BankART 1929: Then and Now
BankART 1929 is a Yokohama City project designed to revitalize the heart of the city by utilizing refurbished historical city buildings for the development of contemporary culture and the arts. The Yokohama City Government covers the utilities and provides rent-free use of the renovated properties that now form the two wings of BankART 1929. The central space, informally known as BankART, occupies the former Daiichi Bank building, while the other, BankART Studio NYK, is housed in a defunct warehouse of the Japanese shipping company, Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK). Together these spaces comprise 3,000 m2. The City of Yokohama also underwrites the approximate ¥65,000,000 (US$600,000) in annual expenditures for facility operations, janitorial services, security and staffing. BankART at least matches this sum through its own revenues and co-administers the two spaces in conjunction with Yokohama City. Between BankART’s two spaces there are ten permanent staff and approximately another ten people who serve as interim and part-time staff. With the initial two-year experimental program now behind us, BankART has expanded into full-scale projects. I would like to document what has been accomplished thus far and where BankART is headed.
The Concepts Behind BankART 1929
i. origin of the BankART name
Bank + ART. A neologism for a former bank building transformed for cultural and arts activities. 1929 refers to the year in which the Daiichi Bank building was completed in Yokohama, as well as, the year in which New York’s Museum of Modern Art was founded. The year 1929 is also symbolic in that it mark the year in
which world panic struck after the stock market crashed and the presence of art became all the more critical in these grim economic times.
ii. new possibilities for public-private partnerships
Because BankART is a public institution in some measure, it strives to ensure access to all citizens. At the same time, its for-profit sector allows it the independence to advance its own groundbreaking projects. In this way, BankART seeks to establish a new model of public and private partnership. Most significant to this model is the active exchange among members on our promotional board. Composed of independent advisors, the committee meets once a month onsite at BankART. It also convenes periodically for more informal meetings at outside venues with representatives both from BankART and the City of Yokohama.
iii. instrument for city building
BankART’s investment in culture and the arts is not intended as art for art’s sake, but rather culture and the arts for the purpose of city building. It is, in other words, an instrument for city building. The City of Yokohama has offered BankART the freedom to use this instrument well.
iv. high degree of freedom
BankART 1929 maintains independence within the private sector from its revenues drawn from the rental of various arts spaces, tuition fees from BankART’s school, sales at its pub and café and other ventures. Recently, we have been actively engaged in coordination work as a for-profit enterprise outside of BankART.
v. work in progress
Our management decision to open the entire BankART space within 45 days meant that both its hard and soft sides were still in process. Opening for business with few facilities in place, the pub, shop and school have developed into smooth operations through the input of various individuals and specialists. It is common knowledge that the human infant is born the most immature of all mammals, and indeed like an infant, BankART was born immature and has been instilled with a diversity of knowledge and power along the way.
vi. catcher not the pitcher
While BankART naturally highlights its own projects, it is extremely important to BankART’s civic role to take into account proposals from citizens, artists and others, and to the extent possible, assist in their coordination. No proposal that is pitched to BankART is rejected outright and no proposal is returned, providing it is feasible. We maintain an open-door policy and make sure that the exit door is a narrow one.
vii. flex space
Given that the historic Daiichi Bank building was not expressly designed for the arts, from the start the BankART space had almost no capacity for events and exhibitions. We modified the structure by installing a reception desk, a wall structure measuring 2.8 x 3.6 x .7 meters, theater lighting and a sound system, all of which are mobile, for the various space requirements of art, dance and other forms of artistic expression.
viii. flex time
In practice, the BankART space is open round the clock year round. This flexibility allows for all-night events as well as opens the space for commercial use, such as for magazine shoots, which helps to circumvent overlapping with BankART’s normal hours of operation. Like the Japanese convenience store that utilizes expensive real estate in the heart of the city for its vigorous business, BankART too has naturally evolved toward high-density usage of its space.