Japan-born Hikari Yokoyama cuts a classically stylish figure as she strides into London’s National Portrait Gallery to catch up on the much-debated Claude Cahun and Gillian Wearing exhibition, in which both artists explore gender and identity. “I’ve been meaning to get here ever since Rachel Feinstein introduced me to Cahun’s work,” says Yokoyama, an unconscious name-drop that delicately reminds you how well-connected she is.
Yokoyama is one of the art world’s most mesmerizing multi-hyphenates. She cut her teeth at Deitch Projects in New York, then in London more recently, she helped found online digital auction platform Paddle 8. As an art consultant and creative director, she has contributed to art projects such as Miu Miu’s pop-up club in London and Tiffany & Co. x Outset Studiomakers Prize, which, as she describes, “reinvests in the cultural capital in which we all operate” by nurturing a new generation of artists graduating from London’s top art schools at a formative time in their careers. An outward looking, thoughtful approach characterizes her project choices which is what will make her latest project for New York’s Spring Place, a new members club and co-working space, so scintillating.
“I’m like the Wizard of Oz, pulling the strings from behind the curtain,” she explains of her orchestration of events from across the Atlantic. So far, Yokoyama’s program has successfully created what she describes as “one of a kind, New York moments.” Take artist David Shrigley’s single-note musical sculptures that were played by Sonic Youth’s Lee Mark Ranaldo and Brian Chase of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. There is also a supper club where David Byrne has talked about his musical and where architect Bjarke Ingels gave a talk hosted by New Museum Deputy Director Karen Wong and independent curator Nicola Vassell. The list goes on, with Jefferson Hack, David Adjaye and Anton Corbijn in the pipeline. “We’re focusing on the global traveler passing through town, and curating stimulating collaborations to build a community,” explains Yokoyama. There is a plan to open an equivalent club in London, too.
A life immersed in the art world helps conjure such ideas. She explains that exhausting as the art world treadmill can be—Yokoyama’s boyfriend is Jay Jopling, who founded London’s White Cube gallery—she finds there are certain art world fixtures she can’t resist, and never misses, like the Venice Biennale.
A revealing anecdote is how a portrait of Yokoyama came into existence. “It happened in a very 21st century way—on a Skype call with my best friend. When my image froze, he took a pixelated screen grab, which I then uploaded as my Facebook profile picture. Fast forward a few months and a curator friend from Norway sent me an email with a link to Kathy Grayson‘s blog,” explains Yokoyama, who coincidentally had interned for Grayson at Deitch Projects in New York years before. “I then went to New York to a group show that Vito Schnabel had curated, and saw for the first time that Kathy had made a portrait of me from that image. (Grayson had randomly found that pixelated image and independently made her painting). It now sits on my mantle.”
There’s a serendipity to this story that makes total sense when you see how skilled Yokoyama is at connecting the dots of the art world, whether she is programing live events for the members of Spring Place, or formulating her next project on the intersection of fashion and art. One thing is certain, her position as a valued figurehead in the fast-changing art world is secure.