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"Nobuyoshi Araki: Tokyo Still Life"
2002-11-20 until 2002-01-26
Helsinki City Art Museum
Helsinki City Art Museum presents key works from the production of Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki (b. 1940). Araki has gained worldwide recognition for his candidly erotic pictures vibrant with the urban lifestyle of Tokyo. The exhibition will comprise no less than 2,421 photographs by Araki.
The exhibition is one of the most extensive shows ever presented of Araki's work. The pictures are divided into eight series, the oldest of which, Satchin and his Brother Mabo (1963), consists of ten photographs and was already featured in Araki's first solo show. The most extensive of the series is Tokyo Nostalgy (1999), an enormous pictorial wall consisting of 1,831 individual photos. Most of the series are from the 1990s, including Flowers (1998), whose 40 large flower studies are perhaps the visually most impressive group in the exhibition. Along with Satchin, it is also the only coloured series in the exhibition; all the others are monochrome.
A connoisseur of urban life, Araki lives and works in Tokyo, a city he rarely leaves and to which he has dedicated his art. For Araki, photography is a lifestyle; he shoots many, sometimes even dozens of rolls of film a day. This urgency comes palpably across in the series overflowing with images documenting life in Tokyo day and night. Araki is a cult figure in Tokyo. His daily wanderings in Shinjuku, Tokyo's entertainment district with its nightclubs, strip joints and love hotels, are legendary. Araki is always accompanied by a large entourage of assistants on the walks.
Nobuyoshi Araki's art is a balancing act between the sublime and the obscene. Araki has said that he wants to occupy the middle ground between the ordinary and the unusual, on the edge where an everyday street scene may become transformed into a setting of intimate revelation. Araki's images are heir to the Japanese tradition of erotic art. They combine ecstasy and death, a passion for life and a melancholy awareness of the finiteness of life.
Nostalgi Series, 1999