The Multiply Encoded Messages (MEM) was founded by Katsuya Ishida in 1997. Originally located in Shitennoji, Osaka, the gallery then moved to Esaka where it continued to operate as a private gallery of the founder. In 2003, MEM reopened as a contemporary gallery in Kitahama, Osaka. It was allocated a space on the fourth floor of the Arai Building, a registered tangible cultural property built in 1922. Later in 2003, it hosted an opening exhibition series with the three artists featuring in art shows: “Barco Negro on a table” which introduced the early work of Yasumasa Morimura; Tomoaki Ishihara’s “SCOTOMA”, featuring his sculpture of an evacuated sphere; and “HIMALAYA” that exhibited Chie Matsui’s video installation shot in the Arai Building.

Having started with exhibitions highlighting the works of prominent Kansai-region artists who were active in the 80s, the gallery continues to feature various pieces centered around contemporary art. In 2010, MEM once again changed its home from Kitahama, Osaka, to the NADiff A/P/A/R/T in Ebisu, Tokyo, where it continues to operate today. Already featuring Kansai’s long-standing artists, including Yoshio Kitayama, Kimiyo Mishima, and Yasue Kodama, with the relocation to Tokyo, the gallery expanded its line-up of artists. The younger generation were added, such as artists from the 2000s, Noriko Yamaguchi and Maki Toshima, who are known for their use of videography, as well as emerging 2010s talents, Ayano Sudo and Natsuko Tanihara. In addition, the gallery has enriched their programs focused on works by Ken Kitano, Katsumi Omori, Keizo Motoda, Charles Fréger, Antoine D’Agata, and other artists who represent contemporary photographic art in Japan and overseas. Further, on the 30th anniversary of Shigeo Gocho’s passing, the gallery organized a two-session exhibition to reflect the works by the iconic contemporary photographer. In the mid-90s, the gallery was fortunate to come across avant-garde pieces by the pre-World War II photographer, Osamu Shiihara. Prompted by this discovery, they started investigating the Tampei Photography Club, to which Shiihara belonged, along with other photography groups and individual photographers who were involved in the avant-garde photography movement before and after the war. Since then, the gallery has organized exhibitions to shed light on photographers and photography groups who made outstanding achievements throughout the history of Japanese modern photography, with special attention paid to those whose profiles remain unclarified. Some noteworthy projects include: curation of the portfolio and exhibition featuring modern prints created by Iwata Nakayama, founder of the Ashiya Camera Club in 1930; an exhibition highlighting the activities of the Naniwa Photography Club in the early post-war period; a photography collection by Shigeru Onishi who gained recognition in Europe for his abstract ink painting after it was featured in an exhibition curated by Michel Tapié; and  an exhibition introducing the Kyoto-based avant-garde photography group, KPS (Kyoto Photographers Society).

MEM’s goal is to work together with contemporary artists, providing as much assistance as possible to support their career long-term, including the creation of a space for unveiling their new artworks to the public. As well as promoting their collections to museums and public institutions, both in Japan and overseas, MEM places an emphasis on researching and publishing the collections for posterity. Archiving the artists’ collections in this way ensures they will be passed down to future generations. 

In terms of modern art collection, MEM aims to re-examine the past achievements of the artists by tracing back the footprints of their works. Each work will be investigated from the point of its creation, through to its development and transformation, considering the social context of the time, and understand its place and significance in the history of art and photography.

MEM actively participates in domestic and international art fairs, including Paris Photo, events held by the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD), and Art Basel in Hong Kong. Currently, MEM is a member of Association for the Promotion of Contemporary Art in Japan (APCA), AIPAD, the Fine-Art Photography Association (FAPA), and the Contemporary Art Dealers Association Nippon (CADAN).

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