Photo of Junko Shimada in Covid-19
Portrait of Ms. Junko Shimada during Covid-19 in Tokyo. 

We felt compelled to find out how creatives around the world are dealing with the Coronavirus. The news can be daunting to watch as you see the wave hit each country consecutively. Some decimated more than most. Many creatives we know are up-and-coming enterprises who have been forced into a huge paradigm shift in these days and times. What better way to check in on our friends as well, by asking them a few questions! Not only concerning now, in this present predicament, but their thoughts and hopes towards the future. Are there positives to be taken from this collective experience? What are we contributing?

For the second installment of this series we speak to our good friend Ms. Junko Shimada, owner of the Tokyo gallery, Gallery Side 2. She represents a strong roster of predominantly Japanese artists, and is an avid bon vivant of life. She has contributed to one of our favorite, 'Music Is Playing' playlists, and is always a great host and conversation, every time we meet.

SPITGAN.COM : Hello Junko how are you? When was the first day the Coronavirus really hit home for you?

Junko Shimada : In Tokyo, schools were closed on March 2, businesses were asked to be closed on April 11. Personally, on February 26, when the Masaru Tatsuki exhibition ‘KAKERA’ ended at our space, we decided to close the gallery for March.

SG : How do you feel about your country's response in general and specifically to your industry?
JS : Slow and not enough. Both on dealing with the virus and supporting people. The Japanese government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs has announced the guidelines for artists’ support including cash handouts and money loans on April 7. But still has not opened its registration. As for galleries we are able to ask for cash handouts in the amount of JPY¥300,000-¥1,000,000 depending on the scale. It helps, but that would probably be less than a half month of rent for many galleries. In general the government is distributing JPY¥100,000 for each citizen. People without any income during this period need waivers for their home rents. As of May 11, the government is considering a 1/2 year of 66% rent help.

SG : What have you been doing during this global lockdown period?
JS : Watching news, taking care of the balcony herb garden, looking out of the window, reading books, researching takeouts, cooking, and through cooking missing friends’ cooking, their manners, laughs, smiles, and music.

SG : What's the first thing you gonna do when you can move freely?
JS : A fine extra dry gin martini with a twist of lemon. Work with our installers to have works at the gallery to be seen and invite friends over.

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SG : Has the pandemic made you assess your business model? What changes will you be making?

JS : I have not caught up with the idea of seeing art on a computer screen or on a phone. You can probably buy and sell on the net.  But standing in front of, or within a work can be a personal yet borderless meditation on our lives. What can beat that?

SG : You have tried this online presentation yes? With Art Basel? How was that experience?
JS : Art Basel Online, yes. We tried as Art Basel Hong Kong did not happen because of Covid-19. It was a good try but kind of premature for us to tackle and (get) the audience to come along. Recently it feels that people are more used to this method, and we are also putting more energy in responding to the needs. I also hear there are galleries that did very well, so this is our own experience.

SG : What positive changes do you envision happening to the industry or society in general? Or hope will happen?
JS : By isolating, I think and hope many have felt more connected to the society.  The isolation itself is a social act based on the idea of protecting others. Maybe we can be more open to one another with the vision of the world we share, looking into to what our contemporary artists do in a more unprejudiced, and urgent way.

SG : We are now all on our own 'islands'. What music is getting you through?
JS : Could you call on Lady DayCould you call on John Coltrane? And of course the great Gil Scott-Heron to wash may troubles away

SG : As part of this article can you take 2 photos of yourself representing you during this time or your feelings towards the future?
JS : Artists give us vision, joy, questions we need to ask ourselves.  We go on.

Days of Quarantine / Rirkrit Tiravanija (Courtesy of the artist/artist represented by Gallery Side 2)
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Memories of Ramen / Takeo Hanazawa (Courtesy of the artist/artist represented by Gallery Side 2)
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Are you in the fine arts field? How have you been affected? What are you hoping will change for the better when we get through this pandemic? Leave us a comment!

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