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The Art of Yasumasa Morimura

Updated on September 27, 2011
Daughter of Art History
Daughter of Art History | Source

Daughter of Art History

"Art is basically entertainment,” said Yasumasa Morimura. “Even Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were entertainers. In that way, I am an entertainer and want to make art that is fun."[1] Fun is one way to describe the post modern style of Morimura that is controversial and familiar at the same time. By use of modern technology and an expertise for mimicking the subjects of some of the world’s greatest master pieces, Morimura took western art to a different level of meaning. In his work, Daughter of Art History he highlights the transformation to a post modern art world, sexuality and gender identity in art, and the conflict of eastern and western culture.

Rise of Post Modernism

Throughout history different periods of art were defined by their particular style. While the break away from this system had already began it reached its peak in postmodern art. Unlike modern artists that believe anything goes as long as it is brand new, Morimura brings back history and tradition into his art but uses a modern twist. Most of his work is pieces that are iconic and instantly recognizable. He is best known for recreations of work by Rembrandt, Velazquez, Manet, and others.[2] By making his own unique spin on these works sends a definite message on his opinion of western art.

Morimura as Monroe
Morimura as Monroe | Source

Gender Identity and Art

During this postmodern period Yasumasa Morimura was also influenced by a number of other factors going that had occurred and were occurring. Among these factors was Yasumasa’s Japanese decent and how that played out in a post WWII world. The feeling of being outsider in a westernized world coupled with his homosexuality greatly influenced his art as will be further discussed later on. Also, the advancement of technology reshaped the way artists produced their art. Digital editing of photography helped achieve the level of accuracy in Morimura’s work.

Morimura used art as a way to express sexuality and gender identity going on in the modern time. Daughter of Art History like many of his works depicts him portraying a female figure in an androgynous manner. This is partly a commentary on the stereotypes of Asian men in society and also a throw back to his heritage. Asian men in western society are viewed as being lacking in sexuality and masculinity. As described by Paul Franklin, “In the western racist imagination, Asian men not only resemble little white boys in their arrested physical development but also little white girls in their arrested psychological development.”[3] This can example why the portrait of eight-year-old Infanta Margarita is copied in his Daughters of Art History collection. He also brings to a front the highly sexual influence in art and modern culture through his Actress collection particularly his self portrait as Marilyn Monroe, a sexually charged character already.

Daughter of Art History could also be a reference to the Japanese theater tradition of Kabuki.[4] Men performed the roles of both men and women in traditional Japanese theater. It would have been more common place to Morimura to see men dressed as women and wearing make-up. In way sense he takes that element of theater and brings it into his pictures. In Daughter of Art History he is simply acting out the role of Infanta Margarita. This is due to the feeling of loss in Japanese identity because of Western stereotypes.[5]In this particular picture Morimura puts the stereotypes to the test by placing himself into them. He poses as a little girl; all made up, and puts the stereotypes to the test. Represented even more than his views of sexuality in art, is his opinions on the influence of the west on eastern culture.

Infanta Margarita
Infanta Margarita | Source
Morimura as Olympia
Morimura as Olympia | Source

Influence of Western Culture

Globalization is a very common theme seen throughout the postmodern period. Westerns society’s domination and integration into eastern cultures had a profound influence on several aspects of their life. One in particular is globalization’s influence on the art world. Morimura’s Daughter of Art History is a recreation of Velazquez’s Infanta Margarita. Making the most obvious connection he possibly could, Morimura literally recreates western master pieces. As I mentioned previously, in a post WWII war because he was Japanese he probably felt like an outcast of the western society. To remedy this feeling of being an outsider Yasumasa physically places himself in pictures of western icons. If society will not accept him, he will place himself at the center of that society. He takes the Mona Lisa, arguably the most famous painting in the world, and inserts his face. Morimura felt as though his culture had been invaded with western ideas and culture. In return he profoundly invaded western society through their art.

The mixing of American and Japanese culture caused American icons to become celebrities that were idolized much like they are in our American culture today.[6]Through his work Morimura interpreted famous art from a wide span of periods but kept the common theme through all of his work of Asians having a place in western society. A great example of this would be his version of Olympia in which he places different Japanese elements into the painting in place of the western one.

Daughter of Art Historyrepresents much more than what first meets the eye. Morimura uses this and all of his photographs to highlight his opinions on sexuality and western culture. With the mixing of different cultures and the postmodern period’s interest in the past we have come across a hybrid form of photography and art. He believed that art was meant to be entertainment and entertainment was definitely one of the things his art has brought us.


[1]DiPietro, Monty,"Yasumasa Morimura" (7 June 1993).

[2] Franklin, Paul B, The Passionate Camera (New York, 1998), 233.

[3] Franklin, pg. 242

[4] JC Brew, “The Art of Self-Portaiture in a Post-Modern Global Japan”,, (20 April 2011)

[5] Gerald Matt, Japanese Photography: Desire and Void, (Zurich, Switzerland, 1997), 7.

[6] JC Brew


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