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Hiroshi Nagai: Paintings for Music

  • Art, Drawings
  • Recommended
A painting of a dark blue boxy car on a sandy beach with big surf in a blue ocean and a huge cloud in a big blue sky
Photograph: Supplied/Hiroshi Nagai'Beachside Cloud Vehicle' is one of the beautiful city pop art gems on show at Hiroshi Nagai: Paintings for Music

Time Out Says

We love this retrospective of the beloved Japanese illustrator who rode the post-war pop culture wave

Oft-compared to the bedazzling appeal of British painter David Hockney, Japanese illustrator Hiroshi Nagai is an outstanding artist in his own right. Starting out designing record sleeves, he depicted the clean-cut lines of beachside Californian dream scenes with a vibrant panache that ensured his work went pop in ‘80s Japan.

And pop’s the right word, because the Tokushima-born artist’s vision of midnight blue swimming pools, swaying palm trees and boxy Cadillacs parked in the sand propelled him to the fore of the ‘city pop’ style. It was a cultural wave embraced by the suddenly cash-rich working class whose prospects soared in the post-war period. With an eye on Western mores, Japan was also leading the world in its own way, stepping into the future with a huge technological push. Music was exploding outwards too, onto the streets with the invention of Sony’s Walkman, with boom boxes and cars hooked up with cassette players.

Nagai knew how to ride the city pop wave, and now you can check out glorious highlights of his prolific 40-year career in a retrospective hosted by the Japan Foundation in Chippendale. It runs from September 25 until January 23 next year, so slip in and soak up some of his finest, showcasing images of egg yolk yellow Tower Records store façades and the pink blush of sunset cityscapes reflected in the water.

There are pieces on show from his ‘80s heyday right up until now, with Nagai as prolific and successful an artist as ever. Nagai is music critic to boot nowadays, and you can be sure that some of his original record sleeve designs are also on display at the Japan Foundation exhibition, plus there will be a series of events to accompany the gallery show. So get set for summer by diving into Nagai’s neon nights and bright beach delights.

Love vibrant art? You can snap up some of the Biennale's best at auction

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Written by
Stephen A Russell


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