Keiichi Tanaami (1936, Tokyo, Japan).
Lives and works in Tokyo, Japan.
Keiichi Tanaami is a legendary pop artist from postwar Japan, renowned for his contributions to various artistic genres, including graphic design, illustration, video, sculpture, and painting. Born in Tokyo in 1936, Tanaami experienced the devastating Great Tokyo Air Raid during World War II when he was just nine years old. This traumatic event had a profound impact on his future artistic endeavors, as he drew inspiration from the eclectic and storytelling images imprinted in his mind during that time.
Throughout his career, Tanaami explored different mediums and styles, showcasing his versatility and innovation. At the start of his journey, he focused on American experimental films and even created works like “Good-by Elvis and USA” (1971). He actively engaged with prominent figures in the art world, participating in happenings organized by Yoko Ono and collaborating on video projects with Nam June Paik. His creative talent extended to illustration and graphic design for fashion magazines, and he was an active participant in the Neo-Dada movement, collaborating with notable artists such as Ushio Shinohara, Robert Rauschenberg, and Michel Tapié.
In 1967, Tanaami visited New York City, where he encountered the works of Andy Warhol. Struck by Warhol’s ability to navigate the world of design and consumerism while transitioning from a commercial illustrator to a respected artist, Tanaami found inspiration for his own artistic path.
During the height of psychedelic culture and pop art, Tanaami gained international acclaim for his kitschy, colorful illustrations and designs. He designed album covers for legendary bands like The Monkees and Jefferson Airplane, and his anti-war poster “NO MOREWAR” won top prize in a contest organized by Avant-Garde Magazine in 1968.
An important and notable series in Tanaami’s career consisted of erotic paintings featuring Hollywood actresses, executed in the early 1970s. In these works, he skillfully blended Western kitsch and Japanese pictorial elements, utilizing vivid colors and architectural accuracy to portray eroticism. This fusion of cultures and artistic wit brought him recognition as a Japanese artist with a keen eye for American culture. In 1975, Tanaami became the first art director of the Japanese edition of Playboy Magazine, “Monthly Playboy”, and revisited Andy Warhol’s Factory in New York.
In addition to his artistic pursuits, Tanaami has played a significant role as a professor at Kyoto University of Art and Design since 1991, influencing and inspiring generations of young artists with his innovative and multifaceted approach to art.
Tanaami’s works are presented prestigious in museums and institutions such as Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) (New York, NY, USA), Tate Modern (London, UK), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands), The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL, USA), National Portrait Gallery (Washington, DC, USA), Friedrich Christian Flick Collection (Zürich, Switzerland), M+ Museum for Visual Culture (Hong Kong, China), Kawasaki City Museum (Kawasaki, Japan), and Dresden Museum of Modern Art (Dresden, Germany).