It is great to see Yutaka Sone back on show in Tokyo, both at Maison Hermès in Ginza and a new show opening this weekend at Tokyo Opera City, curated (at Sone's insistence) by iconoclastic curator Mizuki Endo. Sone is surely the one Japanese artist of the 90s generation whose methods and output bear comparison with the leading similar Chinese artist of the era, Ai Weiwei. In case you missed it last time round, this all gives me the excuse to reprint my meeting / interview in late 2009 with Sone and his partner, the writer Min Nishihara, herself a legend of the 90s (with translation).

Yutaka Sone & Min Nishihara: LA Story


People who don’t live in LA don’t get it usually. If you arrive with ideas of the city based on New York, or Paris, or Tokyo, or even San Francisco, it is easy to be confused and disappointed. There’s no centre, there’s no single LA, and there’s no tidy tourist package trip to take it all in. One Japanese artist in fact who has captured it – the glory of LA – in white marble set in lush greenery – is Yutaka Sone (see image above, of 10/405, and below installed at MOCA LA, of 10/110 – the numbers, of course, are the freeway intersections). He lives and works in LA, with his wife Min Nishihara, a writer, who is a bit of a legend from the golden years of Tokyo pop art in the early 1990s. It’s a sunny day and I’m on way to their cute little 1920s bungalow in South Pasadena to interview her.

ロスに住んでいない者にはわからないだろう。ニューヨーク、パリ、東京、あるいはサンフランシスコといった都市を期待してロスにやってくると、驚いてがっかりするかもしれないことを。街の中心部や、ここがロスといえる場所、またパッケージ旅行として、名所全てをうまく組み込むことが出来ないのだ。日本人アーティストの曽根裕は、青々とした緑の中に設置された白大理石のセットでロスの栄光ともいえるそれをうまく表現している(画像参照。上は10/405で、下はMOCA LAに展示された10/100。番号はもちろん高速道路の号線名)。曽根は、妻の西原みん(彼女は文筆家で90年代初期に東京ポップアート全盛期のちょっとした伝説だった)と共にロサンゼルスに住み、活動の拠点としている。それはある晴れた日のこと、私は西原をインタビューするために、South Pasadenaにある彼らの小さくて可愛い1920年代のバンガローに向かっていた。

My old house in LA, no longer there

As I pull up in my rented car, I’m thinking: I used to live in a street like this. Friendly little houses, desert trees, a little scruffy and socially mixed up. LA at its suburban/urban best. Min Nishihara is waiting at the door, smiling, and she shows me in. The house is all creative chaos: there are their two teenage boys playing furiously on a video game, a little dog, at least three cats; toy collectibles, books, bits and pieces everywhere; old wooden floors and little painted rooms. Nishihara is in her mid 40s, but still dresses a bit like a Harajuku teenager. I totally love her gothic skull handbag! I’m taken out back to the garage, which is Sone’s studio. He’s at work on another big floral sculpture that will be produced in marble in China soon. He tells me a story about how a local authority first wanted it, then didn’t want it. There’s one of his monster street plants just round the corner in Pasadena.


Sone is a whirlwind of likeable, fidgety energy. A big grin and long black hair in a pony tail, he looks today almost like a native American, but you can still imagine him cross-dressing in Chanel; a huge personality. We immediately start trading Tokyo art world anecdotes. But I’m here to talk with Nishihara, so we head out to a local coffee shop. I want to hear about the late 1980s and early 1990s in Tokyo, student days and Omori nights. So many people – and especially Paul Schimmel who put me in touch – have identified Nishihara as a key – perhaps the key – intellectual figure in the coming together of the golden period of Japanese contemporary art. This was the early 1990s, and it is still playing out – nearly twenty years later – on the walls of prestigious western art institutions, such as the Tate Modern, or in the showrooms of Sothebys.


Noi Sawaragi and Midori Matsui – who came onto the scene later – tend to monopolise the art historical word regarding what happened this period. But Min Nishihara, a writer close to all the neo-pop gang, was perhaps as responsible as anyone for the cocktail of big ideas about pop, Japan, nationalism, sexuality, and Tokyo, that were eventually packaged as Superflat and Little Boy, touring the world for Westerners hoping to get a taste of “neo-Tokyo”. Now she is bringing up a family, writing still, but not about art, living a quiet life in LA. A long way from Tokyo.


They were the class of 1986 at Geidai. Takashi Murakami, Min Nishihara, Tomio Koyama, Yuko Hasegawa, Masato Nakamura, among others. Ambitious students all, looking for a concept, a set of ideas, a strategy for Japanese art, although feeling “void”. “When we met, we spent six months together, driving everywhere, going to openings, talking about plans, strategies, everything”. Art then in Japan, as elsewhere, was mostly P.C., political in a boring way. They were “political, sure” but “we didn’t really have anything to protest at” – except the residual resentment of American domination. They loved Jeff Koons, the empty but impeccable production values of postmodern art. Other Japanese artists such as Morimura, Miyajima, making their breakthrough internationally at the time, somehow didn’t have a concept in comparison – a typical “Japanese” problem in art. They were inspired by some artists, though, a little ahead of them. Taro Chiezo had already shown the way to make New York contacts and sell Japanese pop art. Noburu Tsubaki and Kodai Nakahara were developing great ideas. There was competition from Osaka: Kenji Yanobe. Murakami, still on a political path, had not yet had the cold water bath of New York as a struggling artist, where Nishihara visited him in 1994, He was still working out his new pop vision. Before New York, he rejected the idea of using “otaku” ideas to brand his products.

日本のその当時のアートは、他の国と同じように、たいていがP.C. (政治的に正しい表現)であり、それはつまらない感じの「政治的」だった。彼らは「政治的」ではあったのだが、残留するアメリカ支配に対する不満以外に

Nishihara spent all her time writing. It was the golden age of Japanese magazines. She wrote manifestos for art, reviews, feature articles, projects for artworks. With Yuko Hasegawa and Tatsuo Miyajima, she wrote for the important Atelier magazine. Unlike the boys – who were from Tokyo, but suburban – she came from the shitamachi: Sumida-ku. Her family was steeped in the old urban culture of Tokyo, but she had grown up through the endless transformations of the new city too. She travelled all over, writing about art. She went to the breakthrough Venice Biennale of 1988, witnessed the moment that the world awoke to Japanese contemporary art. She saw Documenta 8. For 3-4 years the gang were preparing their first shows. Tsuyoshi Ozawa and Makoto Aida appeared on the scene, a little younger, but live wires too, full of their own ideas. With Nakamura, Ozawa planned the Gimburart interventions that hailed back to the Hi-Red Center avant garde group of the 1960s. At Gimburart, Nishihara herself was a participating artist, writing poetry on the Ginza streets, running off with them when the police showed to break it up. Murakami was less interested in the Japanese contemporary/avant guard tradition. He was looking for something else. But they all went to Korea in 1992, and Nakamura married a Korean woman who was a close friend of Nishihara’s.


Murakami and Nishihara travelled a lot together. They went to Documenta 9 in 1992 and rated everything with a scorecard. They wanted to make their own art magazine, which was to be called Art Sex, at Murakami’s insistence. This was later to morph in to the famous, if short lived, Radium Egg magazine that was to come out of the Roentgen Institute with the new artists on its pages, and the ideas of Sawaragi, Hasegawa – and Nishihara – to the fore. They were always looking for spaces to show, always optimistic, but still feeling the “void” of being young and Japanese in the sudden post-bubble moment of the early 1990s. Locked out of the conventional cash-for-space galleries of Ginza, there was the performances at the P-House in Ebisu, one of those infamous “underworld” style locations that are such a feature of Japanese art galleries. Sawaragi, was also around all the time, as well as Tsutomu Ikeuchi, the son of a Ginza art dealer.

村上隆と西原みんは、よく一緒に旅をした。1992年、彼らはドクメンタ9を訪れ、スコアカードを使って全てに評価をつけていた。彼らは、自分達の美術雑誌を作ろうとしており、村上はそのタイトルを『アートセックス』にするように主張していた。これが後に、かの有名な『RADIUM EGG』となった。短期的ではあったが、レントゲン藝術研究所から出た新鋭アーティストの特集や、椹木、長谷川、そして西原のアイデアを前面にだした雑誌である。いつも楽観的だった彼らは、常に展覧会のスペースを探し、90年代初期の突然のポストバブルの時期に、若い日本人であることに対して「空虚」も感じていたのだ。従来の銀座の貸し画廊から締め出された、悪名高い恵比寿のP-House(「暗黒街」スタイルの場所の象徴的な画廊の1つ)でパフォーマンスが行われたりした。椹木野衣や銀座の古美術商の息子である池内務は、いつも身近にいたのだ。

Even more important perhaps was the fact they were the first generation to talk directly to international art figures. Before this role had been monopolised by “middle men” such as Fumio Nanjo. Tomio Koyama was ambitious and active at getting out and meeting directly other international gallerists. She recalls talking with Jay Jopling – Mr.White Cube and Damian Hirst’s other half – at the 1992 NICAF art fair, that had been organised by the other maverick art dealer on the scene Masami Shiraishi. No, she didn’t think that the young Japanese artists knew already about the “Freeze” scene among Goldsmiths students in the late 1980s. But there was an uncanny family resemblance with the YBAs, and Jopling immediately recognised the parallel.

おそらく、更に重要なのは、彼らが国際的な美術界の人物達と直接話をした最初の世代であったという事実だ。以前なら、南條史生といった「仲介人」が、この役を独り占めしていたのだ。小山登美夫は、直接他の国際的なギャラリスト達と交流するのに野心的かつ行動的だった。西原みんは、ジェイ・ジョプリング(White Cubeのオーナーであり、ダミアン・ハーストの相棒)と話した時のことを語ってくれた。それは、1992年に別の一匹狼的アートディーラーである白石正美が総合プロデュースしたNICAF のアートフェアであった。西原は、80年代後半に若い日本人アーティストが、ゴールドスミスの大学生達と同じように「Freeze」のシーンについて知っているとは思わなかった。しかし、そこにはYBA達との不気味なほどの類似点がみられ、ジョプリングはすぐに共通点を認識した。

It’s all a long time ago. But you can feel the excitement of this old story. She split from Murakami, and after surviving New York in 1994, he went on to fulfil his wildest ambitions, with D.O.B and all that. Yuko Hasegawa became the most important museum curator in Japan. Tomio Koyama the most important gallerist. Masato Nakamura one of the most influential art educationalists. All are huge names in the post-bubble art history of Japan, and still today. “For awhile the group was a tight fit. But we all went our separate ways”. Min Nishihara left it behind.


Sone and Nishihara moved to LA in 1999. Their boys had been born in Japan, and Sone was head hunted by Paul Schimmel to work in the famous UCLA art department. They settled down, and Sone in particular had a moment at the turn of century when his huge, immaculate yet playful sculptures were everywhere.


Why is she not more involved now? “I have been disappointed with so many younger artists”, she says. Murakami and her generation showed that you could make the art world for yourselves, even when everything else was blocking them. “We had our own way. We showed you could create a system, make money from art, from curating, or writing”. It was a also golden age for a good reason: it was a thoroughly social phenomenon. They were a group of brilliant individuals, who gelled as a group, and created a new pop phenomenon. Sociologists know a lot more about “creativity” in this sense that art curators writing in catalogues sometimes do. It doesn’t happen alone, and it doesn’t happen because of “genius”.


I’ve just read a classic of the naïve curatorial genre, by Alison Gingeras – about Murakami at the current Pop Life show at Tate Modern in London. It is a hagiography of his one man global genius. She quotes Roland Barthes writings on Japan profusely, forgetting that he also wrote books about “the death of the author”. There is no social history here, no art world background; no sense of the social environment that Murakami grew up in as an artist, the social networks and interactions out of which he came. The argument is further compromised by its lack of any critical distance. Gingeras, in fact, as director of the Pinault collection, is in charge of managing the same high priced acquisitions that she is writing about as a curator – including the possibly foolish $15 million that Pinault splashed in 2008 on My Lonesome Cowboy. Yet Min Nishihara’s story reminds us that “it took a village” – an art school, in fact, a whole group of artists, writers, friends, hangers on – to make one “Superflat”.


Yutaka Sone joins us in the kitchen when we get back. I’m still drinking my take out coffee. He laughs about the Tokyo art world, his struggles with the always tough Yuko Hasegawa. He has shows coming up in different places at the end of 2010: at Opera City and Maison Hermès. It’s a bit much having different shows at once, he says, but it will be big news. But he advises me not to focus too much on talking to curators about what is happening in Japan. “It’s on the streets – that’s much more interesting.”. They talk about one of their boys, who is apparently already producing commercial manga.

私達が戻ってきた時に曽根裕も台所にやってきた。私はまだテイクアウトしたコーヒーを飲んでいた。曽根は、東京のアート界や、常に辛口の長谷川祐子との苦闘を笑って話した。彼は、2010年の終わりに何箇所かで個展を行う事が決まっていた。 東京オペラシティアートギャラリーそしておそらくもう1つ別の場所での展覧会だ。同時に別の会場で展覧会を開催するのはちょっと多すぎるのだが、大きな話題になるだろう、と彼は言った。彼はまた、私に日本で起こっている事柄について、キュレーターと話すことを重要視しすぎないように、と忠告してくれた。

It’s time to go. ”But you are right to talk to her”, says Sone, still laughing, with big eyes. “Back then, she really made the artists, discovered them. She made it all happen”. It’s a great story.




2011/03/19 19:48



カシオ 時計
投稿元 : カシオ 時計 / 2013年06月07日21:45

投稿元 : カシオ腕時計 / 2013年06月07日21:45

投稿元 : CASIO / 2013年06月07日21:44

投稿元 : SEIKO / 2013年06月07日21:44





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