Suo Sarumawashi, 2008
3 pigment ink prints
Edition 10 of 50
20.3 x 20.3 cm each
Hiroshi Watanabe’s portraiture has achieved well-deserved renown. From commedia de l’arte actors to kabuki players, exquisite studio portraits and intimate street scenes, his compelling black-and-white photographs have been lauded for their nuanced expression. Watanabe’s work was included in Eye To Eye, Presentation House Gallery’s portrait exhibition last year, and will be featured in the forthcoming publication.
Watanabe’s portraits are not of people, however, but of monkeys. For over 1,000 years, “monkey dancing” has been a Japanese custom, originating as a military ritual before evolving into a popular form of street entertainment. Japanese macaques, sporting traditional costume, perform acrobatics and comical skits alongside specialised trainers. Watanabe’s 2008 series Suo Sarumawashi (literally “monkey dancing”) examines a small cohort of these unconventional performers.
This exclusive auction offer is a set of three prints from the Suo Sarumawashi series. Far from indulging in the finely-crafted costumes or any exotic appeal of performing macaques, this grouping spotlights the often-overlooked personalities of these dramatised monkeys: puzzling at times, all too relatable at others. They wonder, play, and brood before the camera, revealing their intriguing character in the absence of an audience.
Hiroshi Watanabe (b. 1951, Sapporo, Japan) is a Japanese photographer who lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He self-published his first monograph Veiled Observations and Reflections in 2002, before self-publishing a series of four portfolios of portraiture entitled FACES (2003-2005). Watanabe has produced seven additional monographs since, with a forthcoming publication on his monkey series. He has won numerous awards, and his work is housed in such noteworthy collections as the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, George Eastman House, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, San Jose Museum of Art, and New Mexico Museum of Art.