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b. 1940, Japan

Nobuyoshi Araki Biography

Nobuyoshi Araki is one of the most well-known figures of Japanese photography. His provocative output depicts both banal and deeply intimate subjects ranging from flowers and Tokyo street scenes to women's bodies, kinbaku-bi bondage, and his own biographical accounts. Araki's irreverence and preoccupation with sexually explicit content have frequently ignited controversy, yet he remains a celebrity in his native Japan, having published over 500 photobooks.

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Araki was born in Tokyo in 1940 and graduated from Chiba University in 1963 with a major in photography and film. He entered the field as a commercial photographer for the advertising firm Dentsu, pursuing his own artistic interests in his spare time. Around this period he began photographing local children in the Shitamachi neighbourhood of Tokyo—a run-down area that had largely escaped the urban reinvigoration of the city in the lead-up to the 1964 Olympics. s. Nobuyoshi Araki's photography series 'Satchin' (1964), which depicted the boisterous antics of children playing against the backdrop of pre-war apartment blocks, was later chosen for the Taiyo Award.

Growing increasingly dissatisfied with the limitations of his job, Araki began interacting with the creative proponents of Provoke magazine, including Daido Moriyama, identifying with the movement's rebellious spirit, although he objected to its self-serious nature.

In the late 1960s, two pivotal events occurred that would deeply influence Nobuyoshi Araki's photograph: the death of his father in 1967 and the meeting of his future wife, Yoko Aoki, in 1968. The dual themes of death and love are central to the artist's works. In 1971, he began documenting his honeymoon with Yoko—both its mundane and erotic moments.

He developed an autobiographical, deeply personal narrative mode of image-making, which he termed 'I-photography' (shi-shashin) in response to the 'I-novel' (shi-shōsetsu)—a confessional genre that dominated Japanese literature in the 20th century. The result was Nobuyoshi Araki's Sentimental Journey (1971), regarded by some as one of the most important Japanese photobooks of the 20th century.

Araki's unwavering vision and obsession with his own experiences—both sexual and otherwise—ran counter to the documentary impulse of post-war Japan, as well as the avantgarde aesthetics of the Provoke movement. His Pseudo-Reportage photobook (1980), which paired black and white images of female boxers and sex club scenes with dates related to the atomic bombings of WWII, pointed to the highly subjective nature of photography.

Nobuyoshi Araki's eroticised nudes, for which he is most infamous, violated Japanese prohibitions against the depiction of pubic hair, yet also contributed to the loosening of censorship laws upon photographers. He later movingly photographed his wife's battle with ovarian cancer and eventual death in 1990.

In 2008, Nobuyoshi Araki drew parallels between photography's decline and his diagnosis with cancer. In 2014, he staged Love on the Left Eye, which erased the right side of his photographs reflecting the blindness in his right eye. Araki is a recipient of the Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and Arts (2008) and the 54th Mainichi Art Award (2012).

Nobuyoshi Araki Selected Solo Exhibitions include:

Araki, Musée National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet, Paris (2016); Nobuyoshi Araki Photobook Exhibition: Arākī, IZU PHOTO MUSEUM, Shizuoka (2012); NOBUYOSHI ARAKI: Self, Life, Death, The Barbican Art Gallery, London (2005); Hana-Jinsei, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (2003); Tokyo Still Life, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2001); Tokyo Comedy, Wiener Secession, Vienna (1997); Journal intime, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris (1995).

Amy Weng | Ocula | 2021

Nobuyoshi Araki Featured Artworks

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Shijyo Tokyo by Nobuyoshi Araki contemporary artwork
Nobuyoshi ArakiShijyo Tokyo, 1996RP Direct print
40 x 60 cm
Taka Ishii Gallery Contact Gallery
Painting Flower by Nobuyoshi Araki contemporary artwork
Nobuyoshi ArakiPainting Flower, 2004RP Direct print
40 x 60 cm
Taka Ishii Gallery Contact Gallery
Theater of Love by Nobuyoshi Araki contemporary artwork
Nobuyoshi ArakiTheater of Love, c. 1965Gelatin silver print
16.4 x 12.1 cm
Taka Ishii Gallery Contact Gallery
It Was Once Paradise by Nobuyoshi Araki contemporary artwork
Nobuyoshi ArakiIt Was Once Paradise, 2011silver gelatin print and c-print
80 x 50 cm
Reflex Amsterdam Contact Gallery
Kaori by Nobuyoshi Araki contemporary artwork
Nobuyoshi ArakiKaori, 2001-2008c-print
60 x 90 cm
Sold
Reflex Amsterdam
Photographoary: Photo-Mad Old Man A Turning 77 on 5.25.17 by Nobuyoshi Araki contemporary artwork
Nobuyoshi ArakiPhotographoary: Photo-Mad Old Man A Turning 77 on 5.25.17, 2017Gelatin silver print
11.2 x 16.9 cm
Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film Contact Gallery
Photographoary: Photo-Mad Old Man A Turning 77 on 5.25.17 by Nobuyoshi Araki contemporary artwork
Nobuyoshi ArakiPhotographoary: Photo-Mad Old Man A Turning 77 on 5.25.17, 2017RP-Pro Crystal print
40.5 x 30.1 cm
Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film Contact Gallery
Untitled by Nobuyoshi Araki contemporary artwork
Nobuyoshi ArakiUntitled, 2007B&W chromogenic print
19 x 28 cm
ShanghART Contact Gallery

Nobuyoshi Araki Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Nobuyoshi Araki, Flower Rondeau at SHOP Taka Ishii Gallery, SHOP Taka Ishii Gallery, Hong Kong
Closed
21 November 2019–19 January 2020 Nobuyoshi Araki Flower Rondeau SHOP Taka Ishii GallerySHOP Taka Ishii Gallery, Hong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Taka Ishii Gallery 25th Anniversary: Survived! at Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo
Closed
25 June–27 July 2019 Group Exhibition Taka Ishii Gallery 25th Anniversary: Survived! Taka Ishii GalleryTokyo
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Taka Ishii Gallery 25th Anniversary: Survived! at Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film, Photography / Film, Tokyo
Closed
25 June–27 July 2019 Group Exhibition Taka Ishii Gallery 25th Anniversary: Survived! Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / FilmPhotography / Film, Tokyo

Nobuyoshi Araki Represented By

Reflex Amsterdam contemporary art gallery in Amsterdam, Netherlands Reflex Amsterdam Amsterdam
Taka Ishii Gallery contemporary art gallery in Tokyo, Japan Taka Ishii Gallery Tokyo, Hong Kong

Nobuyoshi Araki In Ocula Magazine

Berlin, Boners and Brecht Ocula Feature Berlin, Boners and Brecht By Diana d'Arenberg, Berlin

Apparently my timing sucks. One week too late for Berlin Gallery Weekend, and one month too early for the Berlin Biennale. ‘You should have been here last weekend for Berlin Gallery Weekend!’ a Berliner friend exclaimed. ‘Everyone was having orgies at Soho House! It was the best art world networking!’ I shifted...

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Japan Focus: Three Tokyo Exhibitions Ocula Feature Japan Focus: Three Tokyo Exhibitions By Becca Voelcker, Tokyo

I walk along Tokyo’s Ginza shopping street towards the basement art gallery of Shiseido’s store, where three series of recent works by renowned Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki are on display in Nobuyoshi Araki Ōjō Shashū: Photography for the Afterlife — EasternSky.  It’s one of those autumn days when the...

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Stephen Mccoubrey Ocula Conversation Stephen Mccoubrey

With an extraordinary collection of paintings, photographs, drawings, sculptures and video by some of the world’s major artists from 1960 onwards, UBS is recognized as having one of the most important corporate collections of contemporary art in the world.  Stephen McCoubrey has been co-curator of that collection since 1999 and is...

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Nobuyoshi Araki In Related Press

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How Ed van der Elsken Influenced Other Artists Related Press How Ed van der Elsken Influenced Other Artists 3 March 2017, The New York Times

Ed van der Elsken may not have become a household name, but his art has influenced a broad range of photographers, filmmakers and other contemporary artists. Here are three who expressed a direct connection to his art. Nan Goldin The contemporary American photographer Nan Goldin, known for her deeply personal snapshot-like portraits, and her...

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'Masters of Japanese Photography': Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts Related Press 'Masters of Japanese Photography': Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts 22 February 2017, ArtAsiaPacific

Photographs by three of Japan's most prolific living artists from the 20th century were recently on view in Masters of Japanese Photography, at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (SCVA) in Norwich, England. This was the first time Nobuyoshi Araki, Eikoh Hosoe and Kikuji Kawada had their works displayed in the east of England, although all three...

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Tokyo: photogenic to its very core Related Press Tokyo: photogenic to its very core 14 December 2016, The Japan Times

With Tokyo being the object of so many excellent photographers’ interest over the last 150 odd years, it’s entirely legitimate that the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum should be bringing it home. What’s on display in the first exhibition, displayed on the third floor, is a selection from the museum’s world-class permanent...

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Eros, Life and Death: The photography of Japan's Nobuyoshi Araki at Musée Guimet, Paris Related Press Eros, Life and Death: The photography of Japan's Nobuyoshi Araki at Musée Guimet, Paris 19 August 2016, Art Radar Journal

With over 400 photographs taken between 1965 and 2016, Araki  is one of the most important and comprehensive surveys dedicated to the influential Japanese photographer. Launched on 13 April,  Araki  runs at the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques–Guimet (MNAAG) in Paris until 5 September 2016, and marks one of the major...

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