ARAKISS – Photographs by Nobuyoshi Araki, one of the most influential contemporary Japanese artists

Nobuyoshi Araki (*1940) is one of the most influential contemporary Japanese artists. His work attracts attention far beyond the classical photographic public, and time and again it is also a source of controversy. The exhibition ARAKISS is a cross-house exhibition with OstLicht. Galerie für Fotografie together with WestLicht. Museum for Photography in Vienna.

On the occasion of his 80th birthday, Vienna's WestLicht will be showing photographs from Araki's latest series Paradise, created in 2020, for the first time in Austria from 19 May in the exhibition ARAKISS. The large-format still lifes, in which Araki repeatedly picks up motifs from past creative periods, will be placed in the context of his publications and his work from six decades. In this way, the exhibition course illuminates recurring thematic complexes in the artist's work: the obsessive preoccupation with sexuality and death, the blending of documentary and fictional narrative, iconoclasm and Araki's confrontation with censorship.  

Untitled, from the series »Paradise«, 2020
© Nobuyoshi Araki

Untitled, from the series »Paradise«, 2020
© Nobuyoshi Araki

»Instead of photographing something that looks like a professional photograph, I want my work to feel intimate, as if someone from the subject's inner circle had photographed it«. Nobuyoshi Araki


ARAKISS also shows the development of Araki's work over a period of more than 50 years, from his first photographs through the famous Sentimental Journey series and his best-known bondage photographs to his latest project.

The exhibition was conceived in close cooperation with the Tokyo-based photographer, who has been a friend of the house and WestLicht founder Peter Coeln since his first WestLicht exhibition in 2006. "I am delighted that in our anniversary year we can dedicate this comprehensive exhibition to such an important artist and close friend of our house," says Coeln, whose photography venue, founded in 2001, is celebrating its twentieth birthday this year. "The works created for the current show from his latest series Paradise are a truly exceptional birthday present."  

The common thread of the exhibition is Araki's books, which occupy a central place in his oeuvre. Many of his masterpieces are coveted collector's items today and impressively illustrate how the medium of photography can find its congenial complement in the medium of books. With the presentation of more than 300 volumes from the OstLicht Collection, the WestLicht exhibition is the  most comprehensive retrospective to date of this oeuvre, which is unique in its scope and complexity.  

Araki conceived his books from the early 1970s, printed on the then novel Xerox copying machines and bound by hand, as a statement against the establishment. With his opus magnum Sentimental Journey, in which he documents his own honeymoon in very direct snapshots, he created one of the most important photo books of the 20th century in 1971. His autobiographical style, apostrophised as "I-photography", is echoed in the positions of Larry Clark or Nan Goldin, for example. Araki's pseudo-reportages from the 1980s onwards question the truth of photography and are more topical than ever in times of fake news. The simultaneous increase in self-staging and Araki's manically produced output make him appear as an early protagonist of today's digital photographic practices.  

Untitled, from the series »Tokyo Novelle«, 1995
© Nobuyoshi Araki
courtesy Fotosammlung OstLicht

In order to do justice to Araki's tireless artistic drive, ARAKISS has been conceived as a double exhibition in two venues. From 19 May, OstLicht Gallery will present further aspects of Araki's work to complement the WestLicht exhibition. This will include the monumental series Kinbaku Shamaki, a multi-part tableau of 53 bondage photographs painted over with acrylic, 8 metres long in total. This is Araki's largest work and, like most of the exhibits on display, is owned by the OstLicht Collection.  

The exhibitions are curated by Hisako Motoo, Fabian Knierim and Michael Kollmann and will remain open until summer 2021.  

Yayoi Kusama, 1989
Fotosammlung OstLicht
© Nobuyoshi Araki
courtesy Fotosammlung OstLicht

ARAKISS is a cross-house exhibition with OstLicht. Galerie für Fotografie together with WestLicht. Museum für Fotografie
Westbahnstraße 40, Vienna
Absberggasse 27, Vienna

Journalism and running an online magazine costs money. Our online magazine is free of advertisements – we finance our costs exclusively from donations. It is unlikely that we will become rich in this way, but that is not our intention either. We do everything out of love and dedication. We are not profit oriented. Support Tagree so that the magazine remains ad-free and the monthly costs can be paid. Yes TAGREE, I love the cultural work you do, I donate to show you my sincere appreciation:

Don`t copy text!