The Shiseido Gallery is pleased to announce the exhibition Makoto Nakamura's Shiseido — Creating Beauties, a retrospective on the work of graphic designer and art director Makoto Nakamura (1926–2013).
Nakamura joined Shiseido in 1949, and from the mid-1950s through the 1980s was involved in creating many of the company's advertisements. In addition to receiving numerous awards, both in Japan and abroad, his work has been internationally recognized, some even landing in the collection of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). This retrospective (the first since his passing) will offer a detailed look back at some of the work Nakamura did during his years with Shiseido.
Among his many achievements, Makoto Nakamura is known for his role in changing Shiseido's promotional advertisements to feature photographs instead of illustrations. A close look at these efforts reveals that he did, in fact, retain many elements of the company's previous illustration tradition, but he matched these with innovative printing techniques and bold trimming effects to establish an original expressive style within the medium of photography.
As a company designer Nakamura lived by his professional motto: “One vocation, one company, one life, one advertisement.” “An art director is someone who visualizes the company's identity ,” he said, and indeed, throughout his whole life he poured his energy into creating a corporate identity for Shiseido. His designs valued “emotional elements that defy quantitative expression... moods... feelings….” In them we find elusive elements like “space” and “senses of things,” elements that emerge from the impossibility of physically depicting everything that is present, and the beauty these ads engendered has come forth as the identity of the company.
This exhibition, which features a number of previously unreleased materials from Nakamura's own home, explores his creative process and attempts to highlight the deep relationships between his lifelong pursuit of beauty, the company he served, and the designs he created.
■ Exhibition Highlights
(1) The Pursuit of Illustration-Like Photography
As post-war Japan embraced a period of rapid economic growth and prosperity, advertising began to move toward a campaign-style format that took advantage of the potential of television commercials and other newly emerging media. The American “art director system” was also introduced to Japan, further evolving the way promotional materials were conceived.
Makoto Nakamura is recognized for his efforts during this period to carry Shiseido's traditional pre-war illustration-based advertising aesthetic into the new territory of photography. But the techniques he used for manipulating imagery and innovating printing processes in fact carried forward many elements of the company's traditional illustrative expression. In some of these early advertisements, the printing process was altered using techniques like graining and hand-drawn screening, which allowed the photographs to carry certain qualities normally characteristic of illustration. Nakamura and other designers in the advertising department went on to embrace even bolder techniques, including radical trimming, soft focus and photo distortion, all in pursuit of a unique aesthetic that eventually became trademarks of Nakamura's design style. This exhibition enlightens Nakamura's creative process with artifacts from his own home, including documentary photographs and ad poster galley proofs.
(2) The Beauty of “Makeup Within”
Makoto Nakamura's distinct style comes through particularly clearly the advertising images he created with model Sayoko Yamaguchi, and also in those for Shiseido's perfumes. Regarding Yamaguchi he once remarked: “Her beauty is not in the adornment on her face, but in the adornment from her spirit.” Of his creative efforts he said: “I try to capture the emotions, moods, and feelings that defy quantifiable expression, what you might even call ‘sense of human presence and spirit.'” Indeed, throughout the advertising images he created we find so many elusive elements—abstract aspects like “space”, “interval”, “timing”, “signs”, and “sense of things”—that emerge because of the physical impossibility of concretely depicting all that is present. “It's not about forms,” Nakamura said, “it's about letting the personality and character of the company come through.” This beauty, the aesthetic effects that reside in such spaces and significations, lies at the heart of Shiseido and is part of its very corporate identity. This exhibition featuring many of Makoto Nakamura's best advertising posters offers numerous insights into Nakamura's aesthetic sense and how it helped to illuminate Shiseido as a company.
Makoto Nakamura (1926–2013)
Makoto Nakamura was born in 1926 to a merchant family in Morioka, Iwate prefecture. Intrigued by a Shiseido advertising poster he saw in the window of a local pharmacy, he set out to become a designer himself. In 1947, even while still attending Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music (now Tokyo University of the Arts), he began taking on contract work for Shiseido's advertising department, and when he graduated in 1949 he joined the company as a full-time employee. As Japan's rapid economic growth brought around the introduction of television commercials and other new media in advertising, Nakamura enthusiastically embraced the use of photography in his work. He manipulated the printing process to achieve particular graphic expressions. His unique aesthetic worldview found wide appeal, and he was lauded for his achievements with numerous awards, both in Japan and abroad.
In 1969 Nakamura became the Production Office manager of Shiseido's Advertising Department, in 1977 the Advertising Department head and Production Office manager, in 1979 the Advertising Department head with director status, and he spent the years 1987 through 2000 as a Shiseido special advisor. He contributed greatly to the growth of Japanese design in the post-war period, serving as a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI), a committee member for the Tokyo Art Directors Club (ADC), and a director in the Japan Graphic Designers Association Inc. (JAGDA). He also devoted himself to training many of the younger designers. In 1993 he was awarded the Medal with Purple Ribbon. He died on June 2nd, 2013, aged eighty-seven.
designed by Makoto Nakamura
photo by Noriaki Yokosuka
Model in 2, 4, 5 :
*Regarding the images in 1, 3, & 6, despite our efforts, we were unable to confirm portrait rights for the models depicted. Anyone with information on these is encouraged to contact the Shiseido Gallery.
■Exhibition Details Makoto Nakamura AD Artworks
Shiseido Co., Ltd.
Planning Supported :
Hiroshi Kashiwagi (Professor at Musashino Art University)
June 3rd (Tue) to 29th (Sun), 2014
Tokyo Ginza Shiseido Building, B1, 8-8-3 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
Weekdays 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM,
Sundays and holidays 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Closed Mondays (including holidays falling on Monday)
■Also on Exhibit Beauty Graphics 2014 — An Exhibition of Three Shiseido Art Directors
This exhibition features posters by three current Shiseido Advertising & Design Department Art Directors—Reiko Shiga, Masaki Hanahara and Ayumi Nishimoto—including freestyle expressions of how they imagine beauty for the next generation.
June 2nd (Mon) – 28th (Sat), 2014
9:00–19:00 (11:00–18:00 on Saturdays)
Admission is Free