shigeo anzaï has spent a lifetime documenting the inimitable characters of the art world
The Japanese photographer who captured visual iconoclasts including Damien Hirst and Yayoi Kusama returns to London, where his new exhibition opens at White Rainbow Gallery.
Yayoi Kusama, Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, October 1992
Shigeo Anzaï was born as the Second World War started and came of age as Japan began its post-war economic miracle, transforming the country into the hypermodern, hyperreal society we know today.
Like many of his generation he was witness to and part of a new wave of youth that engulfed the country, that found form in Rei and Yohji in fashion, the Yellow Magic Orchestra in music, and the Mona-ha movement in art. These concurrent waves were all looking for ways to explain the past and to craft a brighter future. The music was gleaming, spiraling, and cascading futurist synthesizer maximalism; the fashion dark, aggressive, and armor-like; the art retreated into something between the two.
Mona-ha was anti-modernist, inspired by natural forms and natural materials; it was meditative and contemplative and transitory. Shigeo, who began his career as a painter, turned to the camera as a way of documenting the happenings and temporary exhibitions of the movement.
The 10th Biennale Tokyo, held in 1970, brought the world to Anzaï, and from this moment he ended up traveling it. Over a period of 30 years he plotted a course across the globe, he seemed to be everywhere, from The Kitchen in New York in the 70s to London in the 90s at the YBAs. Wherever people were shaking up the art world he was there, camera in hand, capturing the moment.
And now -- following on from an exhibition it hosted last year of his images of the Japanese art scene in the late 60s -- White Rainbow Gallery in London is collecting Shigeo's portraits together, creating an incredible document of an incredible documentarian's incredible career.
Shigeo Anzaï, Index II is open from May 18 - June 18, 2016 at White Rainbow Gallery, London.
Text Felix Petty