New York University President L. Jay Oliva yesterday announced a $500,000 gift from Shiseido to endow the cultural and artistic activities of New York University’s Grey Art Gallery. The gift is the largest ever to support the Gallery’s public exhibitions and education programs since the initial endowment from Abby Weed Grey that established the Gallery.
According to Dr. Oliva, “The Shiseido endowment will immeasurably enhance our ability to make art an integral part of the university experience for our students and our community.”
Founded in 1975, the Grey Art Gallery is New York University’s fine arts museum, located on historic Washington Square Park. In its exhibitions and publications, the Grey distinguishes itself by serving as a museum-laboratory, dedicated to exploring the historical, cultural, and social context of the full range of the visual arts: painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, photography, architecture, decorative arts, video, film, and performance. The Gallery is also guardian of the New York University Art Collection, which today includes approximately 6,000 objects, primarily from the late 19th and 20th centuries. The collection has particular strengths in American painting from the 1940s to the present; in 20th century European prints; and in contemporary Asian and Middle Eastern Art, represented in the Ben and Abby Weed Grey Collection.
An international cosmetics firm based in Tokyo, Shiseido has long-standing cultural ties to both New York City and New York University. Noboru Matsumoto, who became Shiseido’s Managing Director in 1917 (and became the company’s second President in 1940), was educated at NYU, where he studied marketing in the School of Business. It was also in New York City that he met his future business partner, Shinzo Fukuhara, who would become the first President of Shiseido.
“NYU is the outstanding educational institution in downtown New York, where much of the world’s artistic activity is concentrated,” stated Akira Gemma, President and CEO of Shiseido. “The Grey Art Gallery therefore plays a unique role. It exhibits and interprets the visual arts and stimulates an international dialogue in the very midst of New York’s cultural ferment. We at Shiseido are proud to offer our support to the Gallery, an institution that exemplifies the living involvement with art that is at the core of our company’s vision.”
Commenting on the receipt of the endowment, Lynn Gumpert, Director of the Grey Art Gallery, said, “The visual arts are indispensable to a university education, just as they are indispensable to the community of which NYU is a part. Through this generous gift, which will support the Grey’s programs in perpetuity, Shiseido is helping us open new paths of understanding in the visual arts, for our students and our general public alike.”
Shiseido was originally a Western-style pharmacy, the first in Japan, established in 1872 in the Ginza District, the most modern and fashionable location in Tokyo. The company was incorporated in 1927 by Shinzo Fukuhara, the son of the founder. After earning a degree in pharmacology in New York (where he formed his friendship with Noboro Matsumoto), Shinzo Fukuhara participated in the Parisian art scene during the Cubist years and became an accomplished photographer. Upon taking charge of Shiseido in 1915, Shinzo Fukuhara personally designed the company’s camellia trademark, put himself in charge of the design department (while delegating business operations to Matsumoto), and in 1919 established the Shiseido Gallery.
Now the oldest existing art gallery in Japan, open to the public free of charge, the Shiseido Gallery has presented more than three thousand exhibitions. Among the gallery’s most important activities is an annual exhibition, organized in collaboration with the Fondation Cartier, Paris, of the work of young Japanese artists living abroad. Shiseido also maintains an exhibition space within its Ginza fashion boutique, focusing on design, photography, and fashion; and the Shiseido Art House, showcasing product designs, posters, print advertisements, and commercials produced by the company, as well as a corporate collection of 1,700 paintings, sculptures, and craft objects.
Shiseido is today the world’s fourth-largest cosmetics company, with an active sales presence in some sixty countries and annual net sales of more than $5 billion. The company has done business in the United States since 1965. Shiseido’s endowment gift to the Grey Art Gallery celebrates the tenth anniversary of the establishment of Shiseido America, Incorporated, which was formed in January 1990 as a subsidiary of Shiseido Co., Ltd., as a manufacturer of prestige cosmetics, skin care products, and fine fragrances. In addition to its involvement in the contemporary arts (including poetry and dance), Shiseido focuses its philanthropy on research and scholarship in dermatology and the treatment of burns, support for forums and publications on aging and well-being, and community based social programs with an emphasis on employee volunteerism.