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Crossing All Realms: One of Japan's Greatest Creative Visionaries

December, 2020
Portrait of Eiko Ishioka © Facebook / Eiko Ishioka

Eiko Ishioka. The name may be unfamiliar, yet she was one of Japan’s leading creatives that changed the face of the fashion and advertising industry in the late 60’s through to an undefinable career in costume and set design until her death in 2012. With a diverse career that has spanned graphic design, art direction, film set production and costume design, her work is almost undefinable and her creativity unlimited to any descriptive category. Yet it was her vibrance and enthusiasm for ultimate artistic expression that led her to lead a life of unbridled creativity. Now as a world first, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo presents a retrospective on the work of Ishioka, unveiling notes, sketches and glimpse into the thought process of the inventive genius in: Eiko Ishioka: Blood, Sweat and Tears – A Life of Design.

Beginning her career are the age of 24 as a graphic designer for Japanese beauty brand Shiseido, Ishioka’s repertoire soon extended to art direction of the brand’s most pivotal and influence campaigns. Notably, her imagery for Shiseido’s 1966 product campaigns featuring an unconventional model at the time Bibari Maeda, in a white swimsuit that eschewed female empowerment. It was revolutionary as public campaign imagery, and considered as a milestone in the history of design due to its daring nature at the time. It was this ongoing quest to challenge the status quo and societal constraints, that led her to create some of PARCO’s most iconic imagery in the 70’s and 80’s defying race, gender, orientation – her liberal view transforming and heavily influencing the future of the fashion industry at the time. With a manifesto of “Timeless, Original, Revolutionary” as the essence of her design, her ongoing experimentations were led by exploring possibilities of “the self.”

Following a move to the US in the 80’s, Ishioka expanded her ouvre working with collaborators that included photographer Reni Riefenstahl, film director Francis Ford Coppola, musician Björk, and film director Tarsem Singh. Her most notable costume designs include Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) (for which she won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design), including the entire costume design for Cirque de Soleil’s Varekai: the colourful and energetic designs transformed not only the performers visual expressions, but heightened the audience’s experience as a whole. Her art direction for Miles Davis’s album TUTU (released in 1986) for which she collaborated with photographer Irving Penn also went beyond ordinary record sleeve design at the time, winning a Grammy Award. Ishioka also designed the costumes for the opening ceremony performance for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and later in her career was a creative force in cinema and theatre productions including The Fall (2006), Mirror Mirror (2012), and The Ring of the Nibelung (1998-1999) at the Dutch National Opera.

Looking back over the course of her career, an ongoing thread emerges. One that is driven by female (and individual) empowerment, a quest for equality and self expressive, and ultimately – a life of design. Ishioka led a life entirely driven by creativity and unrestrained artistic expression. Her work continues to have a critical influence on unlimited artistic expression in film, fashion and design for future generations to come.

Eiko Ishioka, Art direction for the poster, Can West Wear East ? (Parco, 1979)
Eiko Ishioka, Art direction for the album package, TUTU (Miles Davis, 1986) © The Irving Penn Foundation
Eiko Ishioka, Production design for the movie MISHIMA―A Life in Four Chapters (Directed by Paul Schrader, 1985) Mishima ©Zoetrope Corp. 2000. All Rights Reserved. / © Sukita
Eiko Ishioka, 1983 Photo by Robert Mapplethorpe ©Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Eiko Ishioka, Art direction for the poster, PARCO KICHIJYOJI, Photograph Kazumi Kurigami © Facebook / Eiko Ishioka
Eiko Ishioka, Costume design for the movie, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, 1992) ©David Seidner / International Center of Photography
Eiko Ishioka, Costume design for the movie, The Fall (Directed by Tarsem Singh, 2006) ©2006 Googly Films, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Eiko Ishioka, Costume design for Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony (Directed by Zhang Yimou, 2008) © Facebook / Eiko Ishioka
Eiko Ishioka, Costume design for Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony (Directed by Zhang Yimou, 2008) © 2008 / Comité International Olympique(CIO) / HUET, John
Eiko Ishioka, Costume design for the movie, Mirror Mirror (Directed by Tarsem Singh, 2012) ©2012-2020 UV RML NL Assets LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Eiko Ishioka, Costume design for the movie, The Fall (Directed by Tarsem Singh, 2006) ©2006 Googly Films, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Eiko Ishioka, AntiWar Poster
Eiko Ishioka, Costume design for Grace Jones Tour, 2010
Eiko Ishioka, Issey Miyake Runway Show Poster, 1977
Eiko Ishioka, Costume design for The Cell, 2000

Eiko Ishioka: Blood, Sweat and Tears – A Life of Design

14 Nov, 2020 – 14 Feb, 2021

December, 2020