Born in 1974 in Tokyo, Japan
Lives and works in Kyoto, Japan


Chiho Aoshima started her art practice in the 1990s, rising to prominence with the international debut of her masterful, digitally rendered work in the acclaimed Superflat exhibition held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 2001.

A self-taught artist and an early member of the Japanese art collective Kaikai Kiki, she began working in Adobe Illustrator before expanding into traditional mediums namely drawing, watercolor and, more recently, ceramics. Otherworldly figures and dream-like landscapes depicting child-like spirits, anthropomorphic flora, fauna and even skyscrapers, feature in Aoshima’s works.

Distinctly feminine and spiritual, the worlds and their inhabitants Aoshima has created are built on the natural world, playful and often humorous, belying melancholy and darkness. This duality is to be found in other characteristic themes — utopia/dystopia, nature/technology, natural/artificial — through which she explores ideas relating to the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Deeply influenced by Japanese religious and cultural beliefs, her work is rooted in Shintoism, folklore and art historical traditions, which she interprets in a contemporary context to express her views on the future, humankind’s coexistence with nature, and the realities of our rapidly changing world.

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Born in 1974 in Tokyo, Japan
Graduated from Department of Economics, Hosei University, Tokyo, Japan

solo shows

- Emptinesses, Perrotin, Paris, France

- Nocturnal Ballads, Perrotin, Shanghai, China

- "Our Tears Shall Fly Off into Outer Space", Perrotin, Hong Kong

- "Chiho Aoshima: City Glow", Washington State University Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, WA, USA

- "Chiho Aoshima: Takaamanohara", Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado College, CO, USA

- "Rebirth of the World", Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
- "Rebirth of the World", Kaikai Kiki Pop-Up Gallery, Kyoto, Japan

- "Rebirth of the World", Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA, USA

- "Chiho Aoshima: City Glow", Museum of the Moving Image, New York, NY, USA

- "Kawaii ! Horror and Seduction", Foundation Joan Miró, Barcelona, Spain

- Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France
- "Chiho Aoshima: City Glow", Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, USA

- "As we died, we began to regain our spirit", Artspace Residency Program, San Antonio, USA
- "Chiho Aoshima: The Divine Gas", lobby installation for new building, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA, USA
- "Chiho Aoshima", BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK
- "Chiho Aoshima", Musée d’Art Contemporain, Lyon, France
- "City Glow, Mountain Whisper", Gloucester Road Subway Station installation, Platform for Art, London, UK

- "Asleep, Dreaming of Reptilian Glory", Blum & Poe Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, USA
- "MTA Subway Poster Design", Public Art Fund, New York, NY, USA
- "City Glow and Paradise", Union Square Subway Station Installation, Public Art Fund and Japan Society, New York, NY, USA
- "DoCoMo Kyūshū Ad Campaign", NTT DoCoMo, Kyūshū and Okinawa, Japan

- Collaboration with Patrick Demarchelier for the May issue of Harper’s Bazaar magazine
- Opening of the gallery in Miami, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Miami, FL, USA 
- Extension Gallery Opening, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France

- Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France
- "MACROMATRIX: For your pleasure", UC Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA, USA
- Collaboration with Naoki Takizawa for Issey Miyake, Tokyo, Japan

- Blum & Poe Gallery, Santa Monica, CA, USA

- Collaboration with Naoki Takizawa for Issey Miyake, Tokyo, Japan

group shows

- AU BOUT DE MES RÊVES, Lille3000, Lille, France
- "Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence”, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA

- "Healing", Perrotin, Shanghai, China
- "GEIBI KAKUSHIN (Aesthetic Innovation on Japanese Ceramic Art)", Perrotin Matignon, Paris, France

- “Healing”, Perrotin, Paris, France
- "Healing", Galerie Perrotin, Seoul, South Korea

- "Japan Supernatural", Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

- "Bubblewrap", Contemporary Art Museum Kumamoto, Kumamoto, Japan 

- "Juxtapoz x Superflat", Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada

- "Theatrical Gestures", Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, Israel

- "Kyoto-Tokyo: From Samurais to Mangas", Grimaldi Forum, Monaco

- "Sacred Monsters: Everyday Animism in Contemporary Japanese Art and Anime", Tufts University Art Galleries, Medford, MA, USA
- "The Very Bottom Of The Air", Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
- "VRAOUM", La Maison Rouge, Paris, France
- "Wonderland through the Looking Glass", Kunsthal KAdE, Amersfoort, Netherlands
- "Pretty is as Pretty Does", Film screening, Site Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM, USA

- "Aya - Chiho Drive", Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
- "Psychedelic: Optical and Visionary Art since the 1960s", San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX, USA
- "Krazy! Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art", Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada
- "Re-Imagining Asia", Haus der Kulturen der Welt: The House of World Cultures (HKW), Berlin, Germany
- "Kaikai Kiki Artists", Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
- "The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality, and the Moving Image", Smithsonian Institution, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, WA, USA

- Kaikai Kiki Exhibition, Aoi Gallery, Osaka, Japan
- "City Glow", Nuit Blanche Toronto, Toronto, Canada
- 6th Mercosur Biennial, Porto Alegre, Brazil
- "Red Hot: Asian Art Today from the Chaney Family Collection", Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, USA
- "Land of the Samurai", Aberdeen Art Gallery, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK
- "Disorder in the House", Vanhaerents Art Collection, Brussels, Belgium
- "MCA Exposed: Defining Moments in Photography", 1967-2007, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, IL, USA
- "Like Color in Pictures", Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO, USA

- "Banquet: A Feast for the Senses", Pacific Art Museum, Pasadena, CA, USA
- "TBA" Mizuho Oshiro Gallery, Kagoshima, Japan 
- "Human Land", Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, Lille, France
- "Spank the Monkey", BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK
- "Berlin-Tokyo, Tokyo-Berlin", Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany
- Starkwhite Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand; Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand
- "Painting Codes", Galleria Comunale d’Arte Contemporanea, Rome, Italy
- "Il Diavolo del Focolare", Plazzo della Triennale, Milano, Italy
- "See Into Liquid", Contemporary Art Museum of Denver, Denver, CO, USA
- "Rising Sun", Melting Moon, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
- "POPulance", Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, NC, USA
- "Roppongi Hills Show", Tokyo, Japan
- Walker Center installation, MN, USA
- "International Artist-in-Residence: New Works 06.3", Artspace, San Antonio, TX, USA
- "Twogether", 34 Long Fine Arts, Cape Town, South Africa

- "See into liquid" curated by Cydney Payton, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO, USA
- "Variations on the Picturesque", Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
- "Kaikai Kiki exhibition", Aoi Gallery, Osaka, Japan
- "Ecstasy: In & About Altered States" curated by Paul Schimmel, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA, USA
- "POPulance", Blaffer Gallery, Museum of Art of the University of Houston, Houston, TX; Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH; Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Salem, NC, USA
- "Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture" curated by Takashi Murakami, Japan Society, New York, NY, USA
- "What’s Good Conference", Lecture, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong, Japan
- Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France

- Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Miami, FL, USA
- "Mysterious" curated by Dominic Molon, Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, Palm Beach, CA, USA
- "54th Carnegie International 2004-05", Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
- "T-Junction", Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France
- "Fiction Love: Ultra New Vision in Contemporary Art", Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, Taiwan 
- "Eijanaika! Yes Future!" Lambert Collection, Avignon, France
- "Art Unlimited", Basel Art Fair, Basel, Switzerland
- "Lonely Planet", Art Tower Mito, Ibaragi, Japan
- "Tokyo Girls Bravo", Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, NY, USA
- Chiho Aoshima, Mr., Aya Takano, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin at LFL Gallery, New York, NY, USA
- "Little Boy : The Arts of Japan's Exploding Pop Culture", Japan Society, New York, NY, USA

- "Hope—The Future is in Our Hands", LAFORET Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan 
- "For the Record: Drawing Contemporary Life", Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada
- "Splat, Boom, Pow! The Influence of Comics in Contemporary Art" curated by Valerie Cassel, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX, USA
- "The Mythical Being of Desire: Chiho Aoshima, Shirin Neshat, Shazia Shikander", Glass Curtain Gallery, Columbia College, Chicago, IL, USA
- "MACROMATRIX: For your pleasure", UC Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA, USA
- "SAM Collects: Contemporary Art Project", Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA, USA
- Asprey Jacques, London, UK

- Art Basel Miami, FL, USA
- FIAC, Paris, France             
- "Tokyo Girls Bravo 2", NADiff, Tokyo, Japan
- Chiho Aoshima, Aya Takano, Mr., Takashi Murakami, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France
- "Coloriage", Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, France 
- "Liverpool Biennial 2002", Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, UK 

- "Superflat", Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA, USA
- "Yokai Festival", Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
- "Hiropon Show" curated by Takashi Murakami, Museum of Contemporary Art of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan               
- "Hiropon Show", White Cube Gallery, Shinsaibashi PARCO, Osaka, Japan

- "Superflat", Tokyo and Parco Gallery, Nagoya, Japan

- "Hiropon 32-80" at NADiff, Tokyo, Japan and George’s, Los Angeles, CA, USA
- "Tokyo Girls Bravo", NADiff, Tokyo and Parco Gallery, Nagoya, Japan

public collections

- Ackland Art Museum, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
- Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
- Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN, USA
- Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL, USA
- Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA, USA
- Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA, USA

  • November 1, 2020
    Artco — 2 PAGES

  • October 1, 2020
    Cans — 2 PAGES

  • October 1, 2020
    Hong Kong Tatler — 8 PAGES

  • December 1, 2008
    Whitewall China — 1 PAGE

  • December 1, 2008
    Whitewall China — 16 PAGES

"Encounter with a skull"

by Kathy Siegel

Text from the exhibition catalogue of the "Chiho Aoshima" exhibition at the Musée d'Art Contemporain, Lyon, FRANCE in 2006.

Walking around New York City for the past year or so, it has been impossible to escape the specter of the skull. It appears on T-shirts, of course - the billboard for rock groups and antiauthoritarian leanings - but also silk scarves and wingtip shoes, the uniforms of ladies and gentlemen not usually associted with heavy metal music or gothic longings. This deadly pall cast over recent fashion is to a certain extend just that, fashion. But fashion is never "just" that - just an aside - and there is something to the appeal of the skull, which belongs to a constellation of dark moody beliefs, symbols, and vague feelings that permeate cultural moment.
I was thinking about these skulls the other day while looking at Chiho Aoshima's beautiful print, A Contented Skull, 2003. In this picture, an enormous skull sits in a graveyard, and an ornemental, blossoming tree grows through, up and around the form, its branches spreading and twisting accross a brilliant blue sky. At one edge of the image, a large mysterious female figure slumps against the skull, her hair entwined with and indistinguishable from the branches, as if she were growing out of the tree. On the other side of the skull, a small figure, a human girl (perhaps a stand-in for the artist) contemplates the scene. As a hip, gilded image of death, A Contented Skull intersects with international fashion. It also is specifically Japanese : the decorative flowered branches mirror the meandering composition of Japanese scrolls, the skull imagery recalls a famous print by ukiyo-e master Kuniyoshi, in which a demon takes the form of a giant skeleton, as well as a 1970's children's cartoon which ended every week in a skeleton mushroom cloud. The content of the picture - like so much of Aoshima's work - similarly reflects the intertwining of global realities and Japanese history and sensibility.
Despite the fact that we have barely dipped our toes into the new millenium, there is a fin-de-siecle air to the beginning of this century, one that matches the daily newspaper reports of national and religious conflagrations, global warming and related disasters. The skull may express a superficial wish to be edgy and nonconformist, but it also injects a note of foreboding. Artists too are consulting psychics, conjuring ghosts, invoking the supernatural, living in fantasy worlds, fearing and imagining the worst. These subjects fill the work of artists such as Paul Chan, Banks Violette, Jutta Koether, Philippe Parreno, and other artists popular both in the US and Europe. Although these artists often implicitly critize the current political situation, characterized by fundamentalist religion (with all of its ecstatic embrace of end times imagery and blind belief as opposed to rational analysis), they are also in harmony with it.
Here, as in other spheres, the Japanese perspective has its own specific history. Since the 1980s, many of the most important Japanese anime and manga productions have been set largely in post-apocalyptic worlds, ruined by devastating military conflicts and / or ecological disasters; the books and films Akira, Evangelion, and Nausicaa are only the most popular examples of stories that play out against these bleak backdrops. As many critics, fans and scholars have pointed out, the preference for this setting is related to the fact that contemporary Japan is already quite literally a post-apocalyptic nation : after Hiroshima, after Nagasaki, after the ruinous fire-bombing of Tokyo. Takashi Murakami, the grand figure of Tokyo Pop, endorsed this connection in his 2005 exhibition, Little Boy, and, in a series of catalogue essays, pointed to its importance for contemporary Japanese art along with culture.
Chiho Aoshima did not go to art school, but learned to use a computer for design by watching others, and while working for Takashi Murakami's studio developed her own art practice. Her early works, such as Fish Market, 1999, tend to use local color and simple, heavily outlined forms, heavily indebted in style and content to popular manga images of young girls that combine innocence with sexuality and violence. Slightly later works such as Ero Pop, 2001 and Piercing Heart, 2002 begin to be more sophisticated and playful in thier formal realization, with layered imagery and atmospheric color effects, altough both are still centered on a single main figure. While the stylistic reference to manga threads throughout her work, more or less prominent in individual prints, in general, Aoshima's later work is increasingly intricate in composition, with a linear quality that is both delicate and dramatic, employing long, swooping curves that link together a myriad of figures or vignettes into a single, sometimes mural-size work.
As Aoshima has expanded the physical dimensions of her art, she has expanded its content as well, developing a strong sense of time : not only do narratives unfold in the larger murals, but hints of the past pervade aall of the work, a feeling that the ancient persists amidst even the most modern images and digital techniques. Aoshima expresses a mild form of this in a taste for older - used or "vintage" - objects; when asked what she enjoys about Japanese culture, she told one interviewer that she likes to go to antique markets1. A related, melancholic taste is at work in her love of abandonned or forgotten buildings : " Weeds that grow from the cracks in walls, idle glances through cracked windows revealing dark interiors, intertwining trees, broken laundry poles, forgotten toys.2" Several of her prints feature girls - or ghouls ? - peering out from the interiors of seemingly neglected homes where we imagine them leading secret lives, as in Mado, 2003. The classic, Romantic version of this longing is the interest in the truly past, the architectural ruin, which she also cultivates : "It began when I saw photos of Angkor Vat in the magazine Studio Voice. I posted them in my room and looked at them every day. The year I graduated college, I went to Cambodgia, where the Angkor Vat ruins lie (...) Undisturbed by the flow of time, I drifted slowly. It was a mysterious feeling, like I had entered a different dimension3. "
The Romanticism of the nineteenth century fetishized the ruin as the souvenir of a pre-modern moment, and as a sad and eerie stimulus for individual sensibilities and emotions. There is a variant of romanticism in Japanese literature and art that, despite being related to Western art, also took on a specifically nationalist character in standing against the modernization ushered in by the opening of Japan to the West in the nineteenth century4. Similarly, today a belief in the otherworldly figures of Shinto, like an affection for the (ruins) of older Japanese buildings, represents an allegiance to Japan as a sovereign nation, rather than one beholden to the essentially foreign ideals of modernism (even if, ironically, Japan has outstripped the West in many areas of modernity, from high technology to refined and elevated consumerism).
Aoshima's most pronouced Romantic impluse is her pastime of visiting old cemeteries 5. "I realized that I like graveyards when I saw a view which remided me of an ancient ruin.

There were trees growing all around, few people, and the various shapes of stones all around were worn away by the acid rain... I have found myself in graveyards talking very normally all of a sudden to people I do not know. I'm sure that people come to graveyards and unbind the strings they've tied in their hearts, and words follow out naturally from that. If you cry when you feel like it at a graveyard, you feel so much better all of a sudden. Time flows slowly. I want to go to graves all over the world !6"
The graveyard is a motif in much of Aoshima's work, both as a place of peaceful contemplation, as in A Contented Skull, but also as a kind of otherworldly city teeming with ghosts and zombies, as in Zombie, 2002. This taste for horror and the grotesque or the Gothic (reflected in Japanese popular culture as well, particularly in film), was also to be found in the Romanticism that came at the end of the nineteenth century in Japan (as well as the West). One example can be found in the work of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, an artist that critic Midori Matsui mentions as a precedent for Aoshima's work7. Yoshitoshi was known for print series illustrating ghost stories (100 ghost tales from China and Japan, 1865), as well as famous murders, depicted with a gruesome degree of detail.
Aoshima's eye for nature is also romantic rather than realistic. She describes experience, like encountering a tsunami or a tornado or, more benignly, viewing a mountain or the sky, that are overwhelming in scale and power, creating a sense of awe, and even terror, related to the Western concept of the sublime. These feelings are similar to those evoked by graveyards, in that they inspire ruminations about one's smallness, and in that they are terrifying as well as full of beauty. Her use of flowers, insects, and animals can also be decorative and lovely, particularly in the commissioned work she has done for fashion magazines like Vogue and fashion designer Issey Miyake. But even here, Aoshima's preference is not for the obviously cute - not for fuzzy puppies and bunnies - but for insects, reptiles, and other non-cuddly life forms : "Some creatures are so weirdly shaped it's unbelievable. I can't believe they're from this world8. " She also sees natural forms bearing the imprint of a prehistoric (pre-human) world, carrying with them a frozen bit of the past : " I feel an attraction to creatures whose shapes have survived to the present day, like magnolias, ferns, helmet crabs, and insects preserved in amber. The amber is so beautiful, it is almost like time has stopped just inside of it9."
In Aoshima's worldview, it is humans, rather than bugs, that come to seem helpless, doomed creatures, even if their destuction is their own doing. Some of her more recent work features terrifying disasters - another common feature of Romantic art, but equally a part of present-day reality. For a contemporary Japanese person, the apocalypse is both an already-lived history and one that beckons in the not-so-distant future, one in which New York lies underwater, Paris is sizzled to a crisp, Mumbai is crushed beneath the weight of its slums, Beirut is destroyed by nuclear weapons, and Tokyo is rent asunder by earthquakes. In the enormous wall mural Magma Spirit Explodes. Tsunami is Dreadful, 2004, the combination of a tsunami and a giant firestorm devours the world. The piece emerged at least in part from her awareness of global warming : "I am very much worried about the abnormal weather conditions occuring all over the world (...) I don't think what they've predicted will actually happen. I think we have a much worse future in store for us, and humans will be eradicated (...) The piece that I showed in the Carnegie International (Magma Spirit), for example, out of my more recent pieces, expresses this catastrophic view of the future.10"

In her most recent works, Aoshima looks past the disasters, past the end of the world. Reviving the premodern concept of history as cyclical (rather than linear and progressive), her imagery moves through the phases of urbanism or decadent civilization and the apocalypse to the rebirth of a fresh and innocent planet. In Graveheads, 2005, dark clouds converge on a crowded conglomeration of gravestones that resembles a city skyline and rain down blood; the clouds then disappear, leaving a rainbow behind. Less harsh in tone, the lovely animation City Glow, 2005 describes a city, its skyscrapers imagined as sinuous female figures twinkilng with lights, overtaken by a lush, primordial jungle. In an interview, Aoshima described a similar romantic vision: "To imagine (the city) all rotted away, overgrown with trees and weeds, is also really fun! For example, being in Shibuya at dawn when there are no people reminds me of a world where humans have perished. Like cities that met their downfalls in the past, our city shall too sometime be gone. Thinking of this makes me feel like a part of cosmic history. No matter how selfishly we live this life, we are still in the end part of nature, and no matter how we resist, we are still powerless."
Casting the collapse of present civlization as natural, part of an inevitable cycle that underlines the passive quality of contemporay identity identity that Murakami and others have noted. It seems to remove the political quality of current conditions like global warming, leaving the individual resigned to what must come. The distanced, cool effect of some of Aoshima's works seem to endorse the aestheticization of disaster, the idea that it is there for contemplation and even appreciation; as Aoshima puts it, "I would at least like to see with my own eyes what this society will look like as it crumbles away."
But every peaceful picture, like A Contented Skull is matched by one like Swirling Zombies,2004-06, where ghoulish figures move in a frantic swirl that tosses around houses, an image in which fear and anxiety rush to the intensely colored, frenetic surface. However resigned she may be to the disappearance of the human world, or eager to escape it through fantasy, the scale and energy of Aoshima's work, and even her devotion to the specific visual vocabulary of late-modern forms like anime and manga, are evidence of the intensity of her engagement with life in the present.

1. She told another interviewer that her current favorite Japanese artist was Hitomi Kawakami, whose writing invokes the mysterious and otherworldly in everyday life, and who recently published a book called The Nakano Thrift Store, a series of stories about a woman in her late 20s who works amidst the odds and ends of a junk shop.
2. Unpublished interview with Chiho Aoshima, "What's Good ?" conference, Hong Kong Art Centre, January 2005, np.
3. Ibid.
4. Romanticism in Japan, as in the West, was a broad stylistic tendency of the late nineteenth century; it is related to but distinct from the Japan Romantic School (Nihon Romanha) of writers and intellectuals, during the periods 1935 to 1945, which had a much more narrowly defined ideological stance.
5. "Chiho Aoshima", Style 10 (supplement), Libération no 6971, 11 October 2003
6. C. Aoshima, in "What's Good", op. cit., note 2
7. Midori Matsui, "Chiho Aoshima" in Laura Hoptman, The 54th Carnegie International, Pittsburg, Carnegie Museum of Art, 2004, p.54.
8. C.Aoshima, in "What's Good?", op.cit., note 2
9. Ibid
10. Ibid

"The Art is exploding (In many ways)"

by Takashi Murakami

Text from the exhibition catalogue of the "Chiho Aoshima" exhibition at the Musée d'Art Contemporain, Lyon, FRANCE in 2006.

I feel a little uncertain about writing about these three in a critical context. Think about it for a second. If a music producer were asked to explain the key to success of a new singer whose debut he assisted, it would be hard for that person to avoid blatant self-flattery.
And the resulting essay would be so asinine it would be unbearable to read.

In managing these three artists, I have employed a technique extremely unique in the art industry. As an agent, my company, Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., has profoundly intervened in the customary relations between the artist and the gallery. It is my hope that, by analyzing this technique, I will perhaps be able to offer a suggestion on how to ride the large commercial wave that the art world is now facing, and in doing so also offer myself a chance to avoid foolishly singing my own praises.

In the past few years, the art scene has been bombarded by great change in the field of artist management. To elaborate, as public demand to more thoroughly enjoy art grows, artists, and also gallerists, are faced with an operation where “selling and buying” artworks is not sufficient.
In the music industry, for instance, record companies and artist management are two completely separate entities. Recently, specialists that work only in management have become a major presence. This means that in an industry that deals with music—a form of art—there has arisen a structure that expects results in such a short period of time, and that the tasks are so intricate, that they cannot function without specialization.
Or take film stars. A trustworthy agent would, thinking of the actor’s career, oversee the actor’s choice of projects, get involved in the film script, negotiate compensation, and make sure the environment and equipment at the site are satisfactory; by doing so the agent effectively creates a brand for the movie star, which in turn connects to the success of the film itself.
Similarly, in the art world over the last few years, there has been a move towards presenting the artist as celebrity, with public interest spreading to the artist’s words and personal profile. For the general public that can’t afford original art pieces or print editions, there is still a consumerist need to associate with the character of the artist’s work. This has stimulated an increase in artist merchandise. We are truly in the midst of a period of abrupt change.

At the beginning, our main role at Kaikai Kiki, as an agency for Japanese artists, was to help artists who only spoke Japanese through translation services. However, our management strategies have, in addition to tasks mentioned in the previous paragraph, extended to dealing with miscellaneous legal issues and financial management, and to much more artistically supportive tasks such as the conceptualization and creation of artworks, setting the stage for an artist’s debut, post-debut press management, and so on. This way, it has become possible for the artists to concentrate more on creation and conceptualization, and to realize a higher level of artistic ability. However this task structure between artist, agent, and gallery has only quite recently been employed, and contains some experimental aspects.
One of the things I can mention is about the special quality that Japanese artists possess. What would happen if we applied this kind of management system to artists in the Western world? I assure you that it would be an instant flop. This is because since the 19th century, one of the defining characteristics of an artist has become his or her independence from clients and studios. I am convinced that the identity and pride of Western artist would hinder the system. But look! The way the art industry is dashing into commercialism no longer allows for the independence which, in fact, could be a form of romanticism.

In order to protect artists in their creative independence, and also help them in the fast paced industry with financial management and all sorts of complicated business matters and troubleshooting (ranging even to stalker issues), I believe that it is not enough to depend solely on the gallery’s familiar mediation between clients and artists, and on museum exhibitions as the artist’s only sale and advertising grounds.
It was in this changing period when the Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in France and Kaikai Kiki in Japan decided to go hand in hand. The road we have chosen has a certain originality now, but I think that more and more people in the industry will gradually be drawn in to this system as time passes.

Well then… Now I would like to discuss the attributes of three artists born in this system, simultaneously unraveling Japanese art history, and entwining the social issues of contemporary Japan.

Chiho Aoshima.

Aoshima magnifies a section of what people today consider to be luxury. In this case, luxury is “the pursuit of quality.” It is the digital high-definition TV, everyday operation on a desktop computer, the excellent cheesecake we can purchase at a convenience store, the alternate storyline discovered through a deliberate bug in a video game, the legal provisions that that allows people to survive as a “proper members of society” even after numerous marriages and divorces; these luxuries, unimaginable 40 years ago, have become common in today’s society.

What kind of “quality” is of high importance to Aoshima? It lies in the process of outputting, and perfecting, an image formed in her mind over a short period of time.

She confirms facts and gathers information on Google, makes modifications to images, weaves together data on her high resolution monitor, continues to upgrade to the newest versions of Adobe Illustrator, sends image data to a giant printer, creates prints, goes on to the highest resolution chromogenic printing; the whole process seems like art made by a “cyborg” with its brain directly connected to peripheral devices. Aoshima’s artworks cannot exist without the tools mentioned above. Easy-to-use, shortened versions of all of the techniques we used to have to learn through many years of experience are contained within the tools, which more than compensate for her lack of an art education. A fact that we can surmise from this is that as long as there is a cyborg program that operates on a computer, almost anyone could bring the images in their brains to life, and in addition, there is a possibility of turning out countless number of artists from which an audience could potentially choose to follow according to their particular tastes.

And of course, the culmination of this luxury is Aoshima’s present style where her work is put up all over on the inside of a large room, so that as soon as we become an audience in it, we experience the inside of her head as almost exactly the way she sees it. Through utilizing the computer, software, internet research, and a giant printer, the images that are inside Aoshima’s mind are completely recreated. Aoshima’s works attract many ardent fans. The reason may be a sense of affinity, that “maybe I could do this too.”

It is the gap between this kind of futuristic art production and the actual images that Aoshima creates—detailed renderings of reptiles, themes on environmental issues such as natural disasters—as well as a similarity to the genre of Japanese painting that rose in the Meiji period that uses a compositional method with contrast in thickness of outlines and colors, that connects to the mystical allure of her artworks.

Takashi Murakami
English translation by Sawa Yamamoto and Joshua Weeks



March 16, 2024 - April 6, 2024





Chiho AOSHIMA, Jean-Marie APPRIOU, Rao FU, Laurent GRASSO, Gregor HILDEBRANDT, Klara KRISTALOVA, Farhad MOSHIRI, Christiane POOLEY, Mark RYDEN, Yang ZHAO, CHANG Yachin, CHEN Ke, MENG Yangyang, Yves LALOY

September 15, 2023 - October 26, 2023


3/F, 27 Hu Qiu Road, Huangpu District

Nocturnal Ballads


Chiho AOSHIMA, Aso KOJIMA, Takuro KUWATA, Takashi MURAKAMI, Shin MURATA, Otani Workshop, Yuji UEDA

September 4, 2021 - October 9, 2021



GEIBI KAKUSHIN ("L'innovation esthétique dans l'art de la céramique japonaise")

curated by Takashi Murakami


February 5, 2021 - March 20, 2021


3/F, 27 Hu Qiu Road, Huangpu District


curated by Takashi Murakami


Chiho AOSHIMA, Yukimasa IDA, Kasing LUNG, Emi KURAYA, MADSAKI, Takashi MURAKAMI, Shin MURATA, OB, Otani Workshop, Aya TAKANO, Yuji UEDA, TENGAONE

October 17, 2020 - December 23, 2020


2bis avenue Matignon 75008 Paris


curated by Takashi Murakami


September 26, 2020 - November 14, 2020

hong kong

807, K11 ATELIER Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

Our Tears Shall Fly Off into Outer Space

Takashi MURAKAMI, Mr., MADSAKI, TENGAONE, Kasing LUNG, Aya TAKANO, Chiho AOSHIMA, Emi KURAYA, OB, Otani Workshop, Yuji UEDA, Shin MURATA

July 23, 2020 - September 4, 2020


1F 5 Palpan-gil, Jongno-gu




May 27, 2014 - June 25, 2014




curated by Pharrell Williams



March 14, 2009 - May 16, 2009





September 8, 2007 - October 11, 2007



The giant and the courtesans



September 11, 2004 - November 6, 2004


20 rue Louise Weiss 75013 Paris




March 1, 2003 - April 19, 2003


30 rue Louise Weiss 75013 Paris



June 1, 2002 - July 27, 2002


30 rue Louise Weiss 75013 Paris






Chiho AOSHIMA, Aso KOJIMA, Takuro KUWATA, Takashi MURAKAMI, Shin MURATA, Otani Workshop, Yuji UEDA