Design & Decoration S04 ep18 : Gregg Baker, Baker Japenese Print, [London]
Interview with Gregg Baker
The Gallery's main focus is on antique Japanese paper screens carrying the largest stock in Europe. We also offer a range of Buddhist art, dating from the Heian period (782-1184) onward. Other works of art include metalwork, lacquer, cloisonné, scrolls and scholar's objects not only from Japan but also selected works from China and Korea. We have been a strong supporter of Asian Art in London since its inception in 1997, holding a themed exhibition in the autumn of each year. In an effort to raise awareness of Japanese art, we give gallery talks to clients and to students from both SOAS and the British Museum which is always a great pleasure. Patrick Berko 19th century and early 20th century European paintings
I lived there since I was 12 years old. It was anything I could afford. My first love was art Nouveau. I got a job at Christie’s at 17
and while I was there I started viewing all the auctions studying, doing whatever I could to educate myself. The Japanese art at
the time was relatively cheap and accessible. The root of art Nouveau comes from Japan.
You could start Clint, Shelly, all the impressionists, Monet. Van Gough actually was quoted in his memoirs as saying “Every piece
of my art has a piece of Japanese art in it”. People just don’t give Japanese art anything like the credit it’s due.
1985 was my first shop. 1986 I bought my first screen and realized there was nobody in Europe doing screens properly.
I became a complete Japan-ophile in my early 20s. I was desperate to get to Japan. I did all kind of things to save money. I did
whatever I could to get there. Having got there I made some friends. By then at the auction at one point in my life to go back
and live there for about a year. Working at a coffee shop in the ski village, it was heaven. So there I was learning all about Japan,
its culture, enjoying skiing and getting the language under my belt, purely to learn about Japanese and Japanese art. Slowly as I
developed, so that my taste developed, as my understanding of Japanese art developed, the screens became my main focus.
Everything in Japan is about the senses. Be it touch, sight, sound and smell. I actually did a catalogue some years ago called
“Empire Of The Senses”. The whole thing was focused at trying to portray how in-touch the Japanese are with their day-to-day
living off the senses.
Most screens date from the late 1600s through to the late 20thcentury.
I just had a decorator here a second ago. I cultured him on a couple of things. And his actual comment in being a New York
decorator was “Well you have a lot in the bank but” this was his exact term “You can get the nice decorative screen for anything
as low as £4000 -£5000 and my top level screens are up to a million dollars.
The important thing about the screens is subject matter Initially,then it's artist, then date and then of course condition. What a
lot of people have trouble, with is that the very good important Japanese screens aren’t fine, or at least not a lot of them.It's
not necessarily the artist that you attribute it to. It’s more like the school and the style of painting. Of course, if it’s then
attributed to an artist, the value goes up again.
They’re two major schools. One is Carlisle, one is Tulsa. There’s another school called Hasikawa. All of whom had major painters
within them. HasikawaToweki would be one of them. Tohaku Onagu, they all seems to take a lineage name. So Hasikawa Toweki
inaudible [11:11], Tohaku that’s how the schools work.
The art business there is very different to the west. It is about spending 10 years going backwards and forwards slowly buying
things and creating a relationship with the people you deal with.
I was at an auction in Washington and it was a really good collection that had come to market. One person obviously spent a lot
of time and effort putting these pieces together there. And in that collection was a pair of screens. It was very much appealing of
my career. I had very little money, in those days I got to buying trip with $5,000. I called home and said I don’t how I’m going to
do this but I’m buying these screen that were going to cost , plus whatever I can get my hands on in the auction. I ended up
spending every penny I had and more. I bought the pair of screens for $10,000 which to me at that time was equivalent to half a
house basically. I sold them within a year for £180,000. That said something to me that was a fairly big message from the gods
that Greg you should be doing Japanese screens.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Gregg Baker, Baker Japanese Print, London