Frieze Masters Viewing Room: EIKOH HOSOE

9 - 16 Oct 2020

"How do you find a language to record the events of 1945? Not just the two atomic explosions, but the concept of surrender, the concept of the Emperor losing his divinity..."

- Mark Holborn (author and curator) - September 2020

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Oct 9th - 16th, 2020


Eikoh Hosoe is one of Japan's most iconic post-war photographers, recognized for his legendary collaborations and impeccable aesthetics. In this solo presentation for Frieze Masters’ Spotlight section, we exhibit works from Hosoe’s acclaimed series Kamaitachi and Barakei (‘Ordeal by Roses’).


Hosoe had adopted the experimental dancer and ankoku butoh pioneer Tatsumi Hijikata as a kind of muse years before he proposed the experimental portrait series that would become Kamaitachi. Mining their shared memories of growing up in the rural northern province of Tōhoku and this region’s wild folkloric imagery, they worked together to create a dance-drama both cinematic and intensely physical. The title ‘kamaitachi’ refers to a weasel-like demon who allegedly haunted local rice fields, slashing unlucky wanderers who crossed his path. Drawing on these mythic associations of speed and violence, Hijikata danced through the landscape of his youth to perform a theatre of the fields for Hosoe’s camera.


Barakei, sometimes translated as ‘Ordeal by Roses’, is an extended photographic portrait created by Japanese photographer Eikoh Hosoe in collaboration with celebrated author Yukio Mishima. The series would prove a breakthrough in Hosoe’s career and as one of the final projects which Mishima undertook before his sensationalist suicide in 1970, it illustrates the writer’s final vision of how he wished to be understood. Hosoe’s impression of Mishima used the baroque aesthetics of the writer’s home and incorporated imagery from Botticelli and Dali to create a densely imaginative, subjective reflection of the author. The creative equilibrium established between these two artists is perhaps Barakei’s most radical and influential legacy to the photographic community.


Hosoe has received the Royal Photographic Society's 150th anniversary special medal, for a lifetime contribution to art. He has also been awarded The Medal with Purple Ribbon (1998), The Order of the Rising Sun (2007), the Mainichi Art Award (2008), and he was designated as a Person of Cultural Merit by the Ministry of Education (2010). He has been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions in Japan and abroad, and his photography is held in the permanent collections of many public institutions including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The British Museum, London, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and The Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco.