Shigeo Anzai

Jannis Kounellis, The 10th Tokyo Biennale ‘70 - Between Man and Matter

1970, printed 2015

Shigeo Anzai born 1939
2 photographs, gelatin silver print on paper
Image: 232 × 225 mm
image: 180 × 260 mm
Presented anonymously 2016


This is one of a group of fifteen black and white photographs in Tate’s collection by Japanese photographer Shigeo Anzaï that document the activities and works of certain artists included in the 10th Tokyo Biennale, entitled Between Man and Matter, at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in 1970 (Tate P14404P14418). The artists whose work is represented in this group are: Christo, Jannis Kounellis, Giuseppe Penone, Richard Serra, Sol LeWitt, Daniel Buren, Klaus Rinke, Hans Haacke, Monika Baumgartl and Jiro Takamatsu. Anzaï printed the majority of these photographs in the 1970s, with a few being made as more recent editions in 2015. All the photographs are signed by Anzaï on the front and inscribed with the name of the artist whose work is shown. Some of the works are multi-part works comprising either two (Tate P14404 and P14406)) or four (Tate P14417) separate photographs presented together in one frame.

The 10th Tokyo Biennale in 1970 marked a pivotal moment in the rise of contemporary art in Japan and introduced conceptual, post-minimal and performance art from Europe, America and Japan to a wider audience. The Biennale’s commissioner, curator Nakahara Yusuke, invited forty artists to participate, with approximately two thirds coming from outside Japan. The American artists Carl Andre (born 1935) and Richard Serra (born 1939), British sculptor Barry Flanagan (born 1941), the French artist Daniel Buren (born 1938) and German artists Hans Haacke (born 1936) and Klaus Rinke (born 1939) were amongst those who travelled to Tokyo. For the Japanese artists, the Biennale provided a rare opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with their ‘Western’ contemporaries. For Anzaï, the 10th Tokyo Biennale also became his first major photographic project. Nakahara asked him to support several of the exhibiting artists, including Richard Serra, Sol LeWitt and Daniel Buren, in the production of site-specific works. Whilst assisting them, he began photographing the production process and the completed works.

The fifteen photographs in Tate’s collection fall into four categories. The first category, including two photographs of Christo (born 1935, P14408P14409), shows artists in motion, creating their works. This group includes a four-part work showing French conceptual artist Daniel Buren installing his ‘stripes’ works in Tokyo (Tate P14416). These photographs of the exhibition preparation process convey a dynamic and often collaborative atmosphere. The second category consists of photographs of works of art in-situ. These include installation shots that show a number of works in the gallery space, such as that showing work by Jiro Takamatsu (1936–1998, Tate P14405), but also close-up photographs that focus on the material and formal aesthetic of individual sculptures, such as those showing works by Sol LeWitt (1928–2007, Tate P14418), Giuseppe Penone (born 1947, Tate P14404) or Hans Haacke (Tate P14407). The third category documents artists’ performances, for example Klaus Rinke’s performance of throwing water from a bucket down the steps of the museum entrance (Tate P14413). The final category is artists’ portraits and ‘snap-shot’-like photographs taken on-site, for example the close-up portrait of Richard Serra (Tate P14412) or the shot of Monika Baumgartl which portrays her sitting on the floor, applying her lipstick (Tate P14414). The proximity of the lens to the subjects indicates an ‘insider perspective’: as part of the artist community, Anzaï was able to get physically close to the art works, artists and performances. He has described his experience of taking photographs at the Biennale as something organic: ‘Taking photographs was my natural response to my surroundings, and I was fortunate enough to own a camera. In other words, a personal connection to each artist intuitively led to the moment to press the shutter button.’ (Quoted in White Rainbow 2015, p.47.)

Anzaï began his artistic practice as a painter, moving towards photography in the late 1960s. From 1970 he began documenting artists and their work through photography, both in Japan and internationally. His photographs provide historical documentation of important works of art, major exhibitions – such as the 10th Tokyo Biennale 1970 – and avant-garde artists in their original contexts. Anzaï established himself as the foremost photographer of the Japanese art movement Mono-ha (‘The School of Things’), and a number of early Mono-ha installations by artists such as Lee Ufan, Haraguchi Noriyuki or Suga Kishio survive only through reconstructions or in Anzaï’s photographs (see, for example, Noriyuki Haraguchi, Fukagawa, Tokyo. April 23, 1978 1978 (Tate P14419). However, his images are not only important art historical documents, but also carefully composed works of art in their own right that evoke the experimental atmosphere of the cultural scene in the 1970s in Japan and beyond.

Further reading
Recording on Contemporary Art by Shigeo Anzaï 1970–1999, exhibition catalogue, National Museum of Art Osaka, November–December 2000.
Shigeo Anzaï Index, exhibition catalogue, White Rainbow, London 2015.
‘Interview: Shigeo Anzaï and Lena Fritsch’, 8 November 2016,, accessed 8 February 2018.

Lena Fritsch
April 2016, updated February 2018

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