Born in 1969 in Cupa, Japan
Lives and works in Saitama, Tokyo, Japan

 MR.

Mr. was born in cupa in 1969. He is graduated from the Sokei Academy of Fine Art and Design, Japan

SOLO SHOWS

2015
"lost", Hidari Zingaro, Tokyo, Japan

2014
"LIVE ON: MR.’S JAPANESE NEO-POP", Asian Art Museum, Seattle, USA

2013
“Sweeet!”, Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong

2012
“Metamorphosis : Give Me Your Wings”, Lehmann Maupin, New York, USA

2010
“Solo Exhibition” Leeahn Gallery, Daegu, South Korea

2008
“Nobody Dies”, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France
Lehmann Maupin, New York, USA

2007 Lehmann Maupin, New York, USA

2006
“Mr.”, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, Lyon, France
“NIN-Stealth”, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Miami, USA

2004
“Issey x Mr, Issey Miyake By Noaki Takizawa”, Tokyo, Japan
“Thank You For Your Hard Work”, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

2003
Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France2001

2001
Nano Galerie, Paris, France

2000
“Venus #2”, Galerie Vedanta, Chicago, USA

1998
“Oh-Edo Kunoichi Ninpocho (Greater Edo Handbook of Female ninja techniques)”, Shop33, Tokyo, Japan
“Mr., Painter of Alps”, Galerie Tomio Koyama, Tokyo, Japan

1997 Aoi Gallery, Osaka, Japan

1996“ Frone & Perrine ‘97”, Shop33, Tokyo, Japan

GROUP SHOWS

2015
- “Animamix Biennale” Daegu Art Museum, South Korea

2014
"Bishojo: Young Pretty Girls in Art History - 16 Perspectives for Studying the Idea of the bishojo", Aomori Museum, Aomori City, Japan

2012
“A Nightmare is a Dream”, Kaikai Kiki, Tokyo, Japan

2010
“Kyoto-Tokyo: From Samurais to Mangas”, Grimaldi Forum, Monaco

2009
“Neoteny Japan- Takahashi Collection”, Yonago City Museum of Art, Yonago, Japan
“Animate”, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan
“Sacred Monsters”, Tufts University Art Gallery, Medford, USA
“VRAOUM”, La Maison Rouge, Paris, France

2008
“KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art”, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada
“Kaikai Kiki Artists”, Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
“Art Los Angeles”, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, USA

2007
“RED HOT: Contemporary Asian Art Rising”, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA

2005
“Rising Sun, Melting Moon”, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
“Kaikai Kiki Exhibition”, Aoi Gallery, Osaka, Japan
“Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture”, Japan Society, New York, USA
“AniMate.”, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan
Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France

2004
Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Miami, USA
“T-Junction”, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris
“Fiction Love: Ultra New Vision in Contemporary Art”, Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, Taiwan
“Chiho Aoshima, Mr., Aya Takano”, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin at LFL Gallery, New York, USA

2003
“Hope-The-Future is in Our hands”, LAFORET Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan
Opening Exhibition, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
“Mr. vs. Shintaro Miyake Exhibition”, NADiff, Tokyo, Japan

2002
“The Japanese Experience - Inevitable”, Museum der Moderne, Salzburg, Austria
“Chiho Aoshima, Aya Takano, Mr., Takashi Murakami”, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France
“Coloriage”, Fondation Cartier, Paris, France

2001
“My Reality : Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation”, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, USA
“Hiropon Show”, White Cube Gallery, London, UK; Shinsaibashi PARCO, Osaka, Japan
“Yokai Festival”, Museum of Contemporary Art of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
“SuperFlat”, MOCA, Los Angeles; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, USA

2000
“Superflat”, Shibuya Parco Gallery, Tokyo; PARCO Gallery, Nagoya, Japan

1999
“Hiropon Show 32/80”, NADiff, Tokyo
“Hiropon Show Vol.7”, PARCO Gallery, Nagoya, Japan
“Sampling”, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc., New York, USA
“Attention Spam”, Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
“Hiropon Show PO+KU Art Revolution”, Logus Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

1998
“Hiropon Show”, George’s, Los Angeles, CA, USA
“Ero Pop Christmas”, NADiff, Tokyo, Japan

1997
“Tokyo Sex”, NAS, Tokyo, Japan

1996
“Pico Pico Show”, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

Mr. - By Mr.

Mr. - By Mr.

Livres

36,02 €

Mr. - Live on

Mr. - Live on

Livres

56,87 €

MR. - "It's still a young team"

MR. - "It's still a young team"

Prints

416,67 €

MR. - "Starting Over"

MR. - "Starting Over"

Prints

416,67 €

MR. - "You girls"

MR. - "You girls"

Prints

333,33 €

MR. - "Don't Go Anywhere"

MR. - "Don't Go Anywhere"

Prints

333,33 €

  • 2015, December
    Kaleidoscope — 5 PAGES

  • 2015, June
    Bijutsutecho — 2 PAGES

  • 2015, March
    Artnews — 3 PAGES

  • 2015, January
    Kaleidoscope Asia — 3 PAGES

  • 2015, January
    Kaleidoscope Asia — 2 PAGES

"Nobody Dies"

by Amy Serafin

In the world of the Japanese artist who calls himself Mr., nobody dies, nobody gets hurt, Band-Aids are purely decorative and war is just a game. Girls rule the roost – young teenagers bursting with enthusiasm and budding sexuality. In the show “Nobody Dies,” his exuberant adolescents are presented as anime-style cartoon characters, but also as flesh and blood actresses in a 37-minute film with the same title as the exhibition.
In the film (written, casted and directed by the artist, who also composed the lyrics, designed the sets and costumes, and played a cameo role as an incompetent policeman), a team of five fresh-faced schoolgirls plans their revenge on an enemy team who humiliated them in a war game. They draw up strategy like a video game, conduct target practice with bloodthirsty zeal, and go home to frilly bedrooms filled with stuffed animals. Mr. offers a window on to the excesses and contradictions of contemporary Japanese youth culture, from computer game-inspired violence to an encyclopedic knowledge of labels, right down to the best brand of ammunition one should buy. The same actresses star in a series of photographs, smiling giddily in their school uniforms or in their ridiculously bright camouflage wear, brandishing automatic weapons which look startlingly authentic, if only one ignores the pink rhinestone decorations.

Their cartoon equivalents are adorable with their round faces, wide eyes and ever-present bunny charms hanging off their schoolbags, which makes their panty-revealing skirts and ersatz submachine guns all the more incongruous. In one painting, two girls are tumbling in the grass on their way home from school. One is pinned underneath the other, smiling helplessly, a shoe gone astray. The scene could be interpreted as child’s play or something more erotic. Indeed, Mr.’s intention is often ambiguous, as is his role – whether ironic onlooker or obsessive participant. But he is a constant presence in his own work, as the director behind the camera, steering its voyeuristic close-ups on his actresses’ young curves, or in a painting, spying on a sleeping child. Even his chosen pseudonym adds to the enigma, with its anonymous, everyman feel.

"The Children’s Hour: The art of Mr."

by Eleanor Heartney

An extract from the catalogue on the exhibition "Mr. " at Museum for Contemporary Art, Lyon, in 2006


In the works of the Japanese artist Mr., maniacally grinning children are affixed with huge round eyes, which mask a vast emptiness; instead mirroring back only reflected landscapes or figural tableaux. Their doll-like heads, topped with sculpted pigtails and curling locks in vivid shades of blue, purple, green or yellow loll disembodied on circular platforms. Other heads are attached to tiny bodies clad in the jeans, t-shirts, halter-tops and miniskirts which signify international kid culture. These demonically cheerful creatures stand alone as large polychrome sculptures or enact roles as characters in flat paintings set against urban skylines. A flavor of unhealthy precociousness seeps into the scenarios, as prepubescent girls and boys assume samurai poses or join forces with equally cheery fantasy creatures. Girls often are captured in poses that reveal glimpses of white panties while one boy drops his drawers to reveal a miniscule penis. At times this children’s army recalls the militant perversity projected by the sexually ambiguous Vivian Girls of outsider artist Henry Darger. But any suggestion of sexual enticement is countered by the deliberately childlike nature of representations that seem to have borrowed a cloying sentimentality from the worst of Walt Disney’s too cuddly fawns, squirrels and unsullied children.

Mr. is a young Japanese artist who has gradually been moving out of the shadow of his mentor, artist and curator Takashi Murakami. As an exemplar of such Japanese concepts as kawaii (cuteness) and lolicom (a shortened version of the English phrase Lolita Complex), Mr. is on one end of a spectrum of work, which Murakami has dubbed Superflat and whose other extreme encompasses cartoonish narratives, which lovingly describe the wreckage of nuclear apocalypses and violent cosmic battles.
Such works, according to Murakami, are products of the state of mind attached to otaku, a Japanese subculture composed mostly of alienated young men (though girls are becoming more common,) who are fanatical fans of Japanese anime and science fiction. Often dismissed as social dropouts, they tend to be viewed suspiciously in Japan, in part because of the role played by an otaku in the murder of four young girls in 1989. However, outside their country, critics, curators and collectors increasingly lionize the artists of otaku. Their work offers a curious mix of the comforting and the perverse, in which a visual language fashioned from such diverse sources as Disney cartoons, corporate logos, Japanese anime and manga, and Godzilla movies present uncomfortable matters like nuclear holocaust, pedophilia and scatology with a childlike air of insouciance and naiveté.

Is it art? Pathology? A symptom of social disaffection? Simple escapism? A subversive strike against conformity? Evidence of the cynical manipulation of impressionable young people by the mass media? An expression of its followers acquiescence to the soul-destroying blandishments of contemporary life?
One could argue that the questions raised by artists like Mr. offer a reprise of the battle between high and low art waged in the west during the postwar era. As the defender of quality and authenticity, critic Clement Greenberg fortified the battlements against the incursions of kitsch, only to have them overrun by the chaos of Pop culture following Pop art’s breach of the ramparts. As a result, the art world we live in now is shaped as much or more by the influence of advertising, Hollywood films, pop music, and television as by the eternal verities once seen as the wellspring of art.

However, Murakami argues that this parallel isn’t entirely accurate, since the line between high and low art was never so decisively drawn in Japan in the first place. Instead, he suggests that otaku inspired work be regarded in part as an extension of Japanese traditions of erotic and popular representation exemplified by the phenomenon known as the floating world. This was a poetic term for the Japanese realm of pleasure and leisure exemplified by its brothels, geishas, Kabuki Theater, sumo wrestling and ukiyo-e woodblock prints. And in fact, Murakami borrows from the latter to explain his notion of Superflat, which reflects both the formal flatness of ukiyo-e prints and the leveling of hierarchies suggested by Japan’s so called “neo- Pop” art.
However, if the format of otaku inspired art derives from Japanese traditions, its content can be read as a response to the traumas suffered by the Japanese during the twentieth century. In this view, this work needs to be seen in the context of a youth culture shaped by Japanese society’s infantilization by big brother America. In this view, Japan is still traumatized by its role as victim/aggressor in World War II and its dissidents are in revolt against a social hierarchy which has until the current generation passively accepted rigidly defined gender, economic and familial roles.
This analysis offers one way to look at Mr.’s work. Mr.‘s biography conforms rather neatly to the profile of a hapless rebel wielding art as a weapon against overwhelming social expectations. Born in Cupa, Japan in 1969, he failed the entrance exam to the prestigious Tokyo University of Fine Arts four times before enrolling in the Sokei Academy of Fine Art and Design, a trade school with no entrance exam. After graduation, he worked as a trash collector, which provided the raw materials for his first art works. Eventually he began drawing on the backs of his extensive collection of convenience store and supermarket receipts, inscribing these scraps of paper with figures of manga inspired girls in samurai outfits. These credentials landed him a job with Takashi Murakami, who runs a Warhol inspired “factory” to churn out his repertoire of paintings, sculptures, figurines, handbags and knickknacks. However, with the Murakami’s encouragement, Mr. (the name comes from the nickname of a superstar third baseman for the Yomiura Giants) has continued to create his own art as well, moving into the arenas of performance, sculpture and painting.
The common thread in Mr.’s work is the sexually provocative nature of his images. As a “lolicom” he seems to share the obsession with young prepubescent girls, which was the downfall of Humbert Humbert, the lecherous protagonist of Nabakov’s Lolita. However, he departs from that model in significant ways. Unlike Humbert Humbert, whose sexual exploitation of Lolita forms the centerpiece of the book, Mr.’s presentation of budding nymphets is oddly unerotic. These blankly smiling girls may flip up their skirts, but these seem impervious to male desire. Instead, their self containment offers another insurmountable challenge to the loser ethos of the otaku, whose fear of real physical contact leads him to retreat to the safety of his private world, or even, in a phenomenon which is generating increasing concern in Japan, to his own room. The latter syndrome has even been bequeathed a name: hikikomori, which translates as "withdrawal" and is bestowed on teenage and young adult men who cocoon themselves for months and even years in bedrooms in their parents’ homes.

In a number of works, Mr. expresses this approach/avoidance attitude toward the opposite sex. One painting gives us the artist’s eye view as a girl in a bathing suit stands diffidently on an outstretched hand, literally held at arms length. In others the artist portrays himself as a bespectacled young man who looks with bemusement at these miniaturized girls, as if unsure what to do with them.
Even when he is not literally present in the works, the artist’s sense of passivity and inadequacy breaks through. The female figures in Mr.’s installation "NIN – Stealth” are are full of maniacal energy. With their arms spread, pigtails standing up like antennae, and heads tipped to tower over the viewer, they are pictures of an alien life force. By contrast, Mr.’s portrayal of the boy in “Penyo-henyo" Pyopyo Edition (Boy)” is a study in abjection. Absurd and powerless, his pants are pulled down around his knees while his exposed underwear suggest no great endowment.

As the primary theoretician of otaku, Murakami suggests that such works are expressions of the adolescent fantasy of male impotence in the face of an all powerful, emasculating female. As such, he argues, they offer an apt metaphor for the psychology of postwar Japan, which sees itself as the infantilized partner of a much more powerful the United States. While sweeping generalizations are dangerous, Murakami’s thesis gains some traction from the fact that the western work which most closely parallels Mr.’s paintings and sculptures is by contrast much more preoccupied with phallic power. Paul McCarthy’s monstrously endowed woodmen, the Chapman brother’s mutant adolescents whose appendages morph into long penises, even Jeff Koons’ recurring lobster, surrealist stand-in for male sexuality, are all celebrations of the power of machismo. It is hard to imagine any of them cowering before an all-powerful female.

One can make connections between Mr.’s regressive embrace of childlike imagery and the ennui manifested internationally in youth subcultures which rebel against authority, social expectations and political engagement in favor of private fantasy, virtual experience and mechanized violence. Among their manifestations are the tendency to find escape in violent video games, as well as the international popularity of Star Trek conventions, skateboard culture and Goth identity. However, closer examination suggests that Mr.’s work hails from a different universe. There is something uniquely Japanese about his dual role as critic and product of a culture where the objectification of women is accompanied by an emasculation of men. He celebrates an escape into the evidently safer world of virtuality. However, the strange ambivalence of his work suggests that escape alone does little to assuage the psychological frustrations that made withdrawal necessary in the first place.


"I eat curry one day and fish another"

by Melissa Chiu

Melissa Chiu: Mr., when did you know you wanted to become an artist?

Mr.: It was at the age of fifteen when I started to take art courses in high school.

MC: Clearly you were interested in art at an early age. What drew you to art? Was that an idea that you always had for your future?

Mr.: It was not a matter of wanting to express myself in a big way, I just wanted to draw. I continued to study seriously for eight years after I turned eighteen.

MC: What kinds of subjects did you draw?

Mr.: Just what they taught me in school…still life, portraits and plaster casts.

MC: It sounds like a rather conventional art education.

Mr.: Yes, that is what I received.

MC: And yet, your art work today is, I think, far from orthodox and certainly not in the same vein as this education. At what point do you feel like you made a departure?

Mr.: When I was in my twenties I did not want to depict those conventional subjects anymore. I started to collect cast-off garbage and began to do more conceptual work. In junior high school, I really loved anime but I didn’t think that I could become a professional animator. When I was twenty five, I realized that anime could become my means of expression. It also had to do with the fact that I met with Mr. Murakami at about that time…

MC: What attracted you to discarded materials? I am interested in how you found them and used them as a source of inspiration. My own impression of travelling in Japan is that it is rather hard to find rubbish on the street.

Mr.: Twenty years ago garbage could be found anywhere. And another thing is that my room is a mess. I accumulate garbage. It is dirty and it is perhaps an extension of my personality. I don’t throw things out. I’m kind of a packrat, I guess. These things also become the source of my creation. From this I began to make installations that looked like a mess of rubbish. At the time, I was starting to learn about art history and became interested in Arte Povera and trans-avant-garde in Italy, also the Mono-ha movement in Japan—all from magazines and exhibitions that I saw in Japan.

MC: You’ve already mentioned Takashi Murakami. How did you first come into contact with him?

Mr.: Murakami was looking for volunteers. I was going to a specialization school… a vocational art school in a sense. One of my teachers knew Murakami so I went to work at his studio. At first, I did everything. I prepared canvases, applied them, painted them, and even did public relations.

MC: This sounds like a well-rounded professional experience. Did it help you to become an artist?

Mr.: I learned all the things that I would not have learned in school. But I was still doing someone else’s work. You don’t come into your own until you begin to actually do your own work.

MC: How long did you work in this way with Mr. Murakami before becoming an artist in your own right at Kaikai Kiki?

Mr.: It took several steps. I was a volunteer at first, and then after about two years, I began to get paid, and it’s been about thirteen years since I started doing my own art work.

MC: What are the benefits for you to belong to Kaikai Kiki?

Mr.: Mr. Murakami created Kaikai Kiki. This specific area of otaku would not exist without him. That is my reason for being there.

MC: Otaku is one of the obvious reference points in your work, to what extent do you identify with otaku?

Mr.: For me, it was a matter of making anime and manga into art. This has not been done historically. I did not consider myself very good at it because people who draw anime are very skillful. I now find the internet and computer graphics helpful in this process.

MC: I am interested in hearing how your work has evolved in this period of time. Your interests might remain the same, but how do you think your work has evolved?

Mr.: Yes, I think my work has evolved. The recent work includes landscape, which I have not done in the past. I am taking care and time to focus on the backgrounds behind the characters in my paintings. Some of them are very detailed and realistic.

MC: When we were talking before, you said that your effort was to create art from anime. How would you distinguish your art from anime?

Mr.: Because I ended up studying art, my approach is different from most people who are doing otaku drawings and immersed in otaku. For those ten years between the age of fifteen and twenty five I was studying art, receiving an art education, and thinking a lot of about art. So it is kind of natural that I am different from the people who are doing otaku drawings. My education is reflected in my work.

MC: Many of the subjects in your work are women. Can you talk about why so many of your figures are female and how you might respond to a feminist reading of your work as problematic because of how the women are represented?

Mr.: From an otaku perspective, young girls are seen as sexual objects, but more recently there is the idea of moe . So it is more than just sexual, there is a platonic idea behind it, a love for the character or icon. In the old days, I felt that these young girls were imbued by otaku culture with sexuality and that was reflected in my work. But now, however, I feel that they have grown into something more pure and that they are used to express warmer, more protective thoughts - for instance moe.

MC: Are there specific characters you have developed for your work?

Mr.: I am more focused on a specific kind of drawing style which is popular in otaku communities. The style of the moment changes constantly and I try to keep up with the trends as much as possible. One example of a character that crops up in my work is Kuranado Ushio (Clannad Ushio).

MC: Let’s talk about the work you are creating for the Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin exhibition.

Mr.: I am mostly working on large paintings.

MC: What is the intention of the work?

Mr.: It’s not so much about me, but something Japanese. It is about Japan and the way things are. Otaku is something that only exists in Japan. I want to translate this for the people of the world to understand.

MC: Do you ever think that otaku is misunderstood outside of Japan?

Mr.: I think it is misunderstood even in Japan. There is a perception that otaku is a different culture and a different kind of people.

MC: A subculture, perhaps?

Mr.: Outside Japan otaku is not a reality. In Japan, it’s something like a subculture. There is a prejudice that exists because it is outside the norm. For example, when you are listening to a radio broadcast, there are no requests for anime songs. And there was an incident that happened in Hiroshima. There were reports that a girl who was killed had been treated like some sort of an anime character. It seemed like a biased report.

MC: Let me change the subject. Like so many other contemporary artists today, you really work in all manner of media whether it is sculpture, painting, or installation. How do you choose the medium for your work?

Mr.: I mostly do painting, also video and performance. It’s just like choosing food. I eat curry one day and fish another. There are many things that can only be learned by doing, so I try different styles and methods, for the sake of trying. I believe that it is important for artists to follow their creative impulses in this way.

MC: How would you describe your studio practice? I know that Kaikai Kiki has a studio that some artists use. Do you go to work in a kind of collective environment at Kaikai Kiki or do you prefer a more solitary experience?

Mr.: I work alone, but when I am finishing up a work, if it is a large one, I do it at Kaikai Kiki at Mr. Murakami’s studio. Mostly, I work towards an exhibition.

MC: You spoke about drawing when we began our interview. Does your work always start with a drawing?

Mr.: Even if it is going to be a larger drawing, I always start with a very small one.

MC: My next question is about your artist name. By using a name, such as Mr… It is rather mysterious, isn’t it?

Mr.: A famous baseball player and a coach, Shigeo Nagashima was known as Mister Giants. Some friends called me Mr. because I was older than they were, and it has continued. I also wanted to be active overseas so rather than a traditional Japanese name, I figured that Mr. was easier to remember. I started to use it after I met Mr. Murakami.

MC: My final question to you is that last time we met you told me that you slept in a sleeping bag. Is this still true?

Mr.: I have not changed. It is the same. Last time Emmanuel Perrotin came to see me, I still had my sleeping bag out.

MC: May I ask why? It is not the most comfortable way of sleeping.

Mr.: It is flat. It has layers since I have four sleeping bags, one on top of the other. I can wash them, spread them out and then just roll them up.

MC: OK, Is there anything else that you think people should know about you and your work that we should convey in this interview?

Mr.: In my role as a translator of otaku trends, I have a responsibility to keep up with what is happening on the internet. The young people that are active think so differently from my generation that it is a struggle for me to understand and express their thoughts in art.
In fact, I spend a large part of my day on the internet following twitter and other communication sites where otaku gather. I feel that if I am away from the internet for even a day, I’ll completely lose track of what is happening within the otaku community. I do twitter in Japanese. I get a lot of information everyday as a result. If I do not check upon them just one day, I don’t know what is going on anymore. I need to check twice an hour to keep up!

MC: Thank you for sharing your ideas and insights with me. I look forward to seeing your new exhibition.

This interview was recorded on March 7, 2011.


1. Otaku was initially a pejorative term used in Japan to describe the obsessive fandom of anime and manga. It is now also used to describe anyone with an intense interest in any particular subject.
2. Moe is a Japanese homonym for “burning” or “budding” and can be described as a response to anime or manga characters although it is most often associated with the attachment to adolescent girls.