UPDATE: BEAMS Tokyo CULTuART now available outside of Japan!
If you wanted to sum up your city in one room without making it cluttered, what would you put in there? This is precisely the challenge that TOKYO CULTuART, a new project and shop from BEAMS in Harajuku, is taking on since its opening two weeks ago.
While their main business is design and apparel (ranging from casual to business to t-shirts), culture is also a valuable commodity, a point not lost on BEAMS RECORDS. CULTuArt is in the culture business, taking the best of Tokyo’s art and design scenes and letting it all play together, regardless of medium or genre.
Recently we were lucky enough to spend some time with Nagai-san, the General Manager of CULTuART and a mainstay at BEAMS for over two decades. According to Nagai, CULTuART is an aggregator of urban Tokyo, bringing its many faces and artists into one place that acts as both retail outlet and museum.
From the Gundam figures of Akihabara to design books and prints found in Ueno, CULTuART spans the urban landscape of modern Made in Japan, shows it to the world, and makes it available to the masses all at once. The contents reflect the tastes of modern Japanese, but also those of its curator who values a piece’s cultural and aesthetic qualities at once.
The shop is decidedly down-to-earth in its sensibilities, but that doesn’t mean it comes with a small price tag. While Modoka Morikawa’s Peloqoon stuffed figures can go for around $150, one-of-a-kind pieces like the Doraemon stained-glass lamp from Pucci (seen in the slideshow) can exceed $7000. This is surely the nature of bringing in the best of the best, and makes it a great stop for both foreign and local visitors to get a solid overview of Tokyo culture and design in a very pop-culture kind of way.
Technology certainly has its place in CULTuART’s space as well. Aside from multiple Mac models open for use, they’ve also created a special browser-based application for iPhone and iPod Touch devices. Each item has its own number which, when clicked on, brings up detailed information about the piece and its artist in both Japanese and English. If you have one of the devices yourself, click here to browse on your own, and check out pieces like MODERHYTHM’s very cool CHUBU 01, pictured below.
Gadget-less customers can get loaners to use during their browsing time, but Nagai-san notes that devices integrated with the shopping experience are going to expand even more in the coming years, incorporating RFID and other technologies to better provide interactive information about the displays.
For the next step in its evolution, CULTuART is expanding to bring the best of Tokyo to other major cities around the world, though they haven’t made any firm plans yet as to where they’ll be going. Since they’re interested in spreading culture, a unique or unusual location (in our opinion anyway) would be far more interesting than the usual suspects.
However, the concept can work both ways as well, as many Japanese are increasingly travel-minded and appreciative of other cultures. TOKYO CULTuART would be interesting in Brooklyn, but how about a BROOKLYN CULTuART version in Paris or Cairo?
To visit for yourself, click for a map from Harajuku Station.