There’s something naturally appealing about walking into a green forest and even more so when it guides you down a path to a place that is just as wildly inspirational.
The place I’m writing about is Gallerie Momogusa – the gallery and café of Masanobu Ando and Akiko Ando, his wife, propped in the middle of lush green woods in Tajimi, Japan. This was the setting that welcomed us as we entered a very special day in the life of the lauded ceramic artisan.
Gallerie Momogusa opened in 1998 after Ando-san found a traditional tea ceremony house from the 19th century and converted it to a gallery. The remarkable remodel of the teahouse is a topic onto itself but once inside the gallery, it’s hard for pottery lovers like us to concentrate on anything but the tables and tables full of beautiful ceramic works. We also loved perusing through a massive shelf of classic rock and funk CDs Masanobu Ando has been collecting.
Some works are sculptural in nature while others represent Ando-san’s more functional wares. Still both exist to give us a full scope of his career in ceramics over the past few decades. They also make clear to us that his goal is not just to produce tableware but also to express his philosophy of life, which the artisan touches upon in his exhibition statement for our upcoming show, Shaping the Void.
As our exhibition draws near, this visit feels more relevant than ever as it was the first time Ando-san showed us one of his tea ceremony setups in his tea room. Since we’ll be preparing a Chinese tea ceremony demonstration on opening night, images from this visit to Gallerie Momogusa reminds us of all the components that are involved in a traditional tea ceremony. For example, water selection and temperature, necessary tools, ambiance and technique. All these elements have to come together to create a harmonious experience. The nuanced manner in which Tea Masters combine the elements is what makes each ceremony uniquely their own.
After exploring the many rooms at Gallerie Momogusa including Akiko Ando’s textiles and apparel room, and the café, we pile into Ando-san’s Mercedes Turbo Wagon and he drives us to his studio where all the magic happens.
At the studio, we meet Ando-san’s dog Chico, see some of his tools, large-scale works in progress, and check out his office, again full of hundreds of CDs – there Ando-san spends long hours exploring new ideas for vessels while listening to one of many album options. For our visit, Ando-san turns up the speakers full blast to James Taylor and talks to us in depth about his techniques and his career – which we will soon share in a separate interview conducted by our writer and contributor, Aya Nihei.
With the exhibition around the corner, we cannot wait to welcome Ando-san to New York to show a growing base of collectors and enthusiasts outside of Japan such a beautiful collection in person. When I think about what Ando-san’s ceramics does, its about achieving pieces one can cherish in everyday moments – the perfect teacup for gatherings, a favourite dish for morning cereal, or a charming fruit bowl for the dining room table – there is no better medium then ceramics to accomplish this feeling and no one who does it quite as meaningfully as Masanobu Ando.
Photos by Armando Rafael Moutela