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Past Exhibition Yasumasa Morimura: Theater of the Self 

October 6, 2013–January 12, 2014


Yasumasa Morimura, Self Portrait (B/W) - After Marilyn Monroe, 1996, Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York

The Warhol presents a survey exhibition of work by Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura.

Morimura is renowned for his photographic reprisals of iconic images from art history and popular culture in which he replaces the subjects with his own self-image.  By Morimura assuming a place in these works, he reimagines historical narratives and, in the process, mixes issues of originality and reproduction, gender, and race to create what he calls a “beautiful commotion.”

Developed by The Warhol in close collaboration with the artist, the exhibition will focus on three important bodies of work: “Requiem” in which Morimura recreates iconic photographs relating to political and cultural life; the “Actors” series in which he assumes the persona of Hollywood luminaries such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor; and his “Art History” photographs in which he painstakingly restages well known European paintings.

Morimura’s fascination with the self-portrait, celebrity, gay and transgendered life, art history, and popular culture align him closely with the work of Andy Warhol.  The artist has described himself as Warhol’s “conceptual son”.

Yasumasa Morimura: Theater of the Self is made possible through the generous support of The Japan Foundation.

Art History

Yasumasa Morimura’s reprisals of European masterpieces are, at once, acts of homage and parody. Painstakingly realized, his photographic reconstructions of paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt van Rijn and Edouard Manet, among others, bring compositional questions together with those pertaining to race, gender and sexuality. In doing so, they reveal both the aesthetics and the politics embedded in the art historical canon.


This section of the exhibition focuses on Morimura’s restaging of scenes from award winning films featuring Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn, Liza Minnelli, Jodie Foster and many others. It is notable that the artist’s impersonations are not anonymous but well-known stars, archetypes of Hollywood’s leading ladies.

As stated in their titles, each work is a self-portrait and together they propose a range of possibilities for the artist’s own identity. Morimura has stated, “My own self-definition includes this entire zone of possibilities. When I apply this way of thinking to making a self-portrait, it becomes what I call an ‘open self-portrait.’”


The artworks comprising the Requiem Series are derived from photographic sources and depict prominent masculine figures in moments of triumph or transition. Substituting himself for ideologues, dictators and creative thinkers, Morimura reflects on what these figures represent for the broader culture and on the role of photography in celebrating, demonizing or memorializing them.