The Centre Pompidou acquires Katsumi Nakai's Untitled, 1971

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The Centre Pompidou acquires Katsumi Nakai's Untitled, 1971
Katsumi Nakai, Untitled, 1971, wooden construction, acrylic paint on wood, 160 x 120 cm.

LONDON.- Ronchini announced that the Centre Pompidou in Paris has recently added Untitled, 1971 by Katsumi Nakai to their permanent collection. Nakai, whose work has recently garnered greater critical attention, acts as a bridge between European and Japanese postwar art. The acquisition was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Japanese Friends of the Centre Pompidou. Since 2018, Ronchini represents the Estate of Katsumi Nakai. The Gallery has worked closely with the artist’s daughter to re-introduce Nakai’s oeuvre to a new generation of artists and collectors. We are delighted that Untitled has now entered the collection of the Centre Pompidou. The leading French cultural venue is the first institution in Europe to acquire a work by Nakai, setting an important precedent for the re-contextualisation of the Japanese artist’s work within leading art historical discourses of the 20th century.

Untitled is a prime example of Nakai’s composite works. Starting in 1966, Nakai expanded the parameters of painting, from a flat surface to a multi-dimensional one. His painted planes took on a sculptural dimension, engendering a new perception on the audience’s part; now actively called to manipulate the work. In their composite form, Nakai’s complex works speak to diverging discourses, calling to mind, both Eastern and Western art historical traditions. Equally inspired by the intricacy of Japanese origami and contemporary developments in the realm of the ‘shaped-canvas’ - spearheaded by the likes of Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella – Nakai’s multi-coloured wooden structures exceed the limits of the flat canvas. Uniting the two-dimensionality of painting with the three-dimensionality of sculpture Nakai creates what the art historian Guido Ballo described as a “pictorial object”.

Katsumi Nakai was born in Hirakata, Osaka, Japan in 1927. Between 1953 and 1959 he studied painting at the Institute of Fine Arts in Osaka. In 1956 his first solo exhibition was held at the Omote Gallery in Osaka and in 1958, together with seven others, he founded the avant-garde art group Tekkeikai. The group – active between Kyoto and Osaka – was awarded a number of prizes including the Shell Art Prize. In 1964, Nakai travelled to Europe and settled in Milan, where he remained for the next thirty years. In Milan, he became closely associated with the city’s thriving art scene and made the acquaintance of Enrico Baj, Agostino Bonalumi, Enrico Castellani, Paolo Scheggi and Nanda Vigo. In particular, he established strong ties with Lucio Fontana and gallerist Renato Cardazzo. Cardazzo gave Nakai his first Italian exhibition at Galleria del Cavallino in Venice in 1965. This was followed by a series of important solo presentations at Galleria del Naviglio in Milan.

Nakai’s work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, in Europe, Japan and the United States. Over the years, he was awarded the Prix Piazzetta, the Ambitions Moderate Award and the Silver Award at the XV Milan Triennale (1973), among others. In 1996 Nakai returned to Japan, where he lived and worked until his death in 2013. In 2004, the Italian Institute of Culture in Kyoto mounted the seminal exhibition Katsumi Nakai – Open, while Ronchini Gallery organised the artist’s first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom in February 2018.

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