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Gutai group


Gutai group

The Gutai group (具体; means "Embodiment") is the first radical, post-war group in Japan. It was founded by the painter Jiro Yoshihara in Osaka, Japan, 1954, in response to the reactionary artistic context of the time. This influential group known as Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai was involved in large-scale multimedia environments, performances and theatrical events.[1] According to the official website of Shozo Shimamoto, Shimamoto and Yoshihara founded Gutai together in 1954, and it was Shimamoto who suggested the name Gutai, which contrary to popular belief does not mean concrete but embodiment (according to this source) ”The kangi used to write 'gu' means tool, measures, and a way of doing something, while 'tai' means body.[2]


  • The Gutai Manifesto 1
  • Influence 2
  • Gutai at the Biennale di Venezia 2009 3
  • Gutai: Splendid Playground at the Guggenheim Museum 2013 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

The Gutai Manifesto

In 1956, Yoshihara wrote the manifesto for Gutai group. Among its preoccupations, the manifesto expresses a fascination with the beauty that arises when things become damaged or decayed. The process of damage or destruction is celebrated as a way of revealing the inner "life" of a given material or object:

"Yet what is interesting in this respect is the novel beauty to be found in works of art and architecture of the past which have changed their appearance due to the damage of time or destruction by disasters in the course of the centuries. This is described as the beauty of decay, but is it not perhaps that beauty which material assumes when it is freed from artificial make-up and reveals its original characteristics? The fact that the ruins receive us warmly and kindly after all, and that they attract us with their cracks and flaking surfaces, could this not really be a sign of the material taking revenge, having recaptured its original life?...." [3]


In addition to Yoshihara and Shimamoto, members of the Gutai group included Michel Tapié, and with tachisme ("art informel"). According to the Tate Gallery's online art glossary, Gutai artists also "created a series of striking works anticipating later Happenings and Performance and Conceptual art." [1] Gutai artists also created works that would now be called installations, inspiring the work of non-Japanese artists such as Allan Kaprow, Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell, and Conrad Bo, and leading to the later Fluxus network.

The Tate article records that "the group dissolved in 1972 following the death of Yoshihara."

Gutai at the Biennale di Venezia 2009

Gutai: Splendid Playground at the Guggenheim Museum 2013

From February 15 to May 8, 2013, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presented Gutai: Splendid Playground, a retrospective of the Gutai Art Association (1954–72), the radically inventive and influential Japanese art collective whose innovative and playful approaches to installation and performance yielded one of the most important international avant-garde movements to emerge after World War II. Based on fifteen years of research, Gutai: Splendid Playground provided a critical examination of both iconic and lesser-known examples of the collective's dynamic output over its two-decade history and explored the full spectrum of Gutai’s creative production: painting, performance, installation art, sound art, experimental film, kinetic art, light art, and environment art. “Gutai: Splendid Playground” is the first large, in-depth exhibition devoted to Gutai and the first to thoroughly cover its panoply of mediums.[4]

Comprising approximately 145 works by 25 artists and spanning two generations of Gutai artists, Gutai: Splendid Playground was organized into six chronological and thematic sections presented along the Guggenheim ramps:

  • Play: An Uninhibited Act
  • Concept: Can a Piece of Cloth Be a Work of Art?
  • Network: To Introduce Our Works to the World
  • The Concrete: The Scream of Matter Itself
  • Performance Painting: Pictures with Time and Space
  • Environment: Gutai Art for the Space Age

The exhibition also included documentary films of the group’s historic outdoor exhibitions and stage events and offered a focus on their eponymous journal as a platform for international artistic exchange. A centerpiece of Gutai: Splendid Playground was a site-specific commission of Work (Water) (1956/2011) by the late Motonaga Sadamasa. Prior to his death in 2011, Motonaga reimagined his iconic early Gutai outdoor installation, made of plastic tubes filled with colored water, for the Guggenheim rotunda. Sixteen tubes stretched across the rotunda, greeting visitors with "jewel-like dollops of water tinted red, yellow blue or green." [5]

Gutai: Splendid Playground was co-curated by Ming Tiampo, Associate Professor of Art History, Carleton University, Ottawa, and Alexandra Munroe, Samsung Senior Curator of Asian Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Assistance was provided by Asian Art Curatorial Fellow Lyn Hsieh.

See also


  • Françoise Bonnefoy; Sarah Clément; Isabelle Sauvage; Galerie nationale du jeu de paume (France). Gutai (Paris : Galerie nationale du jeu de paume : Réunion des musées nationaux, 1999) ISBN 2-908901-68-4, ISBN 978-2-908901-68-9
  • Alexandra Munroe; Yokohama Bijutsukan.; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Japanese art after 1945 : scream against the sky'' [= 戦後日本の前衛美術空へ叫び /] (New York : H.N. Abrams, 1994) ISBN 0-8109-3512-0, ISBN 978-0-8109-3512-9 [contents include "Nam June Paik -- To challenge the mid-summer sun : the Gutai group"]
  • Michel Tapié. L'aventure informelle (according to Worldcat "Details" information: "Other Titles: Gutaï.") (Nishinomiya, Japan, S. Shimamoto, 1957) OCLC 1194658
  • Tiampo, Ming. Gutai and Informel Post-war art in Japan and France, 1945--1965. (Worldcat link: [2]) (Dissertation Abstracts International, 65-01A) ISBN 0-496-66047-0, ISBN 978-0-496-66047-6
  • Jirō Yoshihara; Shōzō Shimamoto; Michel Tapié; Gutai Bijutsu Kyōkai. Gutai [= 具体] (具体美術協会, Nishinomiya-shi : Gutai Bijutsu Kyōkai, 1955-1965) [Japanese : Serial Publication : Periodical] OCLC 53194339 [Worldcat "Other titles" information: Gutai art exhibition, Aventure informelle, International art of a new era, U.S.A., Japan, Europe, International Sky Festival, Osaka, 1960]
  • Mattijs Visser; Gutai. Mal communication; Making Worlds, Exhibition catalog 53rd International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia 2009; ISBN 978883179696
  • “ZERO, Internationale Künstler Avantgarde“, published by Museum Kunst Palast and Cantz, with essays by Jean-Hubert Martin, Valerie Hilling, Catherine Millet and Mattijs Visser, Düsseldorf/Ostfildern 2006 ISBN 3-9809060-4-3
  • Ming Tampo, Guest Curator, "Under Each Other's Spell": The Gutai and New York. Catalogue © 2009 The Stony Brook Foundation, Inc.
  • Tiampo, Ming. Gutai: Decentering Modernism. (Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2010) ISBN 0-226-80165-9, ISBN 978-0-226-80165-0
  • "Gutai: Dipingere con il tempo e con lo spazio / Gutai: Painting with Time and Space", published by Museo Cantonale d'Arte, Lugano. (Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale, 2010)
  1. ^ The 20th-Century art book. (Reprinted. ed.). London: Phaidon Press. 2001.  
  2. ^ [3]
  3. ^
  4. ^ Smith, Roberta. The Seriousness of Fun in Postwar Japan. The New York Times. Feb. 14th, 2013.
  5. ^ Smith, Roberta. The Seriousness of Fun in Postwar Japan. The New York Times. Feb. 14th, 2013.

External links

  • Material on Shimamoto
  • historical essay on Fluxus, mentioning formative influence of "Gutaj" [sic] group
  • UNESCO biographical information on Atsuko Tanaka: "...Performances featuring different costumes were the main characteristic of her work with the Gutaj Group."
  • Tate Gallery: article on Gutai
  • Website of the Ashiya City Museum of Art & History
  • Complete text of the Gutai Manifesto (provided in English translation by the Ashiya City Museum website)
  • ZERO foundation
  • ZERO group
  • Venice Biennale
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