Eiko Ishioka: Blood, Sweat, and Tears – A Life of Design
Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo
November 14, 2020 – February 14, 2021
The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) is pleased to present the world’s first large-scale retrospective exhibition dedicated to Eiko Ishioka (1938-2012), an internationally renowned art director and designer who ignited with her work a new era in various fields including advertising, theater, cinema, and graphic design. The exhibition takes a comprehensive look at Ishioka’s distinctive, incandescent creations, from her groundbreaking ad campaigns from early in her career, to her design work for films, opera, theater, circuses, music videos, and projects for the Olympic Games.
As described in detail in her autobiography, I DESIGN (Kodansha Ltd., 2005), Eiko Ishioka’s work has also been realized through a series of robust collaborations with great masters in their respective fields, such as Miles Davis, Reni Riefenstahl, Francis Ford Coppola, Björk, and Tarsem Singh. Along with extensive materials regarding her design process, the exhibition introduces and attempts to approach the secrets of “Eiko Ishioka’s Practice” which considers means of exerting individual creativity in the context of group production.
This highly enthusiastic exhibition invites visitors to experience Eiko Ishioka’s works and her ongoing creations, which while harboring the vibrant dynamism of the human body at its core and focuses on “red” as a key color, have a great visual impact and exude emotion. Also presented on this occasion is a valuable selection of costumes from the Hollywood Academy and other archives around the world, centering on those that Ishioka had designed for Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) for which she won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, as well as other cinema and theater productions including The Fall (2006), Mirror Mirror(2012), and The Ring of the Nibelung (1998-1999) at the Dutch National Opera.
In her series of work such as her posters for Shiseido (1966) featuring Bibari Maeda, which could be considered as a milestone in the history of design, and her advertisement campaigns for Parco in the 1970s to 1980s, Eiko Ishioka ignited a new era by presenting the liberated female image and contrasting and integrating the cultures of the Orient and the rest of the world. Since relocating her life and practice overseas in 1980, she took it on herself to confront various difficulties and challenge all areas of design under her motto “survive“. The works of Eiko Ishioka, who heralded the themes of “Timeless, Original, Revolutionary” as the essence of her design, and constantly continued to explore and expand the possibilities of “the self”, indeed delivers a powerful message to us living today in 2020.
Timeless: Designing the Times | Eiko Ishioka renewed existing frameworks such as gender, national borders, race, and through visual language served to propose new ways of life to society. Bringing focus to her graphic, editorial, product designs, and other commercial projects, the exhibition traces the development and maturity of Japanese popular culture through looking at consumer behavior, spanning from the nation’s period of high economic growth in the 1960s, up until the 1980s. Ishioka’s attitude of attempting to both design and transcend the times is that which predicts her activities and practices thereafter.
Fearless: Designing Encounters | Since the mid-1980s, Eiko Ishioka expanded her activities from Japan to the world through new encounters with various creators, also transcending the realm of expression in design to work in graphic design, art direction, costume design, and production design. Ishioka opened up possibilities for design through collaborations, while confronting the question of how to maintain the identity of individual creation and show originality within the mammoth entertainment industry.
Borderless: Designing the Future | The exhibition introduces Ishioka’s costumes for opera, films, circuses, as well as her uniforms for the Olympic Games in order to present a cohesive overview of her work that serves to expand the body, and design unknown visual realms that transcend individual attributes such as ethnicity, age, and region. Ishioka’s practice in the latter half of her life, expands human possibilities to the fullest extent with universal themes of eternity, rebirth, dreams, and adventure as a foothold, and also overlaps with her own life in which she had continued to boldly transgress borders to venture into new realms.
Profile of Eiko Ishioka
Born in Tokyo in 1938. Graduated from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music; entered the cosmetics company, Shiseido. Ishioka came to the fore with her design for the summer campaign (1966), which became a social phenomenon. Opening her own firm, she continued to produce historic ad campaigns for Parco, Kadokawa Shoten, and other companies. Relocating to New York in the early 1980s, she worked in fields ranging from movies to opera, circus, the stage, and music videos. Ishioka won a Grammy Award (1987) for her design of Mile Davis’s album TUTU and the Academy Award for Best Costume Design (1992) for the movie, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. She served as director of costume design for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Died in 2012.