The chairman of the Obayashi Corporation, a Japanese construction conglomerate founded in 1892 by his great-great-grandfather, Takeo Obayashi is known in the art world for commissioning a Tadao Ando–designed space in Tokyo called the Yu-un Guesthouse. (Yu-un translates to “a place where people gather and broaden friendships through art and culture,” which captures the ethos of the space.) From the outside, it looks like a large glass box. And, “the building has few or no windows looking out onto the street, only interior windows, letting muted light from the glass facade in to the space,” a visitor from OEN has written. Its interior is designed as a grid divided by a single diagonal line; living quarters comprise the first two floors while the basement is dedicated to exhibition spaces for his 780-strong collection of contemporary art.
“I find a lot of sentimental value in … my collection because there are many stories through [the] acquisition process of those works,” Obayashi told ARTnews. At the tranquil Yu-un Guesthouse visitors can see works by an international medley of artists like Daniel Buren, Tracey Emin, Mike Kelley, Yayoi Kusama, and Marc Quinn, as well as site-specific installations by figures such as Olafur Eliasson, Lee Bul, Gabriel Orozco, and Tokujin Yoshioka. Its basement galleries play host to a few solo exhibitions each year. His collection began with the desire to decorate his company’s corporate offices, but he found the process, in particular conversations with artists, “invigorating,” he’s said. Obayashi is particularly fond of young Japanese painters. In 2010, he told Artinfo, “There is so much talent, and nobody is really paying much attention to it.” His efforts have helped to change that.