Tim Blum during an opening in Tokyo. Courtesy BLUM Los Angeles, Tokyo, New York. Photo: Masayuki Saito.
The art world is a dynamic and ever-evolving industry, and few individuals have witnessed its transformation as closely as Tim Blum. With a career spanning three decades, Blum has been at the forefront of the art business, co-founding the influential gallery Blum & Poe in Los Angeles back in 1994. Now, as the gallery celebrates its 30th anniversary, Blum reflects on the journey that led him to this milestone.
The Early Years: Blum & Poe
In 1994, after spending five years in Japan, Tim Blum returned to Los Angeles with a vision in mind. He wanted to open a gallery that represented a global group of artists, with a particular focus on artists from Japan and Los Angeles. Thus, Blum & Poe was born, with Tim Blum and Jeff Poe as co-founders.
Blum & Poe quickly established itself as a prominent player in the art scene, showcasing the works of both local and international artists. The gallery became known for its commitment to pushing boundaries and promoting diverse artistic voices. Over the years, Blum & Poe played a significant role in shaping the contemporary art landscape, contributing to the cultural exchange between Japan and the United States.
The Evolution of Blum & Poe
Since its inception, Blum & Poe has witnessed numerous changes, both within the gallery itself and in the broader art world. As the world became more interconnected and information more accessible, the gallery adapted and evolved alongside these developments. Blum & Poe’s global outlook and commitment to representing artists from various backgrounds have remained steadfast throughout the years.
In 2023, the gallery underwent a significant transformation. Jeff Poe stepped back, leading to the renaming of the gallery as BLUM. This change marked not a departure from the gallery’s roots, but rather a return to its core values and a reaffirmation of its mission. BLUM continues to thrive as a platform for groundbreaking artistic expressions and as a bridge between cultures.
BLUM’s 30th Anniversary Exhibition: Thirty Years of Art
To celebrate its 30th anniversary, BLUM presents a milestone exhibition titled “Thirty Years: Written with a Splash of Blood.” Co-curated by Tim Blum and Japanese art historian Mika Yoshitake, the exhibition offers a comprehensive survey of Japanese art from the 1960s to the present day. It showcases the works of key artists from important art movements, including Gutai, Mono-ha, and Superflat.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is Yukinori Yanagi’s “Study for American Art — Three Flags” (2019). This thought-provoking piece deconstructs Jasper Johns’ iconic “Three Flags” (1958) by using ants to burrow through painted sand. Yoshitake emphasizes that Yanagi’s work challenges the Euro-American narrative of Pop Art and questions the outdated role of political and cultural nationalism on the international stage.
Yukinori Yanagi, Study for American Art-Three Flags (2019). Ants, coloured sand and plastic box, 81.3 x 121.9 cm. (C) YANAGI STUDIO. Courtesy the artist and BLUM Los Angeles, Tokyo, New York. Photo: Jeff McClane.
Another captivating piece featured in the exhibition is Yoshitomo Nara’s “Ennui Head” (2020). This 1.3-meter-tall urethane on bronze sculpture showcases Nara’s signature style, with its emotional ambiguity and juxtaposition of vulnerability and strength. The piece, with its gouged eyes and soft yet solid appearance, captivates the viewer and invites contemplation.
The Significance of Japanese Art
The decision to focus on Japanese art for BLUM’s 30th anniversary exhibition is rooted in Tim Blum’s personal journey and his deep connection to Japan. Having spent a significant portion of his life in Japan, Blum’s relationship with the country extends beyond the art world. It encompasses literature, music, film, architecture, and design.
Blum’s early encounter with the works of Yukio Mishima, a renowned Japanese author, played a pivotal role in shaping his interest in Japan. Mishima’s writing inspired Blum’s move to Japan and ignited his passion for the country’s culture. The exhibition’s title, “Thirty Years: Written with a Splash of Blood,” is taken from Mishima’s 1969 novel, “Runaway Horses,” adding a layer of depth and personal significance to the show.
A Moment of Reflection and Growth
BLUM’s 30th anniversary exhibition serves as a moment of reflection and growth for both Tim Blum and the gallery. It acknowledges the rich history of the gallery’s relationship with Japan, which spans four decades. It is a story that Blum feels compelled to tell at this particular juncture, as it represents a crucial part of his personal and professional journey.
The exhibition not only showcases the diversity and innovation of Japanese art but also pays tribute to the vibrant art movements that have emerged from the country. From the avant-garde experiments of Gutai to the contemplative minimalism of Mono-ha and the playful aesthetic of Superflat, BLUM’s exhibition provides a comprehensive overview of Japan’s artistic contributions.
Looking Ahead: A Continuing Commitment
As BLUM celebrates its 30th anniversary, Tim Blum’s commitment to promoting artistic exchange and fostering cultural understanding remains unwavering. The gallery’s future is marked by ongoing collaborations with artists from around the world and a dedication to showcasing compelling and thought-provoking works.
In the fall, BLUM’s anniversary exhibition will travel to New York, further expanding its reach and impact. This continued expansion reflects Blum’s vision of creating a global platform for artists and establishing meaningful connections between different artistic communities.
Kishio Suga, For the Side Corners, event staged at the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, February 24, 1976. (C) Kishio Suga. Courtesy the artist and BLUM Los Angeles, Tokyo, New York.
Tim Blum’s journey through 30 years in the art business is a testament to the power of art in transcending borders and bridging cultures. From the founding of Blum & Poe to the transformation of BLUM, Blum’s unwavering commitment to promoting artistic diversity and fostering dialogues between different artistic communities has shaped the gallery’s legacy.
BLUM’s 30th anniversary exhibition not only celebrates the gallery’s rich history but also pays homage to the vibrant and innovative Japanese art scene. By showcasing the works of key artists from important art movements, the exhibition invites viewers to explore the diverse and thought-provoking world of Japanese art.
As BLUM looks ahead to the future, Tim Blum’s vision of creating a global platform for artists continues to guide the gallery’s trajectory. With ongoing collaborations and an unwavering commitment to artistic excellence, BLUM is poised to make an enduring impact on the art world for years to come.
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