Tadashi Kawamata

Japan 1953

Urban Art, Installation

Tadashi Kawamata
Tadashi Kawamata
April 6, 2016
Music, Gestalt, .

Tadashi Kawamata is a Japanese installation artist who has been designing impermanent site-specific installations in various public environments all over the world. For the last 3 decades, Kawamata has been relying on the concepts of construction and demolition in order to transform our environment and make the viewers perceive their well-known surroundings with fresh eyes. He is using only natural, disposable materials, such as recycled wood, and every time he makes a certain change in carefully chosen public areas, he has to be sure it is entirely safe and in harmony with already existing, natural conditions.

Kawamata has been designing impermanent site-specific installations in various public environments

Tadashi Kawamata - Gandamaison, 2008
Tadashi Kawamata – Gandamaison, 2008

Daydreaming in Tokyo

Kawamata was born on the island of Hokkaido, in a small town with a beautiful, pristine nature. Even though he was interested in visual arts as child, he didn’t have any specific ideas about what he wanted to create. He moved to Tokyo in the mid-80s and since he grew up in a rural area, he was fascinated with Tokyo and its quickly growing cityscapes. The energy of Tokyo was so different from the serene atmosphere of his home town, that Kawamata would often end up spacing out and daydreaming. I was always sitting in front of a white canvas and my professor would say – What are you doing?, Kawamata recalled. While the other students were painting or drawing, Kawata had no idea what to do. But one day, he decided to take a different approach and refused to use the canvas. He started to pile up various things accidentally lying on his desk and created his first installation. After this little incident, Kawamata knew that he should throw away his canvas and start exploring the genre of installation.

Tadashi Kawamata - Tree Hut in Brugge n5, 2015
Tadashi Kawamata – Tree Hut in Brugge n5, 2015

Environmental Awareness

Kawamata’s current work is based on his thoughts about the interconnectedness that exists between people, social context and nature. For example, when he created shelters made of wood and cardboard in the major cities like Montreal, New York, Paris ad Tokyo, he wanted to raise the people’s awareness of the homelessness and poor living conditions in the areas such as Brazilian favelas. Kawamata’s work focuses on responsible urban planning, which includes both building and demolition and his projects have taken place all over the world. Some of his ideas include just a single house, while others are more of large-scale projects, meaning that Kawamata is envisioning various changes of the entire towns. His installations are featuring unusual structures, such as a bridge between a residential block and a museum or a wooden walkway between an urban center and a lakeshore. Kawamata’s projects are making us pose questions about our surroundings, their functionality and their overall beauty and imperfections.

Most of Kawamata’s projects are featuring unusual structures

Tadashi Kawamata - Chairs for Abu dhabi, 2012 favela gallery search exhibition 1997
Tadashi Kawamata – Chairs for Abu Dhabi, 2012

Universally High Acclaim

Since the early age of 28, Kawamata has been an active exhibitor in the international art scene. He has been participating in the Venice Biennale since 1982 and he held various exhibitions throughout Europe, Japan, and the United States. His most famous pieces include creations such as a giant swallow nest placed on the Vendome column in Paris, tree huts and timber constructs at Madison Square Park in New York or an unusual pile of chairs stuck together at Art Fair in Abu Dhabi. Kawamata quickly achieved international recognition due to his fresh and unique ideas.

Kawamata’s work is specific for its tendency to go beyond the traditional visual context

Tadashi Kawamata - Tsunami n9, 2015 favela gallery search exhibition 1997
Tadashi Kawamata – Tsunami n9, 2015

Simple, Yet Important Thoughts

Kawamata’s work is specific for its tendency to go beyond the traditional visual context and extend to other many fields – architecture, city planning, ecology, even history. Also, what is very important in his work is the desire to create pieces which are bound to collapse and decay, just like the regular living forms who have life cycled. When asked about the reason for creating such pieces, Kawamata modestly replied: I don’t believe in permanence. It’s a totally abstract concept. I think human beings created the idea to help their imagination. But life is short, life is temporary; just like human beings.

Tadashi Kawamata lives and works between Tokyo and Paris.

Featured image: Tadashi Kawamata portrait via
All images courtesy of the artist.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2015Tadashi Kawamata stairs Annely Juda fine art, LondonSolo
2014Precarious Structures Thurgau Art Museum, SwitzerlandSolo
2014Japon Centre for Contemporary Art (CAC), Meymac, FranceGroup
2013UntitledPalazzo Strozzi, Florence, ItalieSolo
2013UntitledScotiabank Nuit Blanche, Toronto, CanadaSolo
2013FIAC Hors-les-Murs, Place Vendôme, ParisSolo
2013Horizons Camargue Project, Musée de Camargue et Parc naturel régional de Camargue, France, as part of Marseille-Provence 2013: European Capital of Culture.Solo
2013Collective Folie Parc de la Villette, Paris, France.Solo
2013Au fil de la Saône Saône Riverside, Lyon, France. Group
2012Expand BankART BankART Studio NYK, Yokohama, Japan.Solo
2012Tokyo in Progress Toyosu Dome, Koto-ku, Toyosu, Harumibashi Park, Tokyo, Japan.Solo
2012Box construction Daegu Art Museum, Daegu, Korea.Solo
2012Tadashi Kawamata: Track and other recent projects Mulier Mulier Gallery, Knokke, Belgium.Solo
2012Box construction Gallery 604, Busan, Korea.Solo
2012Chairs for Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi Art Fair, UAE.Group
2012Exchange Library FIAC, Jardin des Tuileries, Paris.Group
2012Nakahara Yusuke Cosmology Tokamachi, Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial, Center for Interlocal Art Network Matsudai, Shimizu Niigata, Japan.Group
2011Under the waterkamel mennour, Paris, France.Solo
2011A sculpture is not an object, curated by Véronique Wiesinger kamel mennour, Abu Dhabi Art Fair, UAE. Group
2010Carton Workshop Centre Pompidou, Paris, France.Solo
2010Wooden Tower Essen, Germany. Solo
2010Drift StructureUster, Switzerland. Solo
2010Mukaijima Project Setouchi International Art Festival, Kagawa, Japan.Group
2009Foot Path Evento Bordeaux, France.Solo
2009Berlin Tree huts HKW, Berlin, Germany. Solo
2009Observatoire Estuaire 2009, Nantes, France.Solo
2009Chemin de bois Biennale internationale d'art contemporain, Melle, Germany. Solo
2009Chemin de bois Biennale internationale d'art contemporain, Melle, Germany. Group
2008Walkway Musée d’art contemporain, Tokyo, Japan.Solo
2008Tree huts kamel mennour, Paris, France.Solo
2008Tree huts in Paris Jardin des Tuileries, Paris, France.Solo
2008Gandamaison,le Centre Maréchalerie d'art contemporain, Versailles, France.Solo
2008Tree huts in New York Madison square Park, New York, USA. Solo
2008Tree huts in Miami Florida, USA. Solo
2007Tree huts in Trondheim generator 9,Trondheim, Norway. Solo
2007Tree huts in Basel Art at Art Fair Basel 2007, Basel, Switzerland.Solo
2007Observatoire Estuaire 2007, Nantes, France.Solo
2007View point terrace in Paderborn Tatort Paderborn, Germany. Solo
2007Tree huts in Basel Art at Art Fair Basel 2007, Basel, Switzerland.Group
2007La Citta Che Sale Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Sannio, Benevento, Italy.Group
2006Xiringuito, Can Xalant Centre de Creatió i Pensament Contemporani, Mataró, Spain. Solo
2006Élevage en fut Fraisse-des-Corbières, France.Solo
2006In the Mirror of Uncertainty Galerie Grita Insam, Vienne, Austria.Group
2005Tadashi Kawamata - Détour des tours Le Creux de l'enfer, Thiers et Le Château des Adhémar, Montélimar, France.Solo
2005Private at Public space Sous les ponts, le long la rivière, Luxembourg.Solo
2004Inauguración Gianni Giacobbi Arte Contemporaneo, Palma de Mallorca, Spain.Solo
2003Architecturas Excéntricas Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea, San Sebastián, Spain.
Tadashi Kawamata – Rich and Archive Stiftung Museum Schloss Moyland, Germany.Solo
2002Ideas for Projects Annely Juda Fine Art, London, UK.Solo
2002Strom The Hague Centre for Visual Arts, The Hague, Netherlands.Solo
2002Busan Biennale Busan, Korea.Group
2002Shanghai Biennale Shanghai, China.Group
2001Art Tower Mito Mito, Japan.Solo
2001UntitledSert Gallery, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, USA.Solo
2001UntitledArchitectural Association School of Architecture, London, UK.Solo
2001UntitledCentre for Contemporary Art, Ujadzowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland.Solo
2001UntitledHillside Gallery and Hillside Terrace A, Tokyo, Japan.Solo
20016th Kitakyushu BiennaleKitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, Kitakyushu, Japan.Group
2000Vacant Lot Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, Toyota, Japan.Group
2000Matsunoyama Project Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, Niigate, Japan.Group
1999UntitledToyota Municipal Museum of Art, Japan.Solo
1999UntitledAyers GallerySolo
1999UntitledKunsthaus ZugSolo
1999Skulptur-Biennale im Münsterland 1999 Münster, Germany.Group
1999Art Focus 3, Israel Festival, Jerusalem, Israel.Group
1999Zeit Wenden Bonn, Germany.Group
1998Ghost Town Texas, Art Pace Foundation for Contemporary Art, San Antonio, USA.Group
1998Garden Sheds 11th Biennale of Sydney: International Festival of Contemporary Art Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, Australia.Group
1997UntitledTagawa Museum of Art, Tagawa, Japan.Solo
1997Field Work in HannoverSprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany.Solo
1997UntitledSerpentine Gallery, London, UK.Solo
1997UntitledAnnely Juda Fine Art, London, UK.Solo
1997Boat TravellingSkulptur. Projekte in Münster, Munster, Germany.Group
1997Unimplosive Art Biennale Exhibition of Venice, Italy. Group
1996Kunsthaus Zug Zug, Switzerland.Solo
1996Bridge Walkway Mirades Museum d’Art Contemporanea, Barcelona, Spain.Group
1995UntitledKunsthalle, Recklinghausen, Germany.Solo
1995Cabanons, Dialogues of Peace The 50th Anniversary of United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.Group
1995Catwalk Art in Japan Today, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan.Group
1995Prefabrication Tokyo-Kobe Ripple Across the Water, Aoyama, Tokyo and Nagata, Kobe, Japan.Group
1994Kawamata Archives: Construction Site Projects 1984-1994 Itami City Museum of Art, Itami, Japan.Solo
1994Asian Art NowHiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima, Japan.Group
1993Helmhaus Zurich, Switzerland.Solo
1993UntitledMeguro Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan.Solo
1993Field Work in Manhattan Transit The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, USA.Group
1993Museo Citta Eventi: Inside Out Centro per l'Arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato, Italy.Group
1993Sidewalk Biennale d'Art Contemporain, Lyon, France.Group
1992Prefabrication The Urban Environment and Art in Japan: My Home Sweet Home in Ruins Setagaya Art Museum Tokyo, Japan.Group
1992Documenta 9 Kassel, Germany.Group
1991A Primal Spirit Hara Museum Arc, Shibukawa, JapanGroup
1990InstallationAnnely Juda Fine Art, London, UK.Solo
1990Favela in Ottawa – A Primal Spirit National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada.Group
1990Field Work in Mito The Game of Manners: Part 1 Contemporary Art Gallery, Art Tower Mito, Japan.Group
1990A New Necessity: The 1st Tyne International Exhibition of Contemporary Art Laing Art gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne; Tyne and National Garden Festival UK.Group
1989UntitledMercer Union, Toronto, Canada.Solo
1989Kawamata Project in Roosevelt Island New York, Kodama Gallery, Osaka, Japan.Solo
1989Dessins, interventions architecturales Galerie Brenda Wallace, Montréal, Canada.Solo
1989Drawing as Itself The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Suita, Japan.Group
1989Bazaar Japan ’89, Museum van Hedendaagse, Gent, Belgium.Group
1988From Destruction to Construction Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York, USA.Solo
1988Favela in Battery Park The New Urban Landscape, Battery Park City, New York, USA.Group
1987Kawamata Annual 1987 Hillside Gallery, Tokyo, Japan.Solo
1987Japon Art vivant ’87, Aix-en-Provence Marseille and Grenoble, France.
Art in Japan Since 1969: Mono-Ha and post Mono-Ha Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan.Group
1987Documenta 8 Kassel, Germany.Group
1987The 19th Sao Paulo International Biennale Sao Paulo, Brazil.Group
1986A Scene of Japanese Contemporary Art 3: New Generation Miyagi Museum of Art, Sendai, Japan.Group
1986Passage Project Contatto, Sala Uno, Rome, Italy.Group
1985P.S.1 Studio Long Island City, New York, USA.Solo
1985National and International Studio Program Exhibition: Artists Currently in Residence The Clocktower, New York, USA.Group
1985Beauty of Wood: Between Painting and Sculpture Hokkaido Asahikawa Museum of Art, Asahikawa, Japan.Group
1985After Tilted Arc Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York, USA.Group
1984UntitledHillside Gallery, Tokyo, Japan.Solo
1983Materials and Spaces Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan.
Five Contemporary Artists from Japan, Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, Germany.Group
1983Shape and Spirit in Wood Works The Museum of Modern Art Saitama, Urawa, Japan.Group
1982Croquis Gallery Kobayashi, Tokyo, Japan.Solo
1982The 40th Venice Biennale Venice, Italy.Group
1982The 2nd International Youth Triennale of Drawings Kunsthalle, Nürnberg, Germany.Group
1981YoinGryphon Gallery, Melbourne State University, Melbourne, Australia.
The 1st Parallelism in Art Exhibition, Ohara School of Ikebana Center, Tokyo, Japan.
1980Hara Annual 1Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan.Group
1980Artists To-day Yokohama Citizen Gallery, Yokohama, Japan.Group
1978Measure. The 4th RoomKanagawa Prefecture Gallery, Yokohama, Japan.Solo
1977Exercise #1 Seminar Room, Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku, Tokyo, Japan.Group