection.
To develop the collection, Prof. Tsuji utilized the remaining budget to purchase and incorporate newer artworks. One result of this is a gallery that was developed in the restaurant. This gallery holds a six-monthly rotating exhibition of Japanese textile paintings by the current Art University Faculty of Fine Arts students. Another result was the commissioning of a famous photographer – Mr. Takeo Inoue –to capture key images of Kyoto. Out of 20 000 photographs taken, about 150 were selected to adorn the guest rooms in the hotel.
(Right: "Dissolution of continuity" by Mr. Hisao Domoto)
The resulting art collection at Hotel Granvia is the largest corporate Art Collection that is viewed and interacts with customers in Japan. It is also considered to be a very high quality collection, with several museums interested in the works. What makes this collection so unique is that the public have this fantastic opportunity to interact with the works that speak of the essence of life in Kyoto.
Links to other articles:
The Hotel Granvia Art Collection: Uncovering a Hidden Gem
Hotel Granvia - The Specialist Hotel for the Art and Craft Lover
Full Interview with Prof. Tsuji - Corporate Curating in Japan
Photo Gallery - Crafts in Kyoto
Photo Gallery - Visiting Kyoto
Photo Gallery - Hotel Granvia Collection
Professor Kiyoji Tsuji’s Biography
Presently, Professor, Seian University of Art & Design, Kyoto Japan
Born in Osaka Japan, Dec 1948
Bachelor of Fine Arts, Kyoto City University of Arts
Master of Fine Arts, Kyoto City University of Arts
Member, Native Art Foundation
Member, International Ceramic Academy
Executive Member, Kyoto Art & Cultural Association
Areas of Expertise:
Cultural affairs planning and management
Research into Japanese contemporary craft
Artistic & cultural exchange projects with corporations
Artistic & cultural strategy and planning for the local government
Prof Tsuji has extensive experience in his role as an advisor and curator of various exhibitions over the past 20 years not only in Japan but internationally, including exhibitions in Western Australia, Ontario Canada, and Seoul Korea.
He has published a book titled Fibre Art Japan and has been a regular contributor to a publication on textile art since 1990.
He holds a number of positions on committees for arts and craft organizations and has judged at competitions and exhibitions.
Jean-Christophe Burckhardt and Master Artisan would like to thank the following people for their support in our Crafts in Kyoto, Japan promotional tour and editorials:
Professor Kyoji Tsuji of Seian University for his time and for sharing his expertise as a curator.
Dr. Atsumi Fukui for her assistance in interviewing, translating and editing our articles.
I would also like to warmly thank all the staff at Hotel Granvia for their support and help, with special thanks to Ms Kanako Murayama (International Marketing Director) and her assistant Ms Yuka Murata, the Art Collection Manager Mr. Yosuke Naito, and the Guest Relations Manager Ms. Shiho Ikeuchi.