Little Tokyo’s New Place to be Held Up


“Theater of Life: Little Tokyo,” is among Sean D’Anconia pieces now on display at Hold Up Art. (Photos by MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

Rafu Intern

Visitors may have noted a more modern feel to Little Tokyo’s streets in recent years. Its businesses are no exception. Pedestrians may have noticed the construction of a new art gallery on Second Street. Those who haven’t are sorely missing a sumptuous feast for the eyes.

D’Anconia's “Hello Kitty, Hello London.”

The Hold Up Art gallery stands as a welcome addition to Japan Town’s retail district as a neighbor to the swank Pop Killer and American apparel clothing stores. Besides being different, it’s all about community and keeping up with the digital age for its owners and curators Brian Lee and Ben Kaufman.

“We [wanted]to create an accessible venue,” Lee said. “Something where people feel comfortable to walk into.”

Per Lee’s suggestion, this is one of the many virtues of Hold Up Art. Admission is completely free and pedestrians have the leisure of admiring their contemporary art during the waits for Little Tokyo’s crowded restaurants.

In addition to their free admittance, their use of social media aides Little Tokyoites in keeping up with their frequently shifting exhibits.

“The first thing we did was hit up Facebook,” Lee said.  “That was the only way we had to get out there. We didn’t have these circles that other galleries had to build on. So for us the inspiration was for low end media through Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.”

It’s both through their gallery and the Internet that their business lives. At the gallery, customers can purchase $20 prints and $30 signed posters as well at their online shop.

There’s no doubt that Hold Up Art has plenty to offer, but why Little Tokyo of all places?

“I didn’t want to have a gallery that was in a gallery row area,” Lee said. “Ultimately we wanted to do something different. We wanted it to seem not like a traditional, conventional gallery.”

A collection of festival photos was on display during Nisei Week.

What it all comes down to is their contribution to the community. They donated half their sales to the Nisei Foundation in conjunction with the recently concluded summer festival. Indeed, Lee and his partner, Brian Kaufman, are very much invested in Little Tokyo and they’re not shy about expressing it.

“I’m honored that [the Rafu showed interest],” Lee said. “I think locally it means something for us to be a part of that organization…for you guys to care about our business.”

Hold Up Art is located at 358 East Second St. in the Little Tokyo area of Downtown Los Angeles. (213) 221-4585. Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday, Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.