Art Department

Back to Contents of Issue: December 2000

King of Art

by Andrew Pothecary

Protecting Cat
Yukio Mishima poster
Tadanori Yokoo
What do Shiseido, the Beatles, '60s literary giant Yukio Mishima, '90s J-pop band Glay, Japan Rail, the all-female revue Takarazuka, and the Japanese postal system have in common? They've all participated in the work of legendary artist Tadanori Yokoo.

Known internationally for his posters, Tadanori also works with painting, sculpture, postage stamps, and, more recently, computers. And he's clearly in touch with our high-tech, entrepreneurial times: earlier this year, he set up his own Web site (, where the latest addition is a shopping section with Tadanori watches, posters, a "Protecting Cat" souvenir sculpture, and so on.

But while Tadanori is happy with the digital, he's wary of letting it control him, using computers only when necessary. His is not the digital art of those immersed in technology -- what you see instead are the distortions, repetitions, swirls, and reflections from the same mind that made the wayward multiplicity of his poster works.

The computer-made image -- "King of Art" -- features a typical Tadanori panorama of waterfalls and angels. The latter motif made its strongest showing in the early '90s, in the digital works published as the book Angel Love. Tadanori's belief in the existence of angels parallels both his belief in the existence of UFOs and aliens and his exploration, in life and work, of Buddhism and spirituality. While the angel era may be somewhat in the past for him now, it is not over, and such beliefs will be with him until he dies -- and, he adds, perhaps beyond.

It's difficult to imagine Tadanori -- now 64 -- sitting back and "retiring." This year saw a full retrospective in Tokyo's trendy Harajuku neighborhood. Meanwhile, at his studio, Tadanori showed us plans for his next project: three-dimensionally constructed books of his paintings.

Keep up with him if you can.

Left, from top (details except for first): a "Protecting Cat" sculpture, an early Yukio Mishima poster, 1966; a poster for "M", Tokyo Ballet's performance about Mishima this year; a poster for Glay, 1999; and Tadanori himself

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