List of Corrections
As is inevitable, a number of errors have crept into the final printed version of Before and After Superflat. These will be corrected in any future versions of the book in print or electronic form. With my sincere apologies to all concerned.
I am always pleased to receive comments, corrections, suggestions, or advice.
p.42, last line. Oshima's toy sculpture is in fact called "Shin Yokohama", although it was used as part of a show about Akihabara
p.57, line 13 -- "Murakami still calls Nara...".
This line is a over-exaggeration, based on a doubtful source. The two artists are in touch as friends, and occasionally call each other.
p.59, line 1. "He would tip off Koyama...". This line exaggerates the number of artists Nara has introduced to Koyama. Nara himself mentions only two: Hiroshi Sugito and Atsushi Fukui. Others were taught by the same teacher as Nara at Aichi.
p.59, l.14. Nara himself denies any connection with the blurring of contemporary art and commercial design in this period, and according to his account never attempted to present himself (i.e. at competitions) in this context.
p.60, line 13-14. Lamm Fromm and Workaholics are the same company. His made-in-China dogs are made by the company Sun Arrow.
p.61, line 5-9 . Nara's partner in the café in Omotesando was Mr. Sadahiro, a restauranteur. The line about "it is questionable who is the better businessman" is a throwaway remark that should be removed.
p.93 -- NAKAMURA, MURAKAMI AND FRIENDS (photo)
The photograph was in fact taken by Masato Nakamura. Third from the left in the white coat is a friend, Nakao Ikemiya.
p.95 -- NAKAMURA, MURAKAMI AND FRIENDS (art work by Hideki Nakazawa) The Baka CG image is from the Nakamura to Murakami events in Seoul. The two figures are, on left, Nakao Ikemiya, who is performing a dance and, on right, Tsuyoshi Ozawa, who is drawing one of his signature “Jizoing” images. The image is courtesy of Hideki Nakazawa and Gallery Cellar.
p.96, line 4. In "Fo(u)tunes" (correct spelling) Min Nishihara also introduced two other neo-pop artists, Yasutaka Nakanowatari and Nobuhira Narumi, whose art works based on video camera's attached to dogs received a lot of attention in the 1990s. One of the dogs in some shows was Johnnie Walker's reputedly gay vegetarian dog, Dylan.
p.101, top of page -- on the true story of the Nasubi Gallery: The first installation of an artist in the Nasubi Gallery was by Tsuyoshi Ozawa himself during The Gimburart. He placed eggplants in the tiny white cube, as in the Obon festival tradition of Shoryo-uma. The first show by an invited artist, by Takashi Murakami, took place two weeks after The Gimburart.
p.161, l.27. The name of the artist should read Mike Kelley.
p.212, bottom paragraph -- on the location of 3331 Arts Chiyoda: 3331 is located in a run down corner of the central Chiyoda city ward, but the North East part of Tokyo discussed here, which has become the new symbolic location of contemporary art in Tokyo, includes parts of Taito-ku, Sumida-ku and Koto-ku, centred on Akihabara.
The line should read: “… The Echigo-Tsumari and Setouchi festivals were massive community interventions…”
p.243, Emmanuel Perrotin should appear in normal type face not bold.
Other Responses re: Yoshitomo Nara’s comments
Response from Yoshitomo Nara to the article “Yoshitomo Nara as a businessman”:
In his comments about the original version of the chapter from Before and After Superflat (pp.56-63), ‘Nara as Businessman’.Yoshitomo Nara focuses on factual issues in the text, rather than the more general impression he may have had at first. I thank him again for the detail and sincerity of these comments. Clearly he was reacting against the surprising tone of the piece, which sought to read his work “against” his popular “naive” or “child-like” image: that is, as a sophisticated, professional, “strategising” contemporary artist, who has engaged in a range of art practices over the years as part of “the struggle for a page in art history”, as I call it. While noting humbly my clear errors, I feel that most of Nara's comments actually clarify my short account rather than changing it fundamentally. A few point to differences over my use of certain confidential sources.
Opinions have differed over to what extent the translation was a cause of misunderstandings. There were certainly some problems, and I believe the translation, while rendering a complex text into a direct, rather literal Japanese, probably missed some of the irony as well as warmth in the writing.
As a blog, the article was also taken out of its context in the book, which was a mistake of mine. This chapter immediately followed a chapter on Takashi Murakami's Art Entrepreneurship Theory. The goal of the chapter, then, was to compare the two artists, and consider in the same terms Nara's enormous and ambitious range of art practices -- which have spanned individual "espressivist" drawings, paintings and sculpture, huge scale collaborations, and an amazingly large range of commercial products available worldwide. Although Nara distances himself in his comments from the commercial side of his work, I argue that it is the combination of his work as an artist, public figure and producer of design products that has together created the incredibly strong “brand” around his work which underlies his national and international “art power”. In the original version, I pursued this argument through the metaphor of describing Nara as “businessman”, but it might have been less objectionable to the artist had I specified this as “art entrepreneur”; that is, explicitly in terms of Murakami’s Warholian-style theories. In his comments, Nara stressed aspects in which he feels he has less control than it may seem over his “spin-off” products and things done in his name. At the same time, his intensely engaged response underlines how much he does care about all the aspects of his work and name as an artist, public figure and designer of products. So I feel it is reasonable to read all these aspects of his work as an integral part of his art practice, and thus give him credit as a professional artist for the way he embraced NPO style organisational structures and entered into agreements with producers of books, toys, T-shirts etc, all of which may have allowed for even more success and “art power” than Murakami's self-conscious “business-style” operation.
I have nothing critical to say about Nara's many charitable and political actions, and made no claim in the text about who profits from all the work and products. I only claim that the full range of Nara's art practices are part of what has made him successful nationally and internationally as an artist.
The other clear contextual issue which caused problems, is that my account of Nara in Before and After Superflat only covered his development until the New York Asian Society show in late 2010. As with many artists, I feel March 2011 had a dramatic affect on how Nara presented himself publicly. Nara clearly ended the phase of collaborations in his work that I write about, and also perhaps started to feel differently about the issue of commercial products made in his name. Indeed, in the book and elsewhere, I note already his shift away in the mid 2000s, away from the “pop life” of “superflat” style art-as-branding (which he embraced in the early 2000s), towards becoming a more community based and eventually political artist. From the vantage point of 2012 and after, this kind of reading should be stressed more.
I would also brielfy like to run through the points raised by Yoshitomo Nara in his comments.
"The fact is, after Cool Japan..."
"They were thrown together at UCLA..."
"Murakami still calls..."
I feel the events surrounding the Twitter uproar and these comments confirmed the close and sympathetic alliance between Nara and Murakami at the pinnacle of the Japanese art world. Information about their calls and communication came from an anonymous insider source – what should be corrected is the exaggerated impression of frequent calls, or that they were “plotting” the “new pop revolution” together.
"Nara's naive image ..."
I think the popularity of Nara's image remains undiminished. I appreciate the sincerity of Nara's feelings on the subject.
"His works range from famous paintings..."
"On paper, I could have made..."
It is difficult to assess what constitutes a "massive inventory". The two volume catalogue raisonné published in 2011 was enormous, and the story I told about the minor print in a series of 72 at TKG is true. By "big money", I meant the "value" on Nara's work (over $1 million for some paintings) -- which is connected to the diffuseness of his practices across many forms. I accept that literally speaking, a few big paintings make a lot more money than a large number of prints. Again, I did not say anything about who actually profits from such sales -- as Nara rightly pointed out, profits from sales on the secondary market are never made by the artist.
"Much of Nara's inventory in the 2000s..."
"In" here means "during". During the 2000s, the documentation on much of Nara's (ie. his early work) was imprecise.
"They had a series of arguments ..."
"2009, Nara was keen to go completely independent ..."
"In the meantime, he was always unusually powerful in dictating..."
"When he let the museum in Seoul keep... "
"Nara may not have worried about sales, but he was screaming... "
These were claims based on statements with a close informant, who for obvious reasons I kept anonymous. I regret not being more cautious with these claims, which may or may not be true, although I had no reason to doubt them. My only intention here was to put a bit of human flesh and blood on Yoshitomo Nara as a driven and emotional personality, and on the sometimes difficult relations between artist and gallerist or artist and curators. I intended no malice. As in his Twitters, Nara emerges as a sometimes emotional, demanding and intense personality. Elsewhere in Before and After Superflat Tomio Koyama is portrayed as one of the heroes of the Tokyo contemporary art scene.
"He would tip off Koyama..."
I need to correct the words "any number" and "several" which are an exaggeration according to Nara's information here. Other artists educated by Hitsuda at the same school as Nara included Masako Ando (who was shown at Hara Museum in 2012) and Mika Kato, so the implicit connection is stronger than Nara suggests. I was also referring to one or two foreign artists in TKG's list who had similar styles to his, but my information about the connection with Nara may be incorrect.
"He had been around since the late 1980s ...."
"But the underlying point with Nara was commercial..."
I was perhaps wrongly including Nara in the general tendancy of artists to seek success in the design world of the 1980s. On the basis of Nara's statement here, the factual issue of whether he "tried unsuccessfully" to become an illustrator is therefore wrong. I feel, though, Nara was certainly part of these "heta uma" trends, consciously or not. The same issue is discussed by Hideki Nakazawa in his Contemporary Art History (2008).
"Fans need to collect, he said".
Nara was quoted in Financial Times (5-6 Aug 2006) as saying: “The people who really like my work usually don’t have enough money. That’s why I made T-shirts and fluffy toys – for them”. I was missing a quote in the text, but I feel it was valid as an extrapolation of Nara's attitude based on what he writes in his autobiographical books about his products and fans. I see nothing wrong with this claim, which was very sympathetic to the artist.
"And so he kept giving it away..."
That Lamm Fromm and Workaholics are the same company, duly noted. The made-in-China toy dog I own has a Workaholics product ticket on it! I was not aware of Sun Arrow. While noting that Yoshitomo Nara distances himself from products in his name, it is a fact that products in his name (©Yoshitomo Nara) are on sale absolutely everywhere in the world today. Nara is obviously very concerned about what is produced in his name, but also in maintaing a "hands off distance" between these products and the rest of his work as an artist (unlike, for example, Murakami). In my reading, this is what I mean by a kind of "hands off" approach. My argument is that these commercial activities are relevant to Nara's success as a serious artist. My exact knowledge of the business arrangements ends here, but what Nara says is essentially consistent with my account, which was based largely on in-depth discussions with Masakazu Takei and Yoshi Kawasaki about Nara's books and T-shirts respectively. I have admiration for all of these people involved.
"Once Nara started producing..."
Maybe it was an accident, but Nara's turn to producing vinyl toys made him a cult hero in this creative field. His importance in this field is discussed, for example, in Woodrow Pheonix, Plastic Culture: How Japanese Toys Conquered The World (Kodansha 2006).
"And so he kept giving it away..."
"Nara knew he would just get a permanent colleciton in his name"
I am aware of these facts about the Seoul show as is clear in the book. Again, it is a matter of interpretation, but my reading of what happened would seem to be correct.
"Koyama was also furious about the café..."
Again, we may not not know whether in fact they disagreed, as was reported to me. The partner I am refering to is indeed Mr Sadahiro. I would remove the line about "being a better businessman", as again I'm not claiming that Nara makes money from these operations, only that they are a significiant and interesting part of his art practice in relation to Murakami’s theories of art entrepreneurship. The A-to-Z café allowed people to visit the show if they were not able to see it elsewhere.
"As to A to Z became an almost permanent endless world tour..."
"Nara's massive operation has never been portrayed ..."
Again, I was interested to observe the NPO like structure of Nara's "operation" (that is, his work as an artist understood as a coherent art practice) rather than actual business details. I note the charitable aspects of the Hirosaki shows in the book, I reported a figure 3000 volunteers (it perhaps depends on how they were counted), as this was the information I was given by Hidefumi Hatakeyama at Harappa, the NPO connected to Nara in Hirosaki. Everyone knows the "positive" story about Hirosaki from Nara's video, Travelling with Yoshitomo Nara. To be fair, I note the fun and populism of most people's involvement, and simply stress that certain negative opinions about it that had not been reported before.
"They call this collaboration ..."
I simply note that Nara's reputation and standing as an artist (his name and value) rose through his collaborative practices and the way he involved his fans as consumers and producers. Other writers such as Midori Matsui and Marilyn Ivy have also written about how Nara has involved his fans in the production of his work and his practice as an artist.
"Nara kept his money tight and expected ..."
This is perhaps unfair, given what the artist says. However, it was only reported here as the views of some of the people who worked at Hirosaki.
"When he stared writing his blog ..."
Elsewhere in Before and After Superflat I date the moment from when Nara discovered naoko's blog "Happy Hour" and started to write for that blog (from his autobiography, Little Star Dweller).
"There was little development in his style"
"But he alone turned his audience into Nara producers..."
As I note above, I feel the perspective on Nara's work changed after March 2011. It became clear now that he was moving back to a kind of emotional, solo production and away from collaboration, installation work and the emphasis on commercial products. My account should therefore be read and assessed as a historical account up to his Asia Society show in late in 2010.