To develop your own “eyes for seeing”. Chairman Obayashi Corporation and Art Collection

Chairman Obayashi Corporation and Art Collection

Goro Obayashi, Chairman Obayashi Corporation and Art Collection, is one of Japan’s leading art collectors and is highly trusted by many people in the art world. See, know, collect, and publish. What has this series of actions surrounding art brought to Obayashi, who is also a business owner?


The interview venue was Obayashi Corporation’s headquarters in Shinagawa. Goro Obayashi Chairman Obayashi Corporation said with a smile, “I thought this would be a good place to do the interview,” as this company building is the place where he became strongly interested in contemporary art.

To develop your own "eyes for seeing". Chairman Obayashi Corporation and Art Collection

In the lobby on the third floor, where people come and go, glass works by Yayoi Kusama also serve as a partition. In the atrium that runs from the 18th to the 28th floor, works by François Morlay extend vertically, adding color and brightness. In addition, the headquarters, which features approximately 70 works by 18 contemporary artists integrated into the architecture, is also a “semi-public museum” that employees and visitors can enjoy.

The joy of living with writers

The Obayashi Corporation Tokyo Headquarters Art Project began 25 years ago when Obayashi’s father, Yoshiro Obayashi (Chairman Obayashi Corporation), was working at the company when they moved the company’s headquarters from Kanda to Shinagawa. In town development, which is our main business, convenience and safety are of course important, but culture is also inseparable from the perspective of landscape and history. There was a sense that “knowledge of the humanities is important because we are a technology company.” In addition, as the Internet began to spread and communication was predicted to become diluted, we envisioned a place where conversations would occur naturally and employees could hone their sensibilities.

To develop your own "eyes for seeing". Chairman Obayashi Corporation and Art Collection

For that reason, it is different to just display art. In order to have the works created to suit the space at the head office, a committee was formed consisting of members from inside and outside the company, including Hara Museum founder Toshio Hara and creative director Kazuko Koike. We selected artists and asked 18 of them to do commission work. Art collector Goro Obayashi (Chairman Obayashi Corporation) says, “It was a very interesting experience to meet the artists in the process.”

“Contemporary art is different from previous art in that it is not only beautiful, but also has a variety of concepts in its works.We will be able to directly ask the artists how they came up with works and concepts that we have never seen or heard of before. The fun of contemporary art is being able to live with the artist.”

From there, the world expanded with artists, museums, gallerists… The Obayashi Collection, which currently numbers several hundred pieces, is privately owned, so the details are not disclosed, but Chairman Obayashi Corporation has incorporated many works, mainly by young artists, into its Osaka main store, which will be completed in 2022.

How to encounter works that captivate your heart

Many collectors and business owners seek art advice from Obayashi (Chairman Obayashi Corporation), who also serves as a director and councilor for museums in Japan and abroad. What Obayashi tells us is to “determine what you like,” such as works and authors. So, how can we improve our “eyes”?

To develop your own "eyes for seeing". Chairman Obayashi Corporation and Art Collection

“Just look at lots of good works. If possible, I recommend museums overseas. For example, I visited the Prado Museum in Madrid last year, and there were works that were still internationally acclaimed even after hundreds of years. So, I think about why. The same goes for Japanese art. There is a reason why something transcends time. Studying art history will help you understand that.”

When purchasing works of art, he uses all the knowledge he has cultivated, and recently he came across a set of values ​​that immediately touched his heart. This is what was written in the book “Beauty: Seeing the Invisible” by the late Yoshiharu Fukuhara, honorary chairman of Shiseido, who supported the art industry for many years and advocated “cultural capital management.” “I couldn’t read it because it was out of print, but I received it at Mr. Fukuhara’s farewell party at the end of last year.When people buy art, they consider various things, such as the artist’s popularity, the price of the work, and its future value.

You might want to find a sculpture that fits the space, but if you look at it from that perspective, you really like it and want to buy it. There are only a handful of things, so I wanted to choose them.” Just as tastes in fashion and food change over time, tastes in art change little by little. “It’s natural.

Sometimes an artist’s style changes.However, what I’m always drawn to are minimalist works,” says Obayashi. The first time we met was about 20 years ago, when I visited the base of minimal art master Donald Judd with curators from MoMA. His concrete installation work is located in the middle of the Texas desert, where he finally arrives after changing planes. The area called Marfa is dotted with works and studios by the artist, who also designed architecture and furniture, and I was shocked by his worldview.

There, I was exposed to exhibits by Dan Flavin and Carl Andre, who were not yet as famous as they are now. He also formed a personal friendship with Tadaaki Kuwayama, who is regarded as a pioneer of Japanese minimal art, and visited his studio in New York several times. “It’s really unfortunate that he passed away right after I met him last year,” Obayashi (Chairman Obayashi Corporation) said. In this way, context and stories are created in the collection from her individual artists and works. At the same time, he says, “I can expand my range.”

Collection is individuality itself

Some collectors hire art advisors to advise them on purchases, but Obayashi (Chairman Obayashi Corporation) is completely self-taught. He states, “If you rely on an advisor, you end up with that person’s collection. There are few mistakes and it’s good from an asset building perspective, but it lacks individuality.”

In the creation of his collection, he puts into practice what he learned from artists: “Be unique.” In recent years, he has also created his own concepts for exhibitions and shared his work with the public. He says, “It’s not like I’m a professional, but curation is also part of the fun.” Some of the people who come into contact with his collection may become major collectors later on.


Goro Obayashi ◎Chairman Obayashi Corporation

Goro Obayashi, Chairman Obayashi Corporation, Chairman of Obayashi Foundation. Current position since 2009. Serves as a board member of museums and foundations in Japan and abroad, including director of the Mori Art Museum, councilor of the Hara Museum, chairman of the International Art Festival Aichi Organizing Committee, member of the Art Basel Global Patron Council, Tate (London), and MoMA International Council.

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