Genpei Akasegawa

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Genpei Akasegawa
赤瀬川 原平
Genpei Akasegawa bijutsu-techo Boken-ha 1961-192.jpg
Genpei Akasegawa (1961)
Katsuhiko Akasegawa

(1937-03-27)March 27, 1937
Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
DiedOctober 26, 2014 (2014-10-27) (aged 77)
Tokyo, Japan
Other namesKatsuhiko Otsuji
OccupationConceptual artist, photographer, essayist, short story writer

Genpei Akasegawa (赤瀬川 原平, Akasegawa Genpei) was a pseudonym of Japanese artist Katsuhiko Akasegawa (赤瀬川 克彦, Akasegawa Katsuhiko) (March 27, 1937 – October 26, 2014).[1] He used another pen name, Katsuhiko Otsuji (尾辻 克彦, Otsuji Katsuhiko), for literary works.


Akasegawa was born in 1937 in Yokohama, and moved to Ashiya, Ōita and Nagoya in his childhood because of his father's job. Shusaku Arakawa was a high school classmate in Nagoya.

In 1960, Akasegawa became involved within the Neo-Dada Organizers, along with Ushio Shinohara, Shusaku Arakawa, and Masanobu Yoshimura. He formed the Hi-Red Center with Jiro Takamatsu and Natsuyuki Nakanishi in 1963, which was a group of artists that presented their works as a collective in Japan; they performed happenings within the Hi-Red Center. Akasegawa was also associated with the avant-garde.

In the 1970s he used the idea of Hyper-Art (chōgeijutsu), an ordinary but useless street object that happened to look like a conceptual artwork despite nobody having intended this. He called such things Hyperart Thomasson (named for Yomiuri Giants outfielder Gary Thomasson) and published photographs of them first within the magazine Shashin Jidai and later within books.[2]

As "Katsuhiko Otsuji," he received the Akutagawa Prize in 1981 for his short story, "Chichi ga kieta". Akasegawa is known for many humorous essays, and his 1998 book Rōjinryoku was a bestseller.

Akasegawa was fond of old cameras, especially Leicas, and from 1992 to around 2009, he joined Yutaka Takanashi and Yūtokutaishi Akiyama in the photographers' group Raika Dōmei, which held numerous exhibitions.

"Model Thousand-Yen Note Incident"[edit]

In January 1963, Akasegawa sent out invitations to a solo exhibition at a gallery in Tokyo. The announcement was delivered to several close friends in a cash envelope sent through the postal service.[3] The announcement itself was a 1,000-yen note reproduced in monochromatic colors on the front, with relevant information regarding the exhibit on the back. Thereafter, he used copies of the note as wrapping paper to wrap a variety of everyday objects for a series of artworks called Packages.[4]

In January 1964, his 1,000-yen note partial reproductions became noticed by the police and he was indicted for creating imitations of banknotes, in violation of the 1895 Law to Regulate the Imitation of Currency and Bond Certificates.[5] Akasegawa was charged with the crime of "copying" (mozō), i.e. the simulation of currency, which was a lesser charge than actual counterfeiting, but nonetheless quite serious.[4] The language of the law was quite vague, prohibiting any manufacture or sale of objects with an exterior front that might “be confused for currency or securities”. Akasegawa countered that rather than "copying" (mozō), he was merely "modeling" (mokei) the notes, just as one would create a model airplane.[5]

In August 1966, Akasegawa's initial trial and numerous appeals began; the entire process would last until 1970.[4] Akasegawa treated the entire incident as a work of performance art or a happening, and spoke of it as he would speak of his physical artworks, dubbing it the Model Thousand-Yen Note Incident. Numerous well-known artists who were Akasegawa's friends and associates testified on his behalf. Together, they appropriated the courtroom as a space for artistic production and debate on the meaning of art.[4] Akasegawa recorded his thoughts and experiences as the trials were proceeding in a series of essays published in 1970 in the collection called Obuje o motta musansha ("The Proletarian Carrying an Objet").[6]

The case hinged on two difficult questions. First whether Akasegawa's model thousand-yen note constituted "art," and second, whether that art was protected free expression and therefore not a crime. Ultimately, the court decided that the note was in fact art, but that producing that art also constituted a criminal act.[7] In June 1967, Akasegawa was found guilty and given a very lenient three-month suspended sentence. He appealed twice but exhausted his final appeal when the Supreme Court of Japan ruled against him in 1970.[8]



  • Obuje o motta musansha (オブジェを持った無産者). Tokyo: Gendai Shisōsha, 1970.
  • Tuihō sareta yajiuma (追放された野次馬). Tokyo: Gendai Hyōronsha, 1972.
  • Sakura gahō gekidō no sen nihyaku gojū ichi (桜画報・激動の千二百五十日). Tokyo: Seirindō, 1974.
  • Yume dorobō: Suimin hakubutsushi (夢泥棒:睡眠博物誌). Tokyo: Gakugei Shorin, 1975.
  • Chōgeijutsu Tomason (超芸術トマソン). Tokyo: Byakuya Shobō, 1985. Revised: Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1987. ISBN 4-480-02189-2. English translation: Hyperart: Thomasson. New York: Kaya Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-885030-46-7.
  • Tōkyō mikisā keikaku (東京ミキサー計画). Tokyo: Parco, 1984. Reissue: Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1994. ISBN 4-480-02935-4.
  • Rōjinryoku (老人力). Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1998, ISBN 978-4-480-81606-1. Reissue: Chikuma Shobō, 2001, ISBN 978-4-480-03671-1.


  1. ^ 赤瀬川原平さん死去 「老人力」「超芸術トマソン」 (in Japanese). Asahi Shimbun. October 27, 2014. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  2. ^ 99% Invisible (2014-08-27). "There's a Name for Architectural Relics That Serve No Purpose". Salon. Retrieved 2014-09-02.
  3. ^ Tomii, Reiko (February 1, 2002). "State v. (Anti-)Art: Model 1,000-Yen Note Incident by Akasegawa Genpei and Company". Positions: Asia Critique. 10 (1): 147. doi:10.1215/10679847-10-1-141. S2CID 144997715.
  4. ^ a b c d Kapur, Nick (2018). Japan at the Crossroads: Conflict and Compromise after Anpo. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 200. ISBN 9780674988484.
  5. ^ a b Tomii, Reiko (February 1, 2002). "State v. (Anti-)Art: Model 1,000-Yen Note Incident by Akasegawa Genpei and Company". Positions: Asia Critique. 10 (1): 149. doi:10.1215/10679847-10-1-141. S2CID 144997715.
  6. ^ Akasegawa, Genpei (1970). Obuje o motta musansha (in Japanese). Tokyo: Gendai Shisōsha.
  7. ^ Kapur, Nick (2018). Japan at the Crossroads: Conflict and Compromise after Anpo. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 200–01. ISBN 9780674988484.
  8. ^ Tomii, Reiko (February 1, 2002). "State v. (Anti-)Art: Model 1,000-Yen Note Incident by Akasegawa Genpei and Company". Positions: Asia Critique. 10 (1): 155. doi:10.1215/10679847-10-1-141. S2CID 144997715.


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