Arakawa Biography

Arakawa at 124 West Houston Street, New York, 1980

Shusaku Arakawa (1936-2010) was born in Nagoya, Japan and attended the Musashino Art University in Tokyo. Renowned for his paintings, drawings, and prints, as well as his visionary architectural constructions, Arakawa, was one of the founding members of the Japanese avant-garde collective Neo Dadaism Organizers and was one of the earliest practitioners of the international conceptual-art movement of the 1960s. After moving to New York from Japan in 1961, Arakawa produced diagrammatic paintings, drawings, and other conceptual works that employed systems of words and signs to both highlight and investigate the mechanics of human perception and knowledge. Throughout the following decades Arakawa continued to exhibit at museums and galleries extensively throughout North America, Western Europe and Japan with works that grew in scale and visual and intellectual complexity.

In 1962, Arakawa met the American poet Madeline Gins, with whom he developed a personal and creative partnership. Together they expanded Arakawa’s painting practice into an important series entitled The Mechanism of Meaning, a suite of 80 canvases that explored and further exposed the workings of human consciousness and “solving the problem of art.” The Mechanism of Meaning exists in two versions that were exhibited in their entirety by the Sezon Museum of Modern Art, Karuizawa in 1988 and by the Guggenheim Museum, New York in 1997.

In the 1990s, Arakawa and Gins developed a theory of ‘procedural architecture’ to further their philosophical implication’s impact on human lives. Through architecture specifically, they endeavored to ‘learn how not to die,’ a concept that they termed ‘reversible destiny,’ believing firmly that the architectural works that they created could transform the personal well-being and longevity of those who lived within them. Arakawa and Gins dedicated the remainder of their lives to seeing their ideas integrated into architectural theory and contemporary building methods.

Standing examples of their architecture include: the Reversible Destiny Lofts–Mitaka; Site of Reversible Destiny–Yoro; and a permanent work at Nagi MOCA (all in Japan) as well as Bioscleave House, a private home in Long Island, New York. Additionally, they established several foundations including the Reversible Destiny Foundation, which was established to further their artistic and philosophical pursuits.

Arakawa’s work is featured in institutional collections world-wide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; The National Museum of Art, Osaka; and the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, as well as in numerous private and corporate collections.  He represented Japan in XXXV Venice Biennale (1970) and was included in Documenta IV (1968 ) and Documenta VI (1977). His work has also been the focus of major retrospectives at the Guggenheim Museum, New York and the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, and has been exhibited extensively throughout North America, Western Europe and Japan.

Painting is only an exercise. – Arakawa

Marcel Duchamp and Shusaku Arakawa, 1966
1936 Born in Japan on July 6
1961 Arrived in New York
1963 Began collaborating with Madeline Gins on the research project “The Mechanism of Meaning”
1987 Founded Reversible Destiny Foundation (Formerly Containers of Mind Foundation) with Madeline Gins
2002 Established Arakawa & Gins Tokyo office in Japan
2010 Died in NY on May 19
1986 Awarded by the French Government: Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres
1987-88 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship
1988-89 Belgian Critics’ Prize
1997 College Art Association’s Artist Award for Exhibition of the Year/Distinguished Body of Work, Presentation or Performance Award
1998 The highest award in the Rainbow Town Urban Design Competition goes to the Arakawa/Gins Chinju no Mori/Sensorium City (Tokyo Bay)
2003 Shiju Housho – Medal with Purple Ribbon Nihon Gendai Geijutsu Shinko Sho – Award for innovation in Japanese contemporary art from Japan Arts Foundation
2010 The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette
2005 “Arakawa and Gins: Architecture and Philosophy,” University of Paris X-Nanterre
2008 “Reversible Destiny Declaration of the Right Not to Die: Second International Arakawa +Gins Architecture + Philosophy Conference/Congress,” University of Pennsylvania, Slought Foundation
2010 AG3: The Third International Arakawa and Gins: Architecture and Philosophy Conference, Griffith University, Australia

Choose everything.  – Arakawa