Yasumasa Morimura

born 1951


Yasumasa Morimura (森村 泰昌, Morimura Yasumasa, born June 11, 1951) is a contemporary Japanese performance and appropriation artist whose work encompasses photography, film, and live performance. He is known for his reinterpretation of recognizable artworks and figures from art history, history, and mass media through his adoption of personas that transcend national, ethnic, gendered, and racial boundaries. Across his photographic and performative series, Morimura’s works explore a number of interconnected themes, including: the nature of identity and its ability to undergo change, postcolonialism, authorship, and the Western view of Japan – and Asia, more broadly – as feminine.

Originally intent on channeling his creative energy into black-and-white still life photography, Morimura struggled to ascertain his identity and decided to visualize this inner struggle through self-portraiture. In 1985, Portrait (Van Gogh), marked the first of dozens of self-portraits Morimura completed in which he adopted the role of established artists, major historical figures, celebrated popular culture icons, and identifiable subjects from well-known artworks.

Since the 1980s, Morimura’s artistic process entails a rigorous system in which he transforms his entire body into a nearly identical replica of his designated subject through elaborate costumes, makeup, props, and set designs. Once digital photography and computer editing software became more accessible and refined in the late-1990s, Morimura’s works demonstrate greater visual complexity in his manipulation of composition, lighting, and the number of figures he portrays within a single artwork.

For the last two and a half decades, Morimura has brought his personas to life in short video, film, and live performances in which he expresses their thoughts through movement and scripted monologues.

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