Kenji Nakahashi

Kenji Nakahashi, Dancing Skyscrapers, 1987. Anonymous donation in memory of Kenji Nakahashi.
© Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents. 2018.3.18


Kenji Nakahashi (Japanese, 1947-2017) was born in Sakauchi (present-day Ibigawa), a small village in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. Raised in Nagoya, a large port city in Japan’s central Honshu region, Nakahashi went on to receive both a bachelor’s and a master’s in fine arts from Aichi Prefecture University of Fine Arts and Music. In 1973, he traveled to Paris and New York, settling permanently in the latter, where he launched his career as an artist. While in New York, Nakahashi continued his formal studies in art; in 1975 he studied at Pratt Institute’s Graphics Center and in 1980 at the Art Students League.

Best known for his concept-driven photographs, Nakahashi worked actively with a variety of mediums including drawing, painting, printmaking, and photography. His photography expresses a fascination with the mundanity of daily life, calling attention to the many objects that play a critical, yet enigmatic role within it. In his studio, Nakahashi frequently created staged scenes for his camera in order to realize his creative visions, drawing on both his knowledge of photography and the many other media in which he worked. He also created a significant body of work outside of his studio, on the streets of New York, where he experimented with new ways of photographing the city’s built landscape. Approaching his content with an interest in abstraction and essential form, he elevated the everyday into the extraordinary by creating altered situations or directions that rendered it anew.

In 1980, Nakahashi received his first solo exhibition, exhibiting images of New York that he had photographed through a unique, self-designed kaleidoscopic lens attachment. Additionally, he was the subject of solo and two-person exhibitions at MARI Gallery (1980), New York Public Library’s Donnell Library Center (1981), The Berkshire Museum (1981), and the Queens Museum (1983). Nakahashi’s work has been exhibited internationally and appears in the collections of more than 40 institutions, among them: the Library of Congress; the Brooklyn Museum; the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts; the Detroit Institute of Art; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Musée de l’Elysee, Lausanne; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Seattle Art Museum; the Victoria and Albert Museum; Spencer Museum of Art; the Yale University Art Gallery; the Museum of Fine Arts Houston; the Museum of the City of New York, among others.

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