Product Description


Kumi Sugai (1919-1996)


Oil on canvas

Signed Kumi SUGAÏ and dated 1954 to the lower right; stamp of Galerie LA ROUE on the reverse

H. 58cm x W. 45cm (23″ x 17¾”)

Provenance: Galerie La Roue, Paris, France

                     Private Collection, Paris, France

Kumi Sugai was born in Kobe to a family of talented Malay musicians. He studied at the Osaka Bijutsu Gakkō (Osaka School of Fine Arts) from 1933 and at the same time he practiced calligraphy and was fascinated by typography, both of which were to play an important part of his later work. In 1937 however, he had to drop his studies due to a health problem and begun working at Hankyū Railway PLC as a poster designer in the advertising department. At the same time from 1947 until 1949 he studied nihonga (Japanese style painting) under Nakamura Teii (1900-1982).

Sugai moved to live and work in Paris in 1952, studied at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere under Edouard Goerg (1893-1969) and quickly entered the artistic circles of the École de Paris and the Nouveau Réalisme, befriending artists such as Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), Hisao Domoto (1928-2013) and Yasukazu Tabuchi (1921-2009) amongst others. His early abstract expressionistic oil paintings were popular and Sugai’s early solo shows in Paris and Brussels managed to propel his career further. In 1955 he started making lithographs and in 1956 published a collection of pictures and poems created together with the surrealist poet and art critic Jean-Clarence Lambert (b. 1930) who also wrote extensively about Sugai. By 1960, Sugai had enough work for an impressive retrospective at the Municipal Art Museum, Leverkusen, Germany which further established his reputation as a rising star. At around this time and ever keen to expand his repertoire of artistic expression Sugai began to experiment with bronze casting and transformed some of his usual subjects and forms into sculpture.

In 1963, following his success Sugai moved to the affluent Left Bank of Paris and bought a much loved Porsche car. This love of cars, speed, topography and the graphic qualities of road signs took Sugai’s work in a different direction making his later work geometric, hard-edge and stylised. Some of these works focus solely on large capital letters from the Latin alphabet, appropriating their powerful curves and lines while others feature directional shapes such as arrows painted in bold colours evoking the imagery of road signs.

During this successful period of the late 50’s and 60’s Sugai participated in all the major Art Exhibitions of the time; Sao Paulo Biennale (1959, 1965), Kassel Documenta (1959, 1964) and Venice Biennale in 1962 amongst others.

In 1967 however Sugai was involved in a car accident when he was seriously injured. Two years later he returned to Japan and lived in both countries for nearly three decades. Like many of his contemporaries, Sugai also wrote essays and published a book in French, La Quete sans Fin (The Endless Quest, 1970). Kumi Sugai finally returning to Kobe, Japan in 1995 just one year before his death.

Works by the artist can be found in the collections of many museums worldwide including: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Landesmuseum, Hannover; Atheneum Art Collection, Helsinki; Kaiser-Wilhelm Museum, Krefeld; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Museum, Oslo; Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh; Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro; Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Moderna, Rome; National Library of France, Paris; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Harvard Art Museums / Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, MA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Indianapolis Museum of Art, IN; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; The National Museum of Art, Osaka; Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, Shiga; Sezon Museum of Modern Art, Nagano; Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art; Pola Museum of Art, Kanagawa.

Selected Solo Exhibitions:

1954   Galerie Craveu, Paris

           Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

1957   Galerie H. Le Gendre, Paris

1958   Galerie Creuzevault, Paris

1959   Kootz Gallery, New York; regular participation until 1962

1960   Retrospective 1952-1960, Municipal Art Museum, Leverkusen, Germany

1963   Galerie Creuzevault, Paris

           Kestner- Gesellschaft, Hannover

1964   Retrospective 1952-1963, Die Insel, Hamburg

1965   American Art Gallery, Copenhagen

           Konsthallen, Gothenburg

1969   National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto

1977   Umeda Museum of Modern Art, Osaka

1983   Seibu Museum, Tokyo

1988   Galerie Brusberg, Berlin

1991-92  Nantenshi Gallery SOKO, Tokyo

          Ashiya Municipal Art Museum, Ōhara

          Museum and Memorial Museum of Kojiki Torajirō

1997-98  Sugai Kumi, Prints 1955-1995, Takamatsu Municipal Art Museum,

          Hamamatsu Municipal Art Museum

          Tendō Municipal Art Museum

          Kaga Art Gallery

          Ashiya Municipal Art Museum, Ōhara

Selected Group Exhibitions and Awards:

1931   Nika-ten, Tokyo; regular participation until 1963

1939   Kyushitsu-kai

1941  Exhibition for Aviation and Art – Asahi Shimbun prize

1947  Bijutsudantai rengo ten (Union of Art Associations Exhibition); regular

1953  Salon d’Octobre, Paris

1955  Carnegie International Exhibition, Pittsburg

1956  Salon de la Nouvelle Réalité, Paris

1957-89  Salon de Mai, Paris

1958  Carnegie International Exhibition, Pittsburg

1959  V Bienal, Sao Paulo

          II Documenta, Kassel

          3rd Ljubljana International Graphic Art Biennial, Ljubljana – Prize of the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Zagreb

1960  2nd International Graphic Art Biennial, National Museum of Art, Tokyo

1961  Carnegie International Exhibition, Pittsburg

          4th Ljubljana International Graphic Art Biennial, Ljubljana

         Tokyo International Art Exhibition Prize

1962  31st Venice Biennale, Venice

1964  Carnegie International Exhibition, Pittsburg

          III Documenta, Kassel

1965  8th São Paulo Biennial, São Paulo – First prize for foreign artists

1966  1st International Graphic Art Biennial, Krakow – First prize

1968  French Painting 1900-1967 in America, Krakow

1972  1st Norwegian International Graphic Art Biennial – Honorary Prize

1985 Localising Contemporary Graphic Art, Prefectural Art Museum, Fukushima Prefecture

Cultural Awards:

1966 Annual Prize of the Agency for Cultural Affairs: Geijutsu Senshō