Contemporary Culture Going Global

Japanese Star Katori Shingo’s One-Man Show in Paris

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Paris, the city of arts, is being swept off its feet by Japonismes 2018, a series of Japanese cultural events celebrating 160 years of friendly ties between Japan and France. Highlighted by the lighting up of the Eiffel Tower in traditional Japanese colors, the more than 100 attractions include exhibitions, performances, films, pop culture events, and food. And among them is a dramatic display of artwork by Katori Shingo, a popular Japanese actor and singer serving as a Japonismes 2018 goodwill ambassador.

Katori Shingo is best known for having been a member of SMAP, an iconic all-male performing group that had become a national institution by the time they disbanded two years ago. He has long shown himself to be a man of many talents, especially as an artist and fashion stylist, and remains active on many fronts. Katori first won public recognition for his artistic talent in 2015 when he donated a large commemorative mural, 2.6 meters high and more than 6 meters across, to the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center. In 2017, he exhibited two works in the Outsider Art exhibition for self-taught artists, Museum of Together, sponsored by the Nippon Foundation. This marked Katori’s first step into the world of modern art.

Katori signs a panel featuring his portrait at the entrance to the exhibit.

His Japonismes 2018 exhibit opened on September 19 for two weeks at the Charles V Hall in the Carrousel du Louvre. This was Katori’s first one-man exhibit.

Titled Nakama des Arts, the exhibit was intended, says Katori, to express his desire to connect with his nakama, his companions, friends, and buddies, through his art. The show includes some 110 items, from bright, pop-art paintings to artistic objects and fashion pieces. Many of the works on display were created specifically for this exhibit, such as a painting of the Tokyo and Eiffel towers symbolizing the friendship between Japan and France. A main feature was a gigantic installation of 1,000 vinyl-coated triangular hoods known as zukin in Japanese, linked together to form a dome.

Katori is joined at his one-man show by his nakama Kusanagi Tsuyoshi (far right) and Inagaki Gorō, two former SMAP members with whom he still works. At left is Nakamura Eriko, a former announcer and television personality now living in France.

Zukin by Katori Shingo.

One of Katori’s favorite works is a large 1.5 x 4.5 meter painting with the puzzling title, Lie Arigatō (“Thanks for the lie”). When SMAP disbanded in 2016, the media speculated that Katori might change careers to become a painter. Thanks to that “fake” news, he says, he was able to come to France this time. The painting expresses his appreciation.

The large-scale painting Lie Arigatō.

“It is like a dream come true to be exhibiting at the Louvre,” says Katori. “I am so honored, happy, and thankful. I want people who come here to see a facet of who I am that they didn’t know about before. And for visitors who knew nothing about me before this, I hope they’ll be able to sense through my work the kind of person I am. This is a real joy for me.”

Viewers were mesmerized by the sheer uninhibited exuberance and joy emanating from the brightly colored works filling the vast open space of the exhibition hall.

Katori Shingo, Nakama des Arts (an official Japonismes 2018 exhibit)

  • Duration: September 19 – October 3, 2018
  • Venue: Charles V Hall at Carrousel du Louvre (99 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris)

(Originally published in Japanese on September 25, 2018. Reporting, text, and photos by Hino Hato.)

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