Yuri Yureeka Yasuda is the founder of Tokyo Art Office, an art consultancy firm inspiring a new generation of collectors. With an intimate knowledge of contemporary art and a vast network of experienced collectors and dealers, her work style is rooted in balancing vision, inspiring fun, and building lasting relationships. In addition, she is a certified tea sommelier and launched her organic sake and matcha brand SAYURI, after closing her successful M&A of Wonderlily – an import company focused on luxury brands with distribution locations across Japan. We spoke to Yureeka about her beginnings in the art world, the Japanese art scene and her career advice.
What first got you interested in art?
I was naturally exposed to a lot of art growing up as my father has been an art dealer based in New York for over 30 years now. While establishing a career for myself in Tokyo in the F&B sector it was always my active passion to fly to art fairs and learn about new artists first-handedly. Respectively I found great comfort and connection with the network of friends I made in the art world. And with their nudge, I started writing about contemporary art, began collecting, and eventually started advising private collectors and projects.
What gave you the idea to start the Tokyo Art Office?
Opportunity. It was a natural progression as opportunity kept presenting itself. As Japan is often considered a closed-off society, accessing key individuals and information is not always easy. Whether it be arranging an artist studio visit or booking the best sushi restaurant, I found myself facilitating a lot. With my unique position of being multicultural, it took my liaising further. I did not want to become a concierge service though, so I made sure to accept work only from art and culture related clients. It started with advising for international galleries, then an art fund, a membership club, a cultural retail space, and so forth.
Who are the Japanese artists we should have on our radar?
I wish I had many names but sadly, Japan Is not as progressive as the Southeast asian or Chinese contemporary art scene. I have been a big supporter of Yukimasa Ida – he has the skills as well as the ambition to make it on the international stage. I discovered an emerging female talent with a very strong painterly aesthetics at a student art competition recently too named Etsu Egami. And of course, the more established artists like Tomo Gokita and Kuwata Takuro are always great to add to any collection.
Who are your art world’s heroes?
It’s not a specific person, but I can say Naoshima Art Site has had a profound impact on how I view and appreciate art. This island is in a state of utopia – where art, architecture, and nature are immersed together so perfectly, that everything is brought to its full potential. It brings perspective and shines light on how art can really transcend reality. So I have a deep respect for Japanese founder/owner, Soichiro Fukutake, a true visionary to have made this possible.
What advice would you give to young women wanting to start a career in the art world?
Start as early as possible. Nurture the eye through visiting galleries, art fairs, museums (and art sites even better), invest time to make encounters with artists and collectors, and always allow yourself the freedom to form your own opinion. The exchange of ideas and often radical viewpoints is what makes working in the art world exciting. Professionally – how well you manage time, human relationships, and remaining a pleasant person in general is extremely important. At the end of the day – it’s the people that define this industry, and deals have to be win-win.
How do you stay grounded while tackling so much?
The secret is in a cup of really good tea. It can solve a moment’s stress and work wonders. I took this year to finally launch one of my lifeworks – SAYURI TEAS – a sustainable Japanese organic green tea and matcha brand – with the founding principle of promoting “the art of everyday”. I wanted to make quality tea more accessible, and to share my daily tea ritual – a natural remedy for a healthier body and calmer mind.
What are your next projects?
Up until the pandemic, my lifestyle was a weekly flight booked for a good few months straight – but now, it’s become tricky to plan even a week in advance! I’m keeping positive though, and planning a solo show for British artist Tomo Campbell for fall 2021 in Asia, as well as keeping an eye out for Japanese and nordic artists to showcase at the Pantechnicon in London. I’m also immersing myself in the Latin American contemporary art scene which I feel has so much talent and promise.
What are your plans and hopes for the future?
I believe more than ever, art will play a bigger role in keeping our sanity and creativity alive. It brings emotion, connection, and reminds us of the human touch during these uncertain often solitary times. With #WFH and all the “new normals” in life, I hope to inspire a fresh generation of collectors from Japan by encouraging more art into their lives.
Photographer: Alejo del Villar
Stylist: Paulina Barragan
Location: Eduardo Sarabia studio, Guadalajara