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Jars of pigments

4,200 Rare Pigments, Resplendent in a Japanese Shop


A dream for any lover of beauty, art or color, Pigment may be one of the most beautiful shops in the world.

What is color? Can it be touched? Possessed? Captured? A place in Japan, in any case, has achieved something like that. In small glass jars like magical potions, and arrayed in rows like rainbows, are more than 4,200 pigments illuminating a store called “Pigment”, at once, it’s a school, a museum and a laboratory dedicated to color. A chamber of wonders, Pigment offers a collection of pigments, along with paint brushes and artist supplies.

Created by the architect Kengo Kuma, the establishment opened in 2015 in the Shinagawa neighborhood in Tokyo where it embodies a very particular Japanese aesthetic. Walls are covered in sober wooden shelves, the ceiling with an undulating curtain of bamboo and the space itself is endowed with an organic softness and a deep elegance. Pigment is an open place, full of light, and where visitors are permitted to enjoy all the treasures amassed there.

Something of a modern alchemical laboratory, the bamboo shelves exhibit thousands of pigments, many rare and difficult to find. There are also some 200 types of brushes (for calligraphy and for painting), traditional Japanese papers (known as washi), 50 kinds of collagen glue, plus inks in solid blocks, frames and books.

Pigment is staffed by experts in color and art, and one of its purposes is as a laboratory for teaching traditional Japanese painting techniques, and the ancient Japanese art of calligraphy. The center organizes courses and workshops for teaching customers to use the materials it sells in an effort to safeguard the traditional processes and techniques that have been nearly forgotten in the modern world, (as had techniques for the production of samurai swords).

“Autumn Mystery,” “Peach Black,” and “Dragon’s Blood” are among the evocative names of colors displayed and sold at Pigment. A catalog of tonalities made into a museum, it’s a delicacy for the eyes and a celebration of the magic of color.

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