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Tokyo Art Bookstore Guide Vol.2 – SALT AND PEPPER


Tokyo Art Bookstore Guide is a new series where we introduce bookstores & shops that carry all types of unique art books. In vol. 2, we’ll be zoning in on SALT AND PEPPER, a gallery and shop located in Ebisu, briefly mentioned in our previous article. The designer of apparel brand VAINL ARCHIVE Kouhei Ohkita opened shop in February of this year. He holds exhibitions of artists he personally selects and also sells various art books in his shop. Moreover, he stocks his shop with “ZINES,” which are photo books or art books that are usually self-produced and printed in limited quantity, making his selection of books very rare and sought after. This time, we were able to sit down with Mr. Ohkita and Maruo Yamashita, who is in charge of stocking the shop with ZINES and other hard-to-find art books.

Left: Maruo Yamashita, Right: Kouhei Ohkita

―Could you tell us about the events leading up to the opening of SALT AND PEPPER?

Kouhei Ohkita: I’ve always loved art, and while I was designing for my brand, I would also do my own graphics, occasionally VJing on the side. But it didn’t feel right for me to use my own graphics on my designs. Back in the day when I was working for a different brand, I had the opportunity of working with London artist SHEONE and New York artist Crash, and I learned while working with them that you can create completely different things than when you’re working alone. So even with VAINL ARCHIVE, I’ve had illustrator Mr. Noritake create the brand logo and other illustrations. After that, I created a look book with this photographer named Jiro Konami, and also incorporated artwork by French artist Juliet Casella within the brand. Working on projects with them was fantastic, but I also realized that when working with different artists, it became harder to digest everything. For example, there are limits to putting artwork on clothing and selling it, and sometimes it’ll look forced or strained. But in the end, I love both art and clothing. That’s when I thought I might want to open a gallery of some sort.

―As you were working on your brand, do you think art became a bigger presence in your life?

Ohkita: Yes, I think so. But I haven’t really decided exactly what I want to do yet. It all started very vaguely. In my mind, if there is a space and you’ve figured out how to present it and can bring people in, something will happen. I want to take risks when necessary and make sure to present what I need to present.

― So SALT AND PEPPER is a completely separate project from your brand, correct?

Ohkita: Yes, exactly. If I combine the two, there is no doubt I will start focusing on the gains/losses and the profit. It just seems impossible.

― When you opened shop in February of this year, you opened a photography exhibition, correct?

Ohkita: Yes, I did. I’ve done three different exhibitions since then, and the first one was a photography exhibition by Jiro Konami and he even published a book through us. Also, we did a pop-up with the help of LA publisher Silent Sound and Maruo (Yamashita).

― How have you participated in SALT AND PEPPER, Mr. Yamashita?

Maruo Yamashita: It all started when Kouhei told me that he was going to move his agency and establish a gallery, and have ZINES at this new gallery/shop. He asked if I’d be interested in selecting and stocking the gallery with books.

Ohkita: I personally love buying art books, but I was worried that it would be one-sided if I stocked the gallery with only my selection of books. At first, we both went out in search of books and stocked them together, but I also realized this was not a good idea. So then I thought, why not have Maruo select the art books he likes and have him completely in charge? The minute I changed our stance in this, I saw more variation with our stock. I would see books that I’ve never seen before and think, ‘Where did he manage to find that?’

―― What do you think is the most interesting thing about ZINES?

Yamashita: The fact that it’s accessible is what makes it so attractive. If it’s a photography book that is professionally bound, of course the price point is going to be higher and it’s not something that could be purchased in bundles. But ZINES are more affordable and you can enjoy works by various artists.

Ohkita: I also appreciate that sometimes the pages are printed on blue paper or yellow paper, making it unique and random. Also, I think it’s fun to collect them. Kind of similar to collecting vinyl or T-shirts.

―- What kind of artwork do the both of you enjoy the most?

Ohkita: I love artwork that is easy to understand. Like fashion art, fashion photos and the like. Stefan Marx, who did the logo for SALT AND PEPPER, falls in this category – I appreciate it when the artist’s style or personality is easily visible through their work. I’ve always loved typography, kind of like when Tomato (London design team from the early 90s) came to the scene. I really like that kind of stuff. Something kind of dark, kind of surreal.

Yamashita: I definitely enjoy artwork that is easily understandable at first glance, that’s cool and has a very pop kind of feel to it. I don’t really have specific examples at the moment, though. Drawings that are influenced by graffiti. With photography, even it’s hard to recognize the photographer, I like very graphic photography that’s cool and to the point.

―― What do you see in the near future for SALT AND PEPPER?

Ohkita: Ideally, I’d love to rent a bigger space. But I also haven’t decided yet if I want to keep this space or not. Depending on the conditions I don’t mind moving to a new space, but I also don’t mind keeping the current location as well. In terms of exhibitions, I already have 3-4 artists whose works I’d like to showcase. But I also know that it’s not very good to think too much on it if I want it to come to fruition. I like for things to go according to schedule, but when it comes to international artists, it just doesn’t happen that way; however, that is what I find attractive when working with international artists.

―- Now, we’d like to introduce 6 art books from SALT AND PEPPER that Mr. Ohkita and Mr. Yamashita recommend:

1. Partition Pour Bulky by Mosa(innen/1,000JPY *without tax)

Yamashita: This book was published in 2016 by Swiss publisher innen that is very well-known in the ZINE world. This is a compilation of works by French graffiti writer Mosa (Alexandre Bavard) created solely through the art of “tagging” (a method used by graffiti writers by writing their own name or, the letters themselves). I’ve enjoyed Mosa’s tagging for quite a while, and a friend of mine introduced me to the publisher, which is how I was able to get some copies in stock. Some of the other writers in Mosa’s crew are similar in that they stray away from the generic graffiti art, which I like. ZINES with a focus on graffiti is rare to find in Japan but we have a variety of them in stock at SALT AND PEPPER.

2. Paintings by ZEBU(2,100JPY *without tax)

Yamashita: This book is like an archive compilation of painted works by Berlin artist unit ZEBU over the course of three years. Their foundation is in graffiti art, and they still do murals and wall art projects, among other things. I chose this book because I love the vivid color choices and the abstract style of the artwork. I think graffiti art is very engrained within their artistic style, as well as in Europe in general.

3. What You Call Life by Tim Coghlan(1991/2,200JPY *without tax)

Yamashita: Tim Coghlan, who is an artist residing in Melbourne, also works for the publisher Knowledge Editions. He does photography, collages, and just any kind of art you can think of. He doesn’t limit himself to just one type of art. This ZINE is a compilation of his photos published by French publisher 1991, created for an art book fair held in Melbourne. The roughness of the black and white prints brings out a really nice taste, and reflects a very cynical feel that is representative of his style.

4. Dreaming Is Heavy Metal by Grace Ahlbom(Soft Opening/4,800JPY *without tax)

Yamashita: We are planning to do a photography exhibition & sale with autographs by Grace Ahlbom here at SALT AND PEPPER on January 15th, 2019, and this is her ZINE. She created this ZINE after being inspired by black metal record shops and live performances during her travels in Northern Europe. It includes photos of her travels, as well as photos of her friends wearing black metal makeup done by her in London.

Ohkita: She’s a New Yorker, and the launch of this ZINE was held in an old bookstore in New York. I think it’s really interesting that a woman in her early twenties created something like this and is showcased it in such a formal way.

5. Time Of Nothing by Jim Mangan(Silent Sound Books/6,000JPY *without tax)

Ohkita: This is a photography book published by Silent Sound, which we mentioned earlier in the interview. I didn’t know about the photographer Jim Mangan before this, but after looking browsing through it I was hooked. There’s a photo taken from a plane overlooking the sea, and the colors and everything about it is just so abstract and beautiful. It reminds me of Tom Hingston Studio that designed the cover art for Massive Attack. I would love to exhibit his work – that’s how much I love it.

6. Looking at different things / Doing the same thing by Shin Hamada(Shiroi-Rittai/1,800JPY *without tax)

Ohkita: This is photographer Shin Hamada’s first photography book, if you consider the fact that it is the first one professionally bound as an actual book. I’ve actually known him for quite a while, maybe since 8 years ago. I’ve seen his journey up close since the days he first started out, and I would also ask him to do some work for me. I feel like he is very sensitive to the borderline between what people really are interested in and what people are not interested in. I actually realized this recently, and I think it makes him a unique person.


150-0021 Imamura Building 2F, 2-5-2 Ebisu West, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Gallery hours: 2 PM – 8 PM *Closed every Wednesday
Website http://www.sandp.tokyo/

Upcoming exhibitions:
“Grace Ahlbom Photography exhibition”(TBD)
Dates: Tuesday, January 15th 2019 ~

Music from My Eyes by Grace Ahlbom

writer: Kiwamu Omae