By Yumi Imai
BankART Gallery is a multi-use art, event, school and community space that is at the epicenter of the Yokohama art scene. The Yokohama municipal government provides the historic shipping warehouse building to the arts organization rent-free. The space is designed to evoke the feeling of a bustling train station, which is enhanced by its proximity to Bashamichii station and a prime spot along Yokohama’s historic shipping and transportation corridor.
I love open, urban spaces and the exposed brick, concrete, and duct-work of this 1929 warehouse is an example of a renovation that preserves the essence of this historic space, while repurposing it for its current function as an exhibition space, performance center, and educational institution. Some contemporary features include modernist track lighting and stenciled steel peek-a-boo shelving in the reception area and the café/bar.
In the reception area art gallery, large format photography, pop-art pieces, and metal animal wall sculptures in relief appeared deceptively furry to the degree that it was hard to keep from touching them for further assessment. I know that I’ve only just scratched the surface of this living, breathing entity called BankART. There is much more to discover.
The art gallery is free of charge, and the cafe and pub are affordable with the goal of being accessible to the public. In addition to the money they receive from the city (65,000,000 JPY in annual operating costs plus rent and utilities) they try to match those funds by keeping the space available 24 hours for commercial use, such as fashion shoots and galas. Various dance and stage shows happen at the BankART Studio, NYK, which also help support the space and keeps things feeling vibrant. The day we visited there was an “in the round” performance in the theater space(3800 yen). The art students staffing the performance even offered to add two additional chairs for us to the sold out show.
Instead we shopped in the amazing bookstore with a dizzying array of art books ranging from beautiful coffee table pieces to academic treatises, and then retired to the café for a drink and snack. Cocktails, beer, and snacks in the pub are 350 yen, and they have an English menu. For imported or custom bottled micro-brew, you can expect to pay 400-600 yen, a real steal. BankART has partnerships with Atsugi Brewery and sells their custom labeled Hachey honey beer, and Yokohama Brewing likewise bottles and labels their “Pervrt” IPA for the café. The pate was lovely, and the green curry bowl (550 yen) was to die for. Though tempted by the IPA, I chose a thirst quenching Moscow Mule.
There is ample outdoor seating; visit at night and take in the view of the Minato Mirai skyline. Couples get cozy at the interesting seating along the canal, or there's plenty of space on the patio for a group to congregate.
BankART Studio NYK reminds me of the ultra-urban PS1, a project undertaken by MOMA and New York City to revitalize the first NYC Public School into a community arts and events space. It’s one of my favorite places to visit in NYC and I can say that the BankART Gallery NYK now has the honor of a regular Yokohama haunt as well.
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Hailing from Portland Oregon, I am a recent transplant to Zama, Japan here in Kanagawa. Having worked for a high school international exchange organization for close to 8 years, I'm inspired by all things intercultural and love to travel! When in a new country I am like a sponge, absorbing as much cultural nuisance and norm as possible.Though I leave room for spontaneity during an outing or trip, I utterly enjoy doing advanced research; reading reviews of hotels, restaurants and sites to visit. I'm involved with Japan Tourist because I'd like to share my observations and recommendations with locals and travelers alike.