Exhibition: ‘Yasumasa Morimura: Theater of the Self’ at The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Exhibition dates: 6th October 2013 – 12th January 2014


Yasumasa Morimura. 'To My Little Sister: for Cindy Sherman' 1998


Yasumasa Morimura (Japanese, b. 1951)
To My Little Sister: for Cindy Sherman
Ilfochrome print mounted on aluminium
55 x 31 inches
Private Collection, New York



Cindy Sherman, eat your actress out…

A fascinating, erudite analysis of the difference between Edouard Manet’s Olympia and Yasumasa Morimura’s Futago can be found on the seemingly anonymous Hoegen: Thoughts About Gender, Sex And Sexuality web page (excerpt below). If you can find an author’s name it would be appreciated!

Many thankx to The Andy Warhol Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Yasumasa Morimura. 'Portrait (Futago)' 1988


Yasumasa Morimura (Japanese, b. 1951)
Portrait (Futago)
Colour photograph
82 3/4 x 118 inches
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; A.W. Mellon Acquisition Endowment Fund, 92.108



In Anne D’Alleva’s article concerning reception theory, she draws upon several scholars of art and literature to discuss the importance of not only the artist, but also of the viewer. She discusses the symbiotic relationship that must exist and the merits of the ideal viewer. The two artworks that she mentions to support her arguments are Edouard Manet’s Olympia and Ysumasa Morimura’s Futago. These two artworks are prime examples of works that establish an ideal viewer, or viewers, as well as a mirror stage. These two theories assist the art historian to go beyond the biography of the artist and question the relationship of the image and it’s audience.

Just as Wolfgang Iser believes there is an implied reader for literature, one must believe that there is an implied viewer of Edouard Manet’s Olympia and a different implied viewer for Yasumasa Morimura’s Futago (114). In the case of Manet’s Olympia, one might believe the ideal implied viewer is a white and wealthy man of the upper class. This ideal viewer would appreciate, or maybe question, the bold gaze of Olympia, and possibly even recognize her as the popular courtesan (116)…

The ideal viewer for Morimura’s photograph is not as easy to define.  One might make the presumption that Morimura desires the same ideal viewer of Manet, so that they can simply see the work differently. Also, one could assume that he intended his painting to be viewed by Asian, upper class homosexuals who have seen Manet’s Olymia and want to connect on a more personal level. Either of these audiences may be ideal.

According to Ernest Kris, art “requires the participation of both artist and spectator.” (110) Therefore, there must be something that establishes a relationship of the ideal viewer and the photograph of Yasumasa Morimura. Since it is a photograph, and not a painting, there is a humanistic connection that is not present in Manet’s Olympia that ultimately assists the creation of an image-audience relationship. The gaze is not a representation of a gaze but the actual gaze of Morimura establishing a deeper relationship with the ideal viewer of the artist and subject. Since the ideal audience is harder to define for Morimura’s photograph, the establishing element of the relationship between the ideal viewer and the artwork are also hard to define. If the ideal viewer is exactly that of Manet’s: a white, wealthy, upper-class man, then the “shock factor” of the image is multiplied. The ideal viewer has just begun to accept this shocking image of a nude female daring to look at her viewer when Morimura decided to change the race, gender, and possibly the sexual orientation of the subject of the artwork. This assumption, however, provides that the viewer come with “pre-understanding” as described by Roman Ingarden (113); in this case, a memory of Manet’s Olympia. If one assumes that this image is meant for the common man, this relationship is established through the use of photography, the universal and common way to capture images. If one assumes the connection between the inclusive group of Asian, male, homosexuals, then the establishment of the relationship is directly associated with the subject and artist…

The reception theory of Ernest Gombrich states the importance of perception is clearly prevalent within these works (113). The artists have taken their own interpretations of these works, but one must value the fact that their ideal viewers can be similar and have similar perceptions. The differences of their individual perceptions provide for the differences between their viewers. However, the perception of the viewer, whether ideal or not, is the ultimate reflection of the artwork in the culture.

Clearly, the mirror stage is present in these two images. The viewer does not seem to view their self in the artwork directly, but they do feel a connection to the work. Morimura most definitely used Manet’s Olympia as a basis image for his Futago. Although some details are incongruous, the overall effect of Futago is a mirrored image of the whole self of Olympia. There are several differences in these paintings that one may attribute to race and gender that affect the dynamics of the mirror effect. Most obviously, Morimura, who was his own subject in his photographic rendition of Manet’s Olympia, is a man. This affects the mirror image of the body. He is leaner, has no curves and is more muscular. Also, his race affects skin color as well as the some of the details of the picture. He has clearly chosen a kimono to replace the intricate shawl, and a seated, waving cat to replace standing one – both of these depictions have significance in Asian culture (116). Cultural implications are evident.

Overall, these two images reflect Anne D’Avelia’s idea that that two similar artworks can have two different implied viewers. Also, they can mirror each other in certain respects, but diverge in others. These help reinforce D’Avelia notes that gender, expression, details, and race, all play roles in developing the image-audience relationship. They also reflect our class work exploring the troubling of gender norms and the gaze.

Anonymous. “Olympia vs. Futago,” in the article ‘Hoegen: Thoughts about Gender, Sex and Sexuality’ on the Fairfield University website [Online] Cited 19/01/2021


Yasumasa Morimura. 'Doublonnage (Marcel)' 1988


Yasumasa Morimura (Japanese, b. 1951)
Doublonnage (Marcel)
Colour photograph
59 x 47 1/4 inches
Private Collection, New York



Art History

Yasumasa Morimura’s reprisals of European masterpieces are, at once, acts of homage and parody. Painstakingly realised, his photographic reconstructions of paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt van Rijn and Edouard Manet, among others, bring compositional questions together with those pertaining to race, gender and sexuality. In doing so, they reveal both the aesthetics and the politics embedded in the art historical canon.



This section of the exhibition focuses on Morimura’s restaging of scenes from award winning films featuring Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn, Liza Minnelli, Jodie Foster and many others. It is notable that the artist’s impersonations are not anonymous but well-known stars, archetypes of Hollywood’s leading ladies. As stated in their titles, each work is a self-portrait and together they propose a range of possibilities for the artist’s own identity. Morimura has stated, “My own self-definition includes this entire zone of possibilities. When I apply this way of thinking to making a self-portrait, it becomes what I call an ‘open self-portrait.’


Yasumasa Morimura. 'M's Self-portrait No.15' 1995


Yasumasa Morimura (Japanese, b. 1951)
M’s Self-portrait No.15
Gelatin silver print
18 1/2 x 21 1/4 inches (framed)
Collection of the artist, on deposit at the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art


Yasumasa Morimura. 'Self-portrait (Actress)/after Elizabeth Taylor 1' 1996


Yasumasa Morimura (Japanese, b. 1951)
Self-portrait (Actress)/after Elizabeth Taylor 1
Ilfochrome print mounted to plexiglass
47 1/4 x 37 1/4 inches
Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York


Yasumasa Morimura (Japanese, b. 1951) 'M's self-portrait No. 56/B 9 (or "as Marilyn Monroe")' 1996


Yasumasa Morimura (Japanese, b. 1951)
M’s self-portrait No. 56/B 9 (or “as Marilyn Monroe”)
Gelatin silver print
Edition 6 of 10
11 3/4 x 14 inches



For more than three decades Japanese artist Yasumasa Morimura has forged an extraordinary body of work that reimagines the visual culture of the West, as well as that of his native Japan. Whether portraying Elizabeth Taylor, Mao Zedong or Andy Warhol, Morimura’s iconic images examine the practice of photography while also claiming a space for the self in historical narratives. The artist inserts himself as the subject(s) in all of his works. The exhibition, Yasumasa Morimura: Theater of the Self, is a retrospective of Morimura’s 30 year career covering his fascination with the self-portrait, celebrity, gay and transgendered life, art history, and popular culture align him closely with the work of Andy Warhol. Morimura has described himself as Warhol’s “conceptual son.”

Developed in close collaboration with the artist, the exhibition focuses on three important bodies of work: his celebrated “Art History” photographs in which he painstakingly restages European masterpieces; “Requiem” in which Morimura recreates iconic photographs relating to political and cultural life; and the “Actors” series in which he assumes the personae of Hollywood luminaries such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Audrey Hepburn.

Milton Fine Curator of Art, Nicholas Chambers states, “Including almost 100 images, many of which have never before been seen in the United States, Theater of the Self offers audiences an in-depth view of Morimura’s work. His pictures reveal a sophisticated form of engagement with the worlds of celebrity, art and the mass media that is at once celebration and critique, homage and parody, and has the effect of questioning the nature of the individual’s relationship to culture-at-large.””

Press release from The Warhol website



The artworks comprising the Requiem Series are derived from photographic sources and depict prominent masculine figures in moments of triumph or transition. Substituting himself for ideologues, dictators and creative thinkers, Morimura reflects on what these figures represent for the broader culture and on the role of photography in celebrating, demonising or memorialising them.


Yasumasa Morimura. 'A Requiem: Vietnam War 1968-1991' 1991-2006


Yasumasa Morimura (Japanese, b. 1951)
A Requiem: Vietnam War 1968-1991
Gelatin silver print


Yasumasa Morimura. 'A Requiem: Theater of Creativity / Andy Warhol in Motion' 2010


Yasumasa Morimura (Japanese, b. 1951)
A Requiem: Theater of Creativity / Andy Warhol in Motion
Digital video, black and white, silent, 3:58 minutes
Collection of the artist


Yasumasa Morimura. 'A Requiem: Mishima 1970' 2006


Yasumasa Morimura (Japanese, b. 1951)
A Requiem: Mishima 1970
Digital video, colour, sound, 7:42 minutes
Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York


Yasumasa Morimura. 'A Requiem: Red Dream/ Mao' 2007


Yasumasa Morimura (Japanese, b. 1951)
A Requiem: Red Dream / Mao
C- print mounted on alpolic
59 x 47 1/4 inches
Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York


Yasumasa Morimura. 'A Requiem: Oswald, 1963' 2006


Yasumasa Morimura (Japanese, b. 1951)
A Requiem: Oswald, 1963
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York



The Andy Warhol Museum
117 Sandusky Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212-5890
Phone: 412.237.8300

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Monday 10am – 5pm
Tuesday closed

The Andy Warhol Museum website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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