Artedly: Bringing Tokyo's Creative Community Together

Tokyo's café culture is thriving. The increasing number of venues peddling hot coffee, pastries and, for some, generous work spaces, is matched only by the number of up-and-coming independent artists who manage themselves without belonging to a gallery or management. Numerous galleries and events exist to facilitate a growing art industry, but Artedly is the first to combine the two in a successful venture thanks to its active community of artists and art enthusiasts.
Arttedly connects independent artists seeking solo exhibition opportunities with cafes looking for a change in their look.

What is Artedly?

The core service that Artedly provides is the ability to match Tokyo-based cafés with digital artists and photographers. Frames are placed in these open spaces and the Artedly team manages a schedule to ensure artist's prints are showcased. To foster connection, it also hosts monthly meetups at some of the spaces it's collaborating with.

There are three benefits to this kind of partnership. Independent artists are often met with the challenge of securing their own exhibitions due to high upfront costs. Cafés and communal spaces also want to change their look while at the same time bringing in a new base of customers. Meanwhile, the art-oriented folks of Tokyo yearn for a place to meet, share ideas and hydrate amongst like-minded individuals.

"I had the idea for Artedly a few years ago," says founder Ian Rudd. "At that time, I was able to partner with several different cafés in Tokyo, just before the global pandemic hit. I decided to wait for the situation to calm down and change the approach slightly, to focus on building a community."

Artedly hosts monthly meetups at some of the spaces it's collaborating with. Check out Artedly's Instagram or Meetup group for the latest updates.

"I personally love art and wanted to invite artists to use our walls to showcase their work," says Hélène Queguiner, owner of Slow Ecolab(closed down on March 2023), one of Artedly's partnered cafés. "We are a vegan café but also importantly a community space where people can connect, make new friends and even start a new project together."

Queguiner had previously started reaching out to people but realized that it was taking up a lot of her time to coordinate. Around that same time, she was introduced to Artedly, which felt like the perfect solution for Slow Ecolab.

"We had some fans of the artist visiting or regulars who are fans being happily surprised to see their loved artist on display," she says. "What was particularly great for us was to be able to host Lisa Knight's workshop when she was on display in the café. This gave us more exposure to the creative community in Tokyo."

Helping Artists Grow

Artedly is currently in phase one of its business model where costs for frames, prints and the logistics involved are borne by their business. This means cafés and artists are not charged. A small amount is made through ticketing from the Artedly monthly meetups, which helps to cover these costs. Partnered artists are also able to sell their work as prints on the company's platform, with Artedly taking a small commission.

For cafes, this system allows them to meet new photographers and digital artists, exhibit their work, and carry it in and out, all for free.

"Artists often struggle to find the right medium of exposure," says Rui Yamashita, an Artedly partnered artist. "My brand Kangarui, which sells my printed products, supports an initiative to save the critically endangered Mountain bongos from extinction. By exhibiting my work within a large, central Tokyo-based café, Artedly helped me connect my brand to a broader network. Seeing my own work on display has certainly made me excited and motivated to become even more creative with new prints this year."

A founder Ian Rudd is usually found manning the reception at monthly meetups.

Artedly is hoping to scale up to work with more cafés within Japan. The hope is to also connect with artists from all over the world and give them the opportunity to have their very own art exhibitions in Tokyo. For this phase, Artedly would be looking to charge a management fee for its services, however, Rudd confirms that it will always be affordable. He also affirms that while his company acts as a conduit between artists and cafés, the cafés will always have the freedom to choose what goes on their walls.

"My target audience is not rich and my goal is to democratize art," says Rudd. "Exhibiting in Tokyo is a very difficult thing to do unless you are well connected or have a lot of money."

*This article was originally published on "Tokyo Weekender" (published January 17, 2023).

Interview and text by Samantha Low