Katsumi Nakai: Unfolding

10 October - 9 December 2023

Installation view of Katsumi Nakai: Unfolding at Luxembourg + Co., London.

Photo: Damian Griffiths Photography.

On 10 October 2023, Luxembourg + Co., London, will open an exhibition of works by the Japanese artist Katsumi Nakai (1927-2013) in its London space on 2 Savile Row, as well as a second display of Nakai’s work at Frieze Masters (11-15 October).


Few artists in the history of modern art have taken upon themselves the task of exploring the magical potential of hinges as seriously and extensively as Katsumi Nakai. Born in 1927 in the town of Hirakata, Japan, Nakai belongs to a generation of artists that experienced the trauma of the Second World War during their formative years as young adults training in art. In effect, his desire to travel in the aftermath of the War and explore other cultures was a direct result of this experience and it led him to forge a unique artistic vocabulary rooted in the idea of “opening-up”.


Nakai was 37 when he first arrived in Milan, the city in which he would spend the most prolific decades of his career (between 1964 and 1996). Although he never acquired flu- ent Italian, it did not take him long to be- come a notable member of the city’s art scene, particularly identified with the cohort of the vibrant Galleria del Naviglio, along- side artists such as Nobuya Abe, Agostino Bonalumi, Enrico Castellani and Lucio Fon- tana. Initially working in expressive abstract style, by the mid 1960s Nakai developped a unique approach to art making that relied on cutting and assembling wooden pan- els using hinges to create paintings of ex- ceptional complexity. These often appear at first as simple monochromatic squares, but once opened they come into life as colourful three-dimensional entities, both playful and ominous, familiar and surprising.


In parallel to the exhibition in the main space, a second display titled From the Square will be presented in the adjacent gallery room exploring works by five modern and post-war artists that challenge painting’s physical limitations as a rectangular surface. With works by Hans Arp, Lucio Fontana, Kazimir Malevich, Kurt Schwitters and Günther Uecker.


Katsumi Naki: Unfolding will be accompanied by a new publication including an extensive essay by art historian Brandon Taylor on the life and work of Nakai.