This project has been four years in the making. I am excited to finally present Anselm Ryele’s solo exhibition in Japan. This is a deeply meaningful, personal exhibition for me. I would like to explain the reason why and the background leading to the show, starting with our encounter.
First, please read the statement from Anselm himself:
Statement From Anselm Reyle
My first exhibition in Japan, INTO THE VOID, was developed in close collaboration with Takashi Murakami. Takashi told me that he greatly appreciates my work, which is why he also owns some pieces. But he said, unfortunately he does not quite understand what my work is about and asked if perhaps I could explain it to him. I felt a little overwhelmed by this direct question, so I began to stammer something. To my amazement, however, Takashi seemed to gain a realization from my embarrassment. He said that he now understood why he likes my work so much.
Much like his, it is ultimately about nothing. It’s about nothingness, about the void. Takashi was excited by that. He noticed my confusion and said that I absolutely had to visit the shrines and temples in Ise and Kyoto the next day. Then I would understand more.
You can find the entire text here.
It must have been 6 years or so ago when I first encountered his work. I found an exhibition catalog at some bookstore. When I saw the images of his works in the catalog, something clicked. His memorable trademark was the noise print he would leave on his works by placing a paint cup on them. I sensed that he belonged to the generation after mine, and that he would easily push the evolution of art one step further, and I felt jealous and fearful for that ease.
Anselm Reyle is a German conceptual painter and sculptor, and he was a young prince who came at the end of the pre-Lehman Shock art bubble that had started in the late ’90s. He is eight years younger than I. I finally got to see his work in person at Gagosian, the gallery I work with. What an enormous scale it was! I was shocked by the impression gap between the images in the catalog and the real thing. The work was made with a purple foil, one of the largest in the series. It was love at first sight
As I stood there staring at the work open-mouthed, Sam Orlofsky, Anselm’s manager at Gagosian, came up to me with a sly grin on his face and ranted, “Aren’t you blown away? It’s so completely new. He’s discarded everything he could, and what’s remaining is the absolute minimum. It’s amazing, don’t you think?” This was at the Gagosian space on the 24th Street in the famous Chelsea, in the room to the right of the entrance, all the way in the back, in the collectors’ viewing room. “The entire world is freaking out. The new sculpture is beyond description. Your brain would burnout.” Sam couldn’t be stopped, with his eyes darting every which way and shaking his head. As I listened to this presentation, I couldn’t help wanting to meet the artist himself, so I asked Sam for his contact information. “You want to meet him?” he said. “That’s a good idea. Yes, you should see him at once. His studio is equally crazy!” Oh boy, I couldn’t wait! My delusion rapidly expanded and exploded in my head, so I immediately flew to Berlin.
I landed in Berlin for the first time in my life. I found myself in an area with old buildings. Brick buildings cluttered along the streets, creating a nostalgic atmosphere. His studio was on the second floor of one such building. I ascended on a small freight elevator with metal mesh casing, and the door opened with a deep, scraping noise. And right there, beyond the door, was a huge office.
Unlike the cluttered appearance of the exterior, the space inside looked like a tidy university classroom, in which eight to ten brand new Mac flat screen monitors were lined up, and the staff members were merrily having lunch together in the kitchen area.
There was a large fish tank set at the eye level next to the entrance, and in it swam some freshwater tropical fish. My first impression was; “Wow, this is the new generation. Definitely way ahead of us Kaikai Kiki!”
By then I had been recognized in the U.S. and Europe through Superflat, I had finished the collaboration with Louis Vuitton, and I had set up 20 or so state-of-the-art computers in the pre-fab huts that were my office and studio in Asaka, Saitama, working with about 50 staff members. So I was pretty confident with my unbalanced appearance. But my confidence started to deflate right there.
“Takashi! I’m glad you came! Did you come from NY? Wasn’t the transit hectic? Thank you for coming all the way!” Having melted my nervousness with his uncalculated smile, he immediately went on to give me a tour of his studio.
“This is the room for paint experiments, this is the room where we pool different materials, this is where we assemble the materials, this is the office we’ve started from, and here’s where we eat meals together. Ha-ha, it’s tiny, isn’t it?”
There were no white walls like in NY artists’ studios, and the completed works were simply kept lying flat, and they checked the completed images on the computer. The studio layout wasted nothing.
Looking at the space in which young people in their early twenties are cheerfully but methodically working, and witnessing the aesthetic of the production process, I felt light-headed. It was amazing; completely new school. Everything was being simulated on the computer. And it was wonderful that the efficiency was prioritized.
When I first started out in the contemporary art world, the new painting was blossoming in NY. Artists squatted in the buildings in SoHo, which had been undeveloped as an art scene, and painted the walls pure white themselves. Back then, it was as though one had to set up a huge studio in SoHo in order to be an artist. I had thought there was no chance of even debuting for a young artist in Japan who could only secure a tiny space under the dire real estate situation. But, just then, the computer use started to become wide-spread. My generation of artists began to find our way toward success in this situation.
So I enormously empathized with the setup of Anselm’s studio—the large number of assistants, the emphasis on the work on computers, no white walls—and felt as though we’ve shared our courage to lead the art scene forward into the future… But basically, I was fearful at the emergence of the new generation.