Shigeo Anzai

Noriyuki Haraguchi, Fukagawa, Tokyo, April 23, 1978

1978, printed 1978–90

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Shigeo Anzai 1939 – 2020
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Image: 138 × 170 mm
Presented anonymously 2016


This black and white photograph by Japanese photographer Anzaï Shigeo documents a work of art by Japanese sculptor and installation artist Noriyuki Haraguchi (born 1946). As the title indicates, it was taken in Fukagawa, a historic district of Tokyo, on 23 April 1978. The print was made by the artist at some point between 1978 and 1990 and is signed and inscribed by Anzaï on the front. It shows one of the early oil-pool installations for which Haraguchi became known and is one of many photographs taken by Anzaï that document ephemeral installations created by artists associated with the Japanese art movement Mono-ha (‘The School of Things’). Haraguchi made his first oil pool for documenta 6, Kassel in 1977, and has since built numerous oil pools. The work consists of a rectangular steel frame, serving as a container for highly reflective, opaque waste oil. Anzaï photographed the oil pool within its environmental context: outside, next to a river and a large scaffolding-like steel architecture. Not only are the oil pools site-specific works, their shiny surfaces also reflect the forms and conditions of their location. Thus the steel grids reflected in the dark oil become a major part of both Haraguchi’s sculpture and Anzaï’s photograph.

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 (a group of such photographs is in Tate’s collection; see Tate P14404P14418). 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. However, his images are not only important art historical documents, but also carefully composed works of art in their own right that evoke the experimental atmosphere of the cultural scene in the 1970s in Japan and beyond.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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