Nobuyoshi Araki /   Nobuyoshi Araki

Japan 1940


Nobuyoshi Araki
Nobuyoshi Araki
April 4, 2016
Nina Karaicic is a journalist with experience in TV and radio media. Born in 1989, she had studied at the University of Belgrade – Faculty of Political Sciences (Journalism). Interests: Photography, Art, Film, Folklore, Video Games

One of the most important living Japanese artists, Nobuyoshi Araki is a photographer whose work revolves around female eroticism and his fascination with Tokyo, Japan’s capital and the world’s most populous metropolis. Notorious for pictures that are both spectacularly compelling and shockingly obscene, Araki – who has created over 450 books in his lifetime – has an unearthly ability to make anything and everything appear erotic. His controversial body of work featuring provocative depictions of female eroticism, bondage, and fetishism, has seen his oeuvre described as both erotic and pornographic and has provoked conflict with authorities in Japan and controversy in the West.

Nobuyoshi Araki - Alluring Hell #8, 2008 (Left) / Alluring Hell #7, 2008 (Right) contact like book flower
Nobuyoshi Araki – Alluring Hell #8, 2008 (Left) / Alluring Hell #7, 2008 (Right)

Araki’s Sentimental Journey

Born on May 25, 1940, in Tokyo, Nobuyoshi Araki studied photography and filmmaking at Chiba University. Upon graduating in 1963, he pursued a career as a commercial photographer at the advertising agency Dentsu. During this period, he exhibited in his first show, Satchin and Mabo, and won a photography contest for the collection of post-war photographs, Satchin from 1963, which reveals some of the devastation from the war and the need for a fresh start in Japanese society. He became famous for Un Voyage Sentimental (Sentimental Journey), 1971, a series of photos documenting his personal life, in particular, his wedding and honeymoon with his wife, Yoko Araki, whom the artist credits for making him a photographer. The series established his reputation, and in 1972, he left Dentsu to work as a freelance photographer. Since then, almost all his work has revolved around his own life and are almost always about the women who are close to him. Later, in Winter Journey series, Araki documented his wife’s terminal battle with cancer. The series was concluded in 2010 with Spring Journey in which Araki’s beloved cat, Chiro, originally given to Yoko, was photographed in the last stage of her life.

Araki became famous for Un Voyage Sentimental, a series of photos documenting his personal life

Nobuyoshi Araki - Love by Leica, 2006 books contact like gallery world
Nobuyoshi Araki – Love by Leica, 2006

The Controversial Nobuyoshi Araki

Over the years, Nobuyoshi Araki has become instantly recognizable by his daring photographs of naked female bodies, which have always strived to achieve the aesthetic value of Shunga, Japanese woodblock prints that were widely popular between the 17th and the 20th century. Both aggressively pornographic and artistically sophisticated, Shunga portrayed the sex lives of ordinary people, an element that Araki has picked up on in his nude photographs. Araki’s images of women wearing kimonos with revealed genitals is a modern take on Shunga that includes a shyness to the subjects by being never revealing their entire bodies.

The artist’s daring photographs of naked female bodies are instantly recognizable

Nobuyoshi Araki - Untitled (Eros Diary), 2015 like new book gallery flower world
Nobuyoshi Araki – Untitled (Eros Diary), 2015

Art of Bondage

The Japanese intricate art of erotic bondage, Kinbaku-bi (literally “the beauty of tight binding”) has long fascinated Nobuyoshi Araki, and it has a strong presence in the works. The images of bondage began to appear in his oeuvre in 1979 and though often called sexist, fetishistic, degrading and insulting, the photographer sees the photographs as freeing the souls of the models. One of his most famous series entitled Kinbaku explores the delicate traditional art of bondage by reducing the subject to a minimal, monochromatic aesthetic. Precisely executed, the intricate knots and specific rope patterns indent the models’ bodies as they hang suspended in mid-air, both contorted and elegantly streamlined. On several occasions, police raided and closed Araki’s exhibitions, confiscated works and arrested the artist for violations of obscenity laws. And yet Araki’s portrayal censored subject matter has contributed to a loosening of the strictures imposed on photographers.

Although often called sexist, fetishistic, degrading and insulting, Nobuyoshi Araki sees his photographs as freeing the souls of the models

Nobuyoshi Araki - Kinbaku (Bondage), 1979 (Left) / Comedy, 1997 (Right) gallery book like world
Nobuyoshi Araki – Kinbaku (Bondage), 1979 (Left) / Tokyo Comedy, 1997 (Right)

Tokyo Lucky Hole

Although well known for his infamous nude photography, Araki has a passion for capturing many aspects of his hometown whether it be ordinary people on the streets, the city itself or exploring the subcultures that exist away from the public eye. Tokyo Lucky Hole is Araki’s iconic series of work that offers a privileged view of Tokyo’s underworld in the 1980s when the sex industry in Japan’s capital was in full flower. Araki prowled Shinjuku, the city’s famous red light district, taking pictures in the sex shops and clubs. His project came to an abrupt end when the district was closed by judicial decree in 1985. In over 800 photos, Tokyo Lucky Hole photobook documents the free-for-all spirit of those clubs via Araki’s lens. His photographs form a historical record of Shinjuku’s glory days and a portrait of a lesser-known side of Tokyo life.

The artist himself is an observer and participant in the scenes he captures

Nobuyoshi Araki - Marvellous Tales of Black Ink, 1994 (Left) / Lucky Hole, 1997 (Right) new books published
Nobuyoshi Araki – Marvellous Tales of Black Ink, 1994 (Left) / Tokyo Lucky Hole, 1997 (Right)

Collections and Awards

Araki’s works are part of numerous notable collections including that of the Tate Modern, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland. He has worked as a filmmaker and has photographed musicians Bjork and Lady Gaga. He has also photographed for many pornographic magazines such as Playboy, DejA-Vu, and Erotic Housewives. The artist’s life and work were the subjects of Travis Klose‘s 2005 documentary film Arakimentari. He is the recipient of many awards, including the 1994 Japan Inter-Design Forum Grand Prix, the 1990 Society of Photography Award, and the 1964 Sun Prize. The indefatigable artist, now in his seventies, has suffered from reduced sight in his right eye in October 2013, which served as inspiration for a new series of photographs entitled Love on the Left Eye.

Love on the Left Eye is one of the artist’s most recent series of work

Nobuyoshi Araki - Love on the Left Eye, 2014 photo published articles film
Nobuyoshi Araki – Love on the Left Eye, 2014

Nobuyoshi Araki: Never out of fashion

Photographing subjects that range from flowers to kinbaku to Tokyo street scenes, Nobuyoshi Araki continues to astound observers with a plethora of stunning and provocative photos. Notorious for his challenging, emotionally raw images and explicit depictions of sexuality and mortality, Nobuyoshi Araki has been one of the Japanese most eminent and prolific photographers who remain ever-popular, after all, provocative and sexual pieces have always been fresh and original.

The artist is represented by Zooart.

Nobuyoshi Araki lives and works in Tokyo, Japan.

Featured image: Nobuyoshi Araki – Untitled, Self-Portrait (detail)
All images copyright of Nobuyoshi Araki

YearExhibition TitleMuseum/GallerySolo/Group
2016Zona Maco 2016, Art FairMexicoGroup
2016Provoke: Photography in Japan between Protest and Performance, 1960–1975Albertina, Vienna, AustriaSolo
2016ArakiMusee national des arts asiatiques Guimet, Paris, FranceSolo
2015Pipe DreamGalerie Andrea Caratsch, Zurich, SwitzerlandGroup
2015Eros DiaryAnton Kern Gallery, Chelsea, USASolo
2015The Pistils WalzGallery 51, Antwerp, BelgiumSolo
2015Nobuyoshi Araki: PolaroidsShane Campbell Gallery, Chicago, USASolo
2015Nobuyoshi ArakiTaka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo, JapanSolo
2015For a New World to Come: Experiments in Japanese Art and Photography, 1968–1979The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USAGroup
2015TAKAHASHI COLLECTION: Mirror NeuronTokyo Opera Art City Gallery, Tokyo, JapanGroup
2015Up Close: Erotic Japanese PhotographyThe Space, Hong KongGroup
2014Love on the Left EyeTaka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo, JapanSolo
2014JapanAbbaye Saint Andre, Meymac, FranceGroup
2014Nobuyoshi Araki Ojo Shashu : Photography for the Afterlife - Faces, Skyscapes, RoadsToyota Municipal Museum of Art, AichiSolo
2014Painted PhotographsJablonka Maruani Mercier Gallery, Knokke, BelgiumSolo
2014Conflict, Time, PhotographyTate Modern, London, EnglandGroup
2014Unseen ExistenceHong Kong Arts Centre, Hong KongSolo
2013Nobuyoshi ArakiMichael Hoppen Contemporary, London, EnglandSolo
2012FlowerAura gallery, Beijing, ChinaSolo
2011It Was Once A ParadiseGalerie Alex Daniels Reflex, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsSolo
2010Love and DeathMuseo d'Arte, Lugano, SwitzerlandGroup
2010Araki: A PerspectivePRISM, Los Angeles, USASolo
2010love and punishmentAura Gallery, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2010Photo Beijing 2010Beijing, ChinaGroup
2008Body WorkLe Case d'Arte, Milan, ItalyGroup
2008Read my LipsPeres Projects, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2008Nobuyoshi Araki: KinbakuGalerie Jablonka, Berlin, GermanySolo
2008Araki meets HokusaiKestnergesellschaft, Hannover, GermanySolo
2008Araki GoldPalais Fontana dei Trevi, Rome, ItalySolo
2008Nobuyoshi Araki - Hana KinbakuTaka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo, JapanGroup
2008Photographers of Japanese DescentGalerie Howard Greenberg, New York, USAGroup
2008Araki, Miyamoto, Sugimoto: Japanische Fotografie der GegenwartKunstmuseum, Wolfsburg, GermanyGroup
2007Seduced: Art and Sex from Antiquity to nowBarbican Art Gallery, London, EnglandGroup
2007Pale CarnageArnolfini, Bristol, EnglandGroup
2007Sus ojos les delatanFoundacion Foto Colectania, Barcelona, SpainGroup
2007Nobuyoshi ArakiKulturhuset, Stockholm, SwedenSolo
2007Nobuyoshi Araki: DiariesLeica Galerie Wien Westlich, Vienna, AustriaSolo
2007Araki: A la vie la mortMusee de la photographie, Charleroi, BelgiumSolo
2007Blue ChipsGalerie Philipp Konzett, Vienna, AustriaGroup
2007Pale CarnageDundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee, ScotlandGroup
2006Sweet EcstasyNicola von Senger AG, Zurich, SwitzerlandGroup
2006PolamaniacsPhotology, Milano, ItalyGroup
2006PolaroidsGalleria Ca di Fra, Milano, ItlalySolo
2006FLUTTERThe Approach, London, EnglandSolo
2006EROS in der kunst der moderneFoundation Beyeler, Riehen, SwitzerlandGroup
2006INTO ME-OUT OF MEKunst-Werke Berlin e.V - KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2006Into me-out of meP.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, USAGroup
2006Why pictures nowMUMUK Museum Moderner Kunst - Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna, AustriaGroup
2006Noboyushi ArakiTaka Ishii gallery, Tokyo, JapanSolo
2006Nobuyoshi ArakiAnton Kern Gallery, New York, USASolo
2006Self.Life.DeathBarbican Art Gallery, London, EnglandSolo
2006Tokyo, Sexteen 1969-1973Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, GermanySolo
2006Langhans GaleriePrague, Czech RepublicSolo
2006Berlin-Tokyo, Tokyo-BerlinDie Kunst Zweier Stadte, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2006La region humaineSeptembre de la photographie, Lyon, FranceGroup
2006Full House: Gesichter einer SammlungKunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim, GermanyGroup
2006XX - Encontras de FotografiaCoimbra Visual Arts Centre, Coimbra, PortugalGroup
2005Blumenmythos-Van Gogh bis Jeff KoonsFondation Beyeler, Riehen, SwitzerlandGroup
2005ContemporaneaFundacion Juan March, Madrid, SpainGroup
2005Le Confort ModernePoitier, FranceGroup
2005AwakeningAura Gallery, Shanghai, ChinaGroup
2005Selections from the Hara Museums permanent collectionHara Museum of contemporary Art, Tokyo, JapanGroup
2005The Ancient Sound of the ImagePalazzo Fontana dei Trevi Rome, ItalyGroup
2005ArakinemaPalais de Tokyo, Paris, FranceSolo
2005Nobuyoshi Araki, (performance)Palais de Tokyo, Paris, FranceSolo
2005ArakiMichael Hoppen Photography, London, EnglandSolo
2005Nobuyoshi ArakiLanghans Galerie, Prague, Czech RepublicSolo
2005Nobuyoshi Araki Tokyo NudeYoshii Gallery, New York, USASolo
2005Rising Sun, Melting Moon - Contemporary Art from JapanThe Israel Museum, Jerusalem, IsraelGroup
2004Tokio ComedyLa Fabrica Galeria, Madrid, SpainGroup
2004PolanographsGalerie Bob van Orsouw, Zurich, SwitzerlandGroup
2004From Winter to SpringTaka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo, JapanGroup
2004Nobuyoshi ArakiDe Hallen, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem, The NetherlandsSolo
2004Hana JinseiKitano Cultural Center, Nagano, JapanSolo
2004Painting FlowerEpson imaging gallery, Tokyo, JapanSolo
2004PolarakiReflex Modern Art Gallery, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsSolo
2004Nobuyoshi ArakiGaleria Javier Lopez, Madrid, SpainSolo
2004EIJANAIKA! YES FUTURE! - Le Japon post XXe siecleCollection Lambert, Avignon, FranceGroup
2004AkimahenMaison Folie de Wazemmes, Lille, FranceGroup
2003Nobuyoshi ArakiLa Fabrica, Madrid, SpainGroup
2003Nobuyoshi ArakiZonca&Zonca, Milano, ItalyGroup
2003Nobuyoshi ArakiKrisal Galerie, Geneva, SwitzerlandGroup
2003Mon journal - photopaintingGalerie Kamel Mennour, Paris, FranceSolo
2003Nobuyoshi ArakiIl tempo, Tokyo, JapanSolo
2003Tokyo still lifeTampereen Taidemuseo, Tampere, FinlandSolo
2003Nabuyoshi ArakiRefex Modern Art Gallery, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsSolo
2003Araki by Araki: the photographer's personal selectionTaka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo, JapanGroup
2003Love by LeicaLeica Gallery, Tokyo, JapanGroup
2002Araki in VeniceFondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice, ItalyGroup
2002Seoul Novel-Tokyo StoryIlmin Museum of Art, Seoul, KoreaGroup
2002La nature morte au JaponMaison de la Photographie, Moscow, RussiaSolo
2002Araki Retrospectivea-d Miami, Miami, USAGroup
2002Oeil pour oeil, figures de l'art contemporain Le Rectangle, Lyon, FranceGroup
2001The body and the sinValencia Biennale, Valencia, SpainGroup
2001Fact of LoveHayward Gallery, London, EnglandGroup
2001Ganjin and photographers from the worldMatsuzakaya Gallery, Tokyo, JapanGroup
2001Strategoes: photography of the ninetiesKunsthalle in Kiel, GermanyGroup
2001KaeiGallery Art Graph, Tokyo, JapanGroup
2001KakyokuHanasakan, Kagoshima, JapanGroup
2001Shikijyo kyoTaka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo, JapanGroup
2001Shosetsu SeoulSpiral Hall, Tokyo, JapanGroup
2001Uen Yanaka BiyoriGallery J2 Tokyo, JapanSolo
2001Shosetsu SeoulSpiral Hall Tokyo, JapanSolo
2001Nobuyoshi Araki: Il tempoTokyo, JapanSolo
2001Nobuyoshi ArakiJablonka Galerie Cologne, GermanySolo
2001Vintage prints and early worksGalerie Bob van Orsouw, Zurich, SwitzerlandGroup
2001Tokyo Still LifeIkon Gallery, Birmingham, EnglandGroup
2000Nobuyoshi ArakiGriedervonputtkamer Galerie, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2000Voyage sentimentalCentre national de la photographie, Paris, FranceGroup
2000Sentimental JourneyCentro per l'arte Contemporanea Luigi, Prato, ItalyGroup
2000ErotosOP fotogallery, Toronto, CanadaSolo
2000Shashin-shijo-shugiTaka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo, JapanSolo
2000PorivacyNadiff, Tokyo, JapanSolo
2000Photo PocheLa Camera, Tokyo, JapanSolo
2000Nobuyoshi ArakiStedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent, BelgiumSolo
2000Nobuyoshi ArakiGalerie Almine Rech, Paris, FranceSolo
2000Nobuyoshi ArakiDamasquine Art Gallery, Brussels, BelgiumSolo
2000Nobuyoshi ArakiGalerie Kamel Mennour, Paris, FranceSolo
2000Fussa LoveGalerie Les Trois Agneaux, FranceSolo
2000The arsfuturashowArs Futura galerie, Zurich, SwitzerlandGroup
2000Bourgeois HeroGalleria Civica Modena, Modena, ItalyGroup
2000Dessau Foundation and Siemens Kultur ProgrammeMunich, GermanyGroup
2000Copenhagen FestivalCopenhagen, DenmarkGroup
2000New works by Nobuyoshi Araki and Saul FletcherGallery Asprey Jacques, London, EnglandGroup
2000Yume no ato: What remained of the dream...Haus am Waldsee, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2000Gendai: Japanese Contemporary Art-Between the Body and SpaceCenter for Contemporary Art, Ujadowski Castle, Warsaw, PolandGroup
2000Racolta della Forografia ContemporaneaGalleria Civica Modena, Modena, ItalyGroup
2000XL PhotographyDeutsche Borse AG, Frankfurt am Main, GermanyGroup
1999Get Together: Art as TeamworkKunsthalle Wien am Karlsplatz, Vienna, AustriaGroup
1998CosmoscoTaka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1995The VIth Biennale Internazionale di FotografiaTodi Palazzo delle Arti, Perugia, ItalyGroup
1994Private PhotographyYurakucho Asahi Gallery, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1993The World of Photo-maniac Diary in ColourWonderland, Hiroshima, JapanSolo
1992Photo Maniac DiaryEgg Gallery, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1991Arakinema SpringscapesCinema Rise, Shibuya, Tokyo, JapanSolo
1990Chiro My LoveIkebukuro Book Center Libro, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1988Araki-s-m 1967-1987Zeit-Foto Salon, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1987Arakinema 2Studio Mag, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1986Tokyo Erotomania DiaryZeit-Foto Salon, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1985An Immoral WomanK's Bar, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1984A World of GirlsZeit-Foto Salon, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1982I am PhotographyDoi Photo Gallery, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1981The Second Arakism DeclarationYahama Hall, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1980Pseudo-PhotosRoom 301, Harada Building, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1979First Visit to New YorkMinolta Photo Space, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1978My Scene: 1940-1977Canon Salon, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1977Tokyo BluesNikon Salon, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1976YokoMy Love, Ginza Nikon Salon, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1975Actress: Kisaki SekimuraMatto Grosso, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1974Actresses by PhotosVideos and Film, Gallery Mato GrossoSolo
1973Mail Photographs ExhibitionUnpeel Me, Heat Me, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1972Mail Photographs ExhibitionMiami's truth, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1970Sur-Sentimentalist Manifesto No. 2: The Truth about Carmen MarieKunugi Gallery, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1967GinzaMitsubishi Denki Galley, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1966SubwayMitsubishi Denki Galley, Tokyo, JapanGroup
1965Satchin and His Brother MaboShinjuku Station Building, Tokyo, JapanGroup