Nobuyoshi Araki_Sentimental Journey, 1971_2017, Courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo

Widely hailed and reviled in equal measures, the signature images of Nobuyoshi Araki made the contentious photographer an unlikely choice to be commissioned by Tomas Maier to shoot his Bottega Venetta collection a few years ago. But it was the designer’s intent to have his collection captured by the lensman’s “poignant honesty”. Today, that distinct quality is the subject of a new exhibit “The Incomplete Araki: Sex, Life, and Death in the Work of Nobuyoshi Araki” at the Museum of Sex (MoSEX, 233 Fifth Avenue) through August 2018.

Nobuyoshi Araki_Marvelous Tales of Black Ink (Bokuj+½ Kitan) 068, 2007_Courtesy of Yoshii Gallery, New York

Nobuyoshi Araki_Untitled (Eros Diary), 2015_Courtesy of Anton Kern Gallery, New York (A)


The exhibition features an extensive selection of photographs – co-curated by Riggio Fellow in art history Maggie Mustard, an expert on Post-War Japanese photography, alongside MoSEX’s director of exhibitions Mark Snyder – to faithfully exemplify the raw potency his body of work. Araki-san’s artistry can be discerned most notably in his kinbaku-bi (Japanese rope bondage) images, that “push-pull” tension resonating with the same importance he assigns to the immediate and the eternal, fiction and reality, strength and vulnerability, private and public discourse, life and death.

Nobuyoshi Araki_Untitled (Eros Diary), 2015_Courtesy of Anton Kern Gallery, New York (C)

And the polarity of these themes is present even in his more accessible photographs such as those from “Sentimental Journey” (1972-1992) a collection detailing his marriage to essayist Yōko Aoki and her tragic early death, and from “Tokyo Lucky Hole”, the wide-eyed exploration of the Shinjuku sex clubs. Complementing the photography is a massive interactive installation of hundreds of photobooks setting a conversational basis for the importance of dissemination, media, and form. The title of the exhibition is as much a description of the show as it is a defining statement of Araki-san’s belief in the incompleteness of photography itself, a moment caught in a frame. Because as the shutter opens and closes, life continues to move on.