Since its inception in 1994, Ota Fine Arts has always been at the forefront of promoting East Asian art and artists, with a particular focus on Japanese contemporary art. Operating galleries in Tokyo, Singapore, and Shanghai, their newest addition in Shanghai is situated in the vibrant Rockbund area. This area seamlessly combines the charm of historic buildings with modern architectural marvels. To transform the 350 square meter ground floor space of a new mixed-use tower, Neri&Hu have been entrusted with the task of revamping it.
Parallel to the historic Yuanmingyuan road, the east façade of the gallery is positioned alongside an alleyway and faces a row of beautifully restored Art Deco buildings. As visitors approach the gallery, they are greeted with a striking contrast between the old and the new, capturing the essence of contemporary Shanghai. The façade of the gallery is framed with weathered steel, incorporating sections of solid metal and large glass panels that serve as display vitrines. Behind the glass, the interior is adorned with handmade ivory tiles arranged in a subtle woven pattern, providing a neutral backdrop for the showcased art pieces.
The entrance to the gallery is marked by an oversized sliding door, which, when opened, reveals an inset niche that leads visitors into the gallery space. Outside of operating hours, the door slides back into its original position, allowing the vitrine display to be visible once again. On the secondary west side of the gallery, designated for vehicle access and the arrival of large artworks, a fluted glass façade illuminates the adjacent Rockbund courtyard in the evening. Occupying half of the façade’s width, an even wider warehouse-sized door can be fully opened using a custom-designed handle, showcasing an elegant simplicity and practicality.
Internally, the gallery space is divided into two zones: the main public viewing gallery spanning 150 square meters, and the private zone comprising VIP rooms and office space. Given the linear layout of the project, the primary design challenge was to effectively utilize the areas along the façade for both storage and display purposes, blurring the boundaries between functional and experiential spaces. This deliberate emphasis on the threshold condition found on both facades defines the visitor’s arrival sequence and guides their journey within the gallery.
The VIP areas consist of pristine white chambers adorned with modern furniture, aiming to establish a serene atmosphere that allows the highlighted artwork to be the focal point. The project’s design philosophy revolves around the contrast between traditional and contemporary, rough and polished, and mundane and extraordinary, all presented through a subtle selection of materials. Neri&Hu aspires for individuals to not only admire the extraordinary allure of contemporary art but also find beauty in the ordinary aspects of life.