The Ginza Space, 东京
“Portrait of Second-hand Clothes”, first exhibited in 1995, is a major work from the beginning of Yuki Onodera’s career, and the year 2020 marks its quarter-century. Realizing this fact last year, I had the idea of exhibiting the “Portrait of Second-hand Clothes” series and sharing with the public the value of these timeless works that refuse to fade despite the passage of time.
When I put the suggestion to her, the artist readily accepted, envisaging it as a thrilling experience in which time would hand down its verdict. Moreover, she responded in a way that was better than I had expected, proposing an exhibition plan that involved making use of the difference in ceiling heights at The Ginza Space, filling the low-ceilinged room in the front with red light, displaying “Portrait of Second-hand Clothes” works in a double row in the high-ceilinged room in the back, and leaving the door to the elevator area in the high-ceilinged exhibition room half open, with red light seeping in from there, too. Her “camera” series works are photographs of a camera, and exhibiting them with red light suggestive of a darkroom created a space symbolic of the emergence of photographs. This is all the more appropriate because Onodera is one of the few artists who still makes silver halide prints by hand. With the area partitioned loosely into two spaces using a temporary divider, the contrast of red light in the front and white light in the back stood out, with the room in the back having a tranquil, chapel-like atmosphere, making it feel as if the second-hand clothes were being raised up to heaven. “Portrait of Second-hand Clothes” features second-hand clothes mounted in front of the window of Onodera’s apartment in Montmartre, Paris, using the sky as the background. The artist acquired the clothes at Christian Boltanski’s 1993 exhibition “Dispersion”, when visitors could take a bag of clothes home for ten francs. Both “Portrait of Second-hand Clothes” and Boltanski’s work have an air of mortality about them, but where Boltanski’s is melancholic, Onodera’s is more upbeat. The sense of the clothes ascending to heaven is surely due to the dry humor underlying this work.
Also fortuitous was the collaboration with Yumiko Chiba Associates, which held a concurrent exhibition of Yuki Onodera’s latest works in Shinjuku. It was an unexpected joy to be able to show both “FROM Where” and “TO Where” in Tokyo at the same time, representing the artist’s starting point and her development over the intervening quarter-century. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic made us concerned for a while that we might not even be able to put on the shows this year, and the exhibition periods had to be changed, but we are very pleased to have managed to hold the shows as originally intended during 2020, marking this twenty-five-year milestone. Perhaps time looks favorably on superb art.