The New Relationship Between “Art and Business” Breaks Down the Growing Deadlock in Modern Society

Did you know? New York businessmen form lines for gallery talks early in the morning, while Shanghai businessmen often go to museums to get “work tips.” In Japan, an art school for working adults has opened, offering many business courses on the topic of “art and business.” Together with logical and critical thinking, what effects will artistic thinking—which is much vaunted as a “secret weapon” to break the current stalemate—have on business?

To seek out the answer, a discussion event, The City and Art Museums’ “Art meets business at the art museum,” organized by the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum (managed by Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd.) was held on September 11 in Tokyo Marunouchi.

One speaker, Takaaki Okumura, quoted the works of great men and described their ideas: “Every child is an artist. The issue is whether they can be an artist when they become adults (Picasso),” and “If we think the same way as when the problem occurred, we will be unable to solve that problem (Einstein).”

What manner of art is needed by modern society? Based on the lecture, we summarized the relationship between humans and art, not limited to business, and how our cognitive abilities are stimulated by art.


How art would change with AI, AR, and technology
Methods of artistic thinking required within changing businesses
Humanities’ intelligence continues to improve and continues to acquire “new abilities”

Takaaki Okumura
Born in Miyazaki Prefecture in 1958. Doctor in Arts. Currently a professor at the Nippon College of Physical Education. He became curator at the Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Art after serving as an elementary and junior high school teacher in Miyazaki prefecture. A scientific researcher at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for 6 years from 2005, he joined Seitoku University in 2011, becoming head of department in 2014 and assuming his current position in 2018. He wrote “Executives gather at art museums (Mitsumura Books).”

How art would change with AI, AR, and technology

Today, I will address three topics: “Social change,” “The artistic thinking required by a changing society,” and “the cognitive evolution of humanity.” My point is that the significance of art and museums within a greatly changing society is now being questioned.

First, regarding change in society, one major change is the emergence of AI. The third population intelligence boom is occurring in 2019. Using AI, we are seeking to be able to construct “human concepts” such as language, characters, image recognition, emotions, and even collaboration themselves. AI, like humans, is beginning to search for what seems to be more correct through trial and error in interactions between the “self” and the “environment / medium.”

There is a work that was sold at Christie’s, an art auction house boasting the longest history in the world. The work was titled “Edmond De Belamy.” A portrait generated using AI sold for about 48 million yen.

Its production process is interesting. It was produced using the “generative adversarial network (GAN)” algorithm, in which two networks, a “generative model,” and a “discriminative model” compete and grow.

The “generative model” drew a picture based on 15,000 items of portrait data it was provided. Meanwhile, the “discriminative model” discriminates between paintings created by AI and those created by humans. This process was repeated until the discriminative model could no longer recognize differences between the AI and human works, and this work is at the stage where it was ultimately unable to make such a judgement. In other words, the boundary between AI and humans is already almost gone.

Another topic of change in society worth noting is “5G.” It is said that almost everything in the future will change as more information can be sent and received at once. One of these is watching sports. You will be able to watch the game while changing the point of view with a full 360 degrees of freedom on the TV, as though you were moving around your favorite match venue.
In addition, by using a visual recognition system, the path of a fencing sword can be drawn as if a light were attached to its tip, invisible to the naked eye, and can be displayed in real time. Since the sword’s path becomes visible, combat becomes easy to follow. In the future, soccer and baseball swing trajectories are also likely to be visualized. If we can visualize “what we haven’t been able to recognize before” in this way, the way we watch games will change dramatically.

Sports’ spectating isn’t all that is changing. In 2017, smart glasses and AR glasses appeared. If you wear these devices, you are able to act while watching images and videos wherever you are. Moreover, it is possible to share video and voice conversations using the camera and microphone attached to these devices. In one application, surgery is performed in operating theaters while keeping an eye on the patient’s vital data. Other examples include factories and construction sites where work can be done while viewing blueprints, etc.

If smart glasses become popular, it’s likely the way we appreciate art will also change. Instead of conventional audio guides, I think we will begin wearing different devices. Looking on as a bystander, one might complain that I’m simply monologuing, but in fact I appreciate art while sharing vision and discussing with various other people. How will the future arrive?

Similar technology has already been achieved, and I hear there is an art museum in which one is guided by an AR Dali. At the Dali Museum in Florida, Dali will not only attend to art viewers in the role of a guide, but when you take a commemorative photo together with the AR Dali, the photos are automatically sent to the device in the viewer’s hand.

▲Dali Art Museum Guide Video

In this way, the development of technology is frighteningly fast. Perhaps, in the future, there will arrive a time when we say, “there was the iPhone.” In fact, in January of this year, the founder of Baidu said, “smartphones will disappear within the next 20 years.” The iPhone arrived on the market just 10 years ago. No-one would have imagined that so many people would own a smartphone today.

What’s more, by 2029, it might be possible for the grandchildren to talk to me in 3D similar to that in a science-fiction movie. If the timing is bad, I can imagine a future where I can work the device with my gaze, saying, “I’m sorry, I’m giving a lecture right now” and end the call.

Methods of artistic thinking required within changing businesses

The world will change rapidly with the development of this kind of technology. Existing business models will collapse in an instant, and industries will be reorganized, so artistic values will likely be emphasized. The author of “Art predicts the route of capitalism (PHP Shinsho)” and President and Representative Director of the Tokyo Gallery, Toyotsu Yamamoto, said, “the less useful an object is, the more valuable it is.”

Art also has an aspect as a tool for thought. The shift in thinking methods that have been gathering attention shifted long ago from logical thinking to design thinking. Artistic thinking, has emerged more recently.

In 2018, a book was published entitled “Renaissance of Renaissance Thinking” (Nir Hindi), and what was written within was “what are companies now expecting from art?” To observe and interpret things from various angles,” “to connect things thought to be unconnected,” “to create new ideas,” “to image differently to other people,” and “to create new fields and link them to business.” Various strengths related to this artistic thinking are now being sought at the forefront of business.

While a tangent, there is data from a survey of businessmen in various countries about “the purpose of visiting art galleries.” In Shanghai, many answered, “to seek business tips.” On the other hand, many in Japan responded, “to change my mood.” I think we can see that overseas businessmen come into contact with art more positively and with a sense of purpose.

It was during a survey in Europe in 2013 that I personally felt the changing of the times. After returning to Japan, I hurriedly compiled the book “Executives gather at art galleries” (Mitsumura Library). Why has the British Royal College of Art begun art training for the executives of global companies? Why do New York businessmen line up early in the morning at the Museum of Modern Art to listen to gallery talks? The reason is obvious when you watch children observe art at a gallery. This is because children improve their logical thinking and creative abilities through art appreciation.

▲ Author’s book “Executives gather at art galleries” (Mitsumura Books) Image

People move fast in the business world. Soon after I published my book, I received a request from NewsPicks to cover it, so I decided to create an art special with Diamond Weekly. Moreover, in 2017, the book “Why the world elite trains in aesthetics” (Shu Yamaguchi) became a bestseller. In the book, today is an era of the “restoration of aesthetics,” and its claim that “art appreciation enhances the ‘power to see,'” is explained with many references to business cases.

In 2018, several books bridging art and business were released, and in 2019 the business-side approach increased further. Amidst which, the response to business-oriented workshops put on by the Tokyo National Museum of Contemporary Art was great. Although the fee to participate was 20,000 yen, the tickets sold out overnight.

Musashino Art University opened its Institute of Innovation in 2019 at which career personnel from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and corporate executives have enrolled in succession. Recently, the topic of “Thinking about art x business” has also been picked up by public servant exam study groups.

From the perspective of investment, a member of the Agency for Cultural Affairs describes the global art market as covering about 7 trillion yen and expanding about 1 trillion yen in Japan in the future. To that extent, the value of the art market is increasing. To give an example, when I was employed at the Miyazaki Prefecture Museum of Art, owned by the museum, “The Reality of Sense” (Rene Magritto) was valued at the time at 270 million yen. Today, you could not buy it even with 2.7 billion yen. As the market expands, more companies than ever are promoting art-related sponsorship and business development, and the art industry is expected to acquire new high-net worth customers.

Humanities’ intelligence continues to improve and continues to acquire “new abilities”

Next is “human cognitive evolution.” This is a talk on how in the future human resources with new capabilities will continue to emerge in the future. Human intelligence basically continues to rise, and modern-day people are considered to be more intelligent than those from 30 years ago. Reasons for this include “the development of visual culture” through TV, movies, photography, etc., “the evolution of tools” such as personal computers, “improved nutrition,” “economic development and globalization,” and “educational developments.”

Let me give you an example of changes in cognitive ability. In 1972, the photographer Tomatsu Shoumei took a picture of an elderly woman living on a remote island in Okinawa. When Shoumei went to give the developed photo to the elderly woman, she seemed to view her photo upside down.

She was probably born in the 1880s. There were no cameras, TVs, or movies in this era. Our perception varies greatly depending on how we spend our childhoods. For this reason, she couldn’t immediately perceive her form in the photo. From this example, we can see that photos are “do not transcribe how things are, but how they are read.”

Educational institutions are a system of cognitive evolution that arose at the same time as the industrial revolution. At the time, the teaching of “factual knowledge” was prioritized. In other words, these were “unchanging facts,” such as the names of eras from history, the periodic table of elements, and physical formulas. It was the generation now in their sixties—like myself—that fought armed only with this kind of knowledge.

However, even for the same “knowledge,” our “knowledge” and that of the youth is completely different. Generations who have been educated with new curriculums different from ours can combine fragmentary facts, form hypotheses, and perceive the world.

In this way, I would like to prove that the knowledge and cognitive ability of each generation has increased alongside changes in the expression of comics. There is a comic, “Norakuru” (Tagawa Suihou) that my father’s generation read.

“Norakuro’s” position in the comic segments hardly changes. One story develops in the same scene like in a picture-card show. However, the direction changes in “Tetsujin 28” (Yokoyama Mitsuteru) which my generation read.

Unlike the earlier “Norakuro,” film techniques such as close-ups were used in “Tetsujin 28.” If you consider whether the hero is reflected in the first panel, the enemy robot will be depicted in the next frame. The viewpoint changes dramatically when distant views are drawn or when the facial expressions of the characters are shown in close-up.

Incidentally, my father—who was used to “Norakuro”—could not read “Tetsujin 28.” It seemed little wonder when he saw me reading those comics and asked, “are you really reading?” My father would be 90-years-old were he still alive, but my cognitive abilities are very different from my father’s. However, I can no longer read the recent hit, “One Piece” (Oda Eiichirou).

There is a frame that shows the protagonist attacking the enemy from the side. In the next panel, the angle moves to directly behind the enemy, and the protagonist appears far away. Moreover, in the following panel, the angle changes to one directly above the protagonist. I don’t follow, “where the characters always are; If the angle is down? Or if it is up?” I cannot recognize who is positioned where.

I once asked a person who can read One Piece. “How do you read it?” I asked. He then told me that “the protagonist and the enemy are fighting, read by switching perspectives between three camera positions.” However, I am unable to do this. In this way, the expression used in comics evolves to match the cognitive abilities of each generation.

Furthermore, evolution of tools evolves human cognitive abilities. Can you calculate 343×822 without using tools? Even if you can’t get the answer, you should be able to use paper and a pen or pencil. In this way, humans are unable to think or perceive without tools. The evolution of tools is also the evolution of physicality and cognition. In the past, no means of communication had been established besides meeting people face-to-face. However, today there are phones and smartphones, and these smartphones are equipped with various tools such as calculators, audio players, and notepads. In the near future, smartphones will also likely be replaced, and further changes in our cognition will occur.

As exemplified by the examples of the evolution of comics and devices, today’s children live in a world very different from ours. They will continue to under cognitive evolution beyond our own capabilities and will possess diverse values. This slide shows a picture drawn by a 5-year old.

▲Quote: Study! and art “How to view children’s drawings – From the practice of the Tagawa Drawing Exhibition” 2018.12.10

This is a picture of a humpback bridge in a forest, but the people and the surrounding scenery are drawn as if looking down from a drone. There is a forest to the back, and the humpback bridge is on a river crossing the foreground where people are walking. In the past, most pictures of humpback bridges were two-dimensional, seen from the side, but cases of children drawing these kinds of three-dimensional pictures have suddenly appeared in recent years.

The world they see is different from ours. New forms of education that they may receive, such as design thinking and STEM education, have already begun the development of new abilities.

STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics—refers to education that adds art to the traditional fields of education. They think about things critically, apply technology and engineering, and take a creative approach to tackling the problems present in real-world society. More specifically, they will be able to use design principles to propose solutions to as-yet unsolved problems.

Just what kind of children will grow up in the future? It’s good in conventional art appreciation to end with the impression that it was beautiful. In recent years, however, we have entered an age and society that considers, “Where and why is it beautiful?”

The coming era will require intelligence and sensibility to create new meaning and value. That role is required of art. Art does not seek a correct answer. It resets brain states and engages with dialogue on the shape, subject, color, and context of various objects. To convey “something” felt about the subject of appreciation, words will not come forth unless we draw information from the work, organize it, and assemble it logically. Furthermore, when viewing as a group, communication with other people will occur, so establishing areas of comparison, analogy, examination, and analysis and bringing a leap in problem solving and creative abilities. In this way, art appreciation is an act of mobilizing your own sensory knowledge.

However, does art only aim for creativity that differentiates and rewards individuals. The question being asked around the world in regard to art and business is whether each individual can become a creator of society. To achieve a society where individuals’ emergent ways of life and diverse and pluralistic identities are mutually recognized, practices are required going beyond simple “art” and “business” to yield new individuals and a new society.


・Through the development of technologies such as AI, 5G, and VR, various experiences, including art appreciation, will change.
・Various capabilities related to art thinking such as “creating new fields and linking them to business” are required at the forefront of business.
・Art is gathering attention on the business side, and various companies are promoting sponsorship projects and business development relating to art.
・Knowledge and cognitive abilities are increasing with each generation, and this becomes clear when looking at the evolution of comics and devices.
・In the future, the intelligence and sensibility to create new meaning and values will become necessary, and that role is required of art.

Planning:Yohei Azakami
Desk Checking:BrightLogg,inc.
Editing:Gaku Suzuki
Writing:Yuria Koizumi
Photography:Nobuhiro Toya