Collecting Hiro Ando, Icon of the Nippon Neo Pop Culture

December 10, 2019

One of the most famous contemporary Japanese artists, Hiro Ando creates work that conflates traditional and present-day Japan. Drawing on ideas of collectability and fantasy, he combines tradition with contemporary culture in his sculpture work, facilitating a special conjunction of the old and new.

A truly talented artist, Hiro Ando emerged in 1995 as an illustrator, quickly shifting his focus to works executed in a variety of different media including painting, digital media, sculpture, and video. In 2005, he and the artist Saori Nakamishi founded the neo-pop artist studio collective Studio CRAZY NOODLES, which organizes and promotes the creative activities of young artists of the new Japanese pop wave.

The work of Hiro Ando represents the light, fun side of the neo-pop culture, highlighting that contemporary art can be both fun and have wide appeal. He recontextualizes his country’s icons such as the maneki-neko (lucky cat), samurai warriors, sumo wrestlers, and koi fish, by reformatting them as colorful sculptures titled sumocat, robotcat, samuraicat, etc. Characterized by the use of monochrome colors and the smooth, shiny materials including resin, porcelain, bronze, and even diamonds, these works are the creative fruit of Japanese mass culture. Posing a new view on the traditional norms, Ando has been described as a modern samurai of Japanese art.

One of the leading galleries of the Japanese Neo-pop, the Paris-based Galerie Jacob Paulett contains the best artworks of the genre, hand-picked by their curator.

If you're looking to enrich your collection with a melting pot of the modern and the traditional, we have made a selection of some of the best sculptures by Hiro Ando from the gallery's collection.

Featured image: Hiro Ando - magoi & higoi (detail), 2017. All images courtesy of Galerie Jacob Paulett.

samuraicat diamondstrass, 2006

Depicting the artist's iconic character samuraicatsamuraicat diamondstrass references both Damien Hirst's diamond-covered human skull and the Diamond Dust works of Andy Warhol. Samuraicat is based on the motif of maneki-neko, standing for “lucky cat” within the Japanese mass culture, but is constructed like a samurai.

Painted bright red, the surface of this Hiro Ando sculpture is covered with hand-applied, shimmering crystals to imitate diamonds.

See more info about the work here.

"saburo" naotora, 2017

This work references "Saburo" Naotora, the youngest son of Hidetora Ichimonji, a powerful though now elderly warlord from Ran, Akira Kurosawa's action-drama. The warlord decided to divide his kingdom among his three sons - giving the prestigious First Castle and the leadership over the Ichimonji clan to Taro, the oldest, and giving the Second and Third Castles to Jiro and Saburo. The film revolves around the subjects of the intergenerational inheritance of power, but also around the themes of chaos, nihilism, and warfare.

This steel sculpture by Hiro Ando pays homage to Kurosawa, at the same time creating a contemporary dialogue between the past and present, East and West.

See more info about the work here.

urbancat, 2008

Another rendition of the modern Japanese icon, maneki-neko, the work depicts another of Ando's signature characters, the urbancat. The character is depicted dressed casually, with its hands in its pockets, clearly referencing Ando's generation's obsession with Anime and the "Hello Kitty" craze.

Rendered with a totally polished surface, the piece intentionally plays with ideas of luxury, status, tradition, kitsch, and high versus low art, like the majority of his oeuvre.

See more info about the work here.

magoi & higoi, 2017

Created in 2017, magoi & higoi depicts the koi fish, associated in Japan with good luck, abundance, perseverance in adversity and strength of purpose. In Buddhism, they represent courage and are a symbol of worldly aspiration and advancement. In Japan, there is a legend that when koi fish swims up the magnificent waterfall upstream of the Yellow River, it could become a dragon.

Hiro Ando took this important Japanese cultural symbol and turned it into a contemporary artwork by rendering it with a totally polished silver surface.

See more info about the work here.

tanabata, 2017

Created in 2017, the work depicts Tanabata, meaning the Evening of the Seventh. This celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi, lovers who according to the legend are separated by the Milky Way. They are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar.

In contemporary Japan, this day is celebrated by writing wishes, sometimes in the form of poetry, on tanzaku, small pieces of paper, and hanging them on wish Tree. Hiro Ando created a gleaming steel wish tree that pays homage to this tradition, but also a range of concepts such as love, wishes, playfulness and beauty, all while explaining the constellations.

See more info about the work here.

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GALERIE JACOB PAULETT

Paris, France