Japanese artist Motoi Yamamoto is something of a magician.

Although he does not utilize sleight of hand, he creates installations that encourage the mind to travel between astonishment and wonder. His medium is salt, yet the effect of his labors is transcendence. Not an easy feat.

The field of modern and contemporary art is crowded with artists who have worked with unconventional materials. Motoi Yamamoto uses salt to create mental maps, miniatures of the mind. Yet, in his case, he doesn’t seem to choose materials merely for the sake of novelty or originality.

Motoi is known for working with salt, often in the form of temporary, intricate, large-scale installations. He has created projects throughout the world—Jerusalem, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Athens, Seoul, Hamburg, and Charleston, to name but a few places. Salt, a traditional symbol for purification and mourning in Japanese culture, is employed in funeral rituals as well as by sumo wrestlers before matches. It is frequently placed in small piles at the entrance to restaurants and other businesses to ward off evil spirits and to attract benevolent ones. Motoi forged a connection to the element while mourning the death of his sister, at twenty-four, from brain cancer, and began to create art out of salt in an effort to preserve his memories. His art radiates an intense beauty and tranquility, but also conveys something ineffable, yet endless.

Motoi views his installations as exercises that are at once futile yet necessary to his healing. An important aspect of the installation is the dismantling of his work at the end of each show and delivering the salt back to water, usually in collaboration with the public; hence, the title "Return to the Sea".

He recognizes that salt is a vital part of many living things, and that this mineral could conceivably enter and leave multiple organisms throughout the planet over the span of time. Each grain of salt contains its own history and trajectory. Something so seemingly common becomes a metaphor for the evanescence and transience of human life.

Motoi’s art might most productively be compared to the intricate sand mandalas created by Tibetan Buddhist monks. In both cases, the work is destroyed at the end of a predetermined interval and returned to a body of water thus enacting the circularity and ephemerality of life. Both are used to induce meditation and to access the deeper reaches of human consciousness. One important difference is that Motoi’s work emanates from a powerful personal experience rather than a shared spiritual tradition.

Salt has a very rich and noble history entwined with Japan’s development as a world power. Knowing its myriad uses in Japanese culture makes it less of a common, everyday substance and more of a mercurial one. Its snow-white purity, combined with the uniformity of the grains, provides Yamamoto with a material at once literal and poetic—loaded with associational possibilities.

Motoi’s artistic trajectory is full of innovations and surprises. His ability to adapt his concepts to the various configurations and idiosyncrasies of the galleries and exhibition spaces that have displayed his work itself serves as a source of inspiration. His subtle use of gradation and perspective may cloud the mind into thinking this could be a mountain range as seen from the air, or a typhoon out in the open ocean. The real power and magic of Motoi’s work resides in the indeterminate space between what is and what might be.


Nuit Blanche 2014

04.10.2014 - 05.10.2014


Born in 1966, in Onomichi, Hiroshima, Japan.





- B.A. Kanazawa College of Art, Japan
- Now, stay in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan

- Prize; Philip Morris Art Award 2002

- Grant; The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Inc. New York, USA

- Grant; Voyager + AIT scholarship program, Tokyo, Japan



- Pola Museum Annex, Tokyo, Japan

- Shaw Gallery, Salt Lake City, USA
- Westminster College, Salt Lake City, USA
- La (deuxième) Galerie Particulière, Paris, France

- Inga Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel
- Mikiko Sato Gallery, Hambourg, Germany
- Erunst Barlach Haus, Hambourg, Germany
- Monterey Museum of Art, Monterey, USA
- The Mint Museum, Charlotte, USA
- Setouchi City Museum, Okayama, Japan

- Laband Art Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
- Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, USA

- The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Kagnagawa, Japan

- Art-O-Rama/L MD Gallery, Marseille, France
- Kunst Station St. Peter, Cologne, Germany
- eN-arts, Kyoto, Japan

- LMD Gallery, Paris, France
- Grosse Bleichen 34 , Hamburg, Germany
- Mikiko Sato Gallery, Hamburg, Germany

- Ginza Komatsu Art Space, Tokyo, Japan

- Ierimonti Gallery, Milano, Italia
- Nizayama Forest Art Museum, Toyama, Japan
- Art Gallery Artium, Fukuoka, Japan
- CAI, Comtenporary Art International, Hamburg, Germany

- T.L.A.P, Tokyo, Japan

- Akiyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
- Gallery K2, Ishikawa, Japan

- Kojimachi Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
- 300DAYS Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
- Gallery G2, Fukui, Japan

- Gallery Bellini Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
- Gallery LeDeco, Tokyo, Japan

- Gallery Moe, Tokyo, Japan
- Gallery Arai, Shizuoka, Japan

- Galerie Ando, Tokyo, Japan
- Gallrey Rasen, Toyama, Japan

- Gallery Myu, Tokyo, Japan

- Kanazawa Yomiuri Hall, Ishikawa, Japan



- Kanazawa Toryoe Autumn, Kanazawa Nakamura Memorial Museum, Kanazawa, Japan
- Nuit Blanche, Hôtel de Ville de Paris, France

- Mono no Aware - The Beauty of Things, The Hermitage State Museum, Saint-Petersburg, Russia
- Narrow Road to the Interior, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Arizona, USA
- Two Billion Light-Years of Solitude, Kanazawa Art Gummi, Ishikawa, Japan
- Peace Meets Art! / Hiroshima Prefectural Museum, Hiroshima, Japan
- The 6th Internationnal Contemporary Art Biennale of Melle, France
- Biennale Online 2013
- Fieldwork from Periphery, Galerie Aube, Kyoto University of Art and Design, Kyoto, Japan

- Making Mends, Bellevue Arts Museum, Washington, USA

- City-Net Asia 2011, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
- Reliefs, Fondation Espace Ecureuil, Toulouse, France

- MOT ANNUAL 2010: Neo-Ornamentalism from Japanese Contemporary Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Japan

- Machiya-Junyu, Konichi - Soy sauce factory, Ishikawa, Japan
- Hundred Stories about Love, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan
- Togo Murano x Motoi Yamamoto, Kanazawa Artgummi, Ishikawa, Japan
- Tanagokoro 9, Radium-roentgenwerke, Tokyo, Japan

- Conceptions take from, Funa-asobi, Ishikawa, Japan
- Landschaft, Radium-roentgen, Tokyo, Japan
- Text of Life, Ashikaga Museum of Art, Tochigi, Japan
- Brack, Whrite and Gray, MA2 Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

- AIR Onomichi2007, Hiroshima, Japan
- Force of Nature part 2, Sumter County Gallery of Art, SC, USA

- Force of Nature, Van Every, Smith Gallery, Davidson College, NC, USA
- Force of Nature, Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC, USA
- C.A.R.K.2006, Ishikawa International Salon, Kanazawa, Japan
- C.A.R.K.2006, Maragopoulos, Patras, Greece
- The Library, Ashikaga Museum of Art, Tochigi & Tama Art University Museum, Tokyo, Japan

- Rising Sun, Melting Moon - Contemporary Art from Japan, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
- hoch hinaus, Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerland
- The Road not Taken’05 KYOTO, Gallery Sowaka, Kyoto, Japan

- The Encounters in the 21st Century: Polyphony, Emerging Resonances, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan
- Gwangju Biennale 2004 « Eco-Metoro Project», Korea

- The First Steps, Emerging Artist from Japan, P.S.1, New York, USA
- Landschaft, rontgenwerke, Tokyo, Japan
- Mutated Zen, The Nunnury, London, UK
- espiri, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Milano, Italia

- Philip Morris Art Award 2002, Tokyo, Japan
- Corresponding sites: Four spaces-Four artists, Hamburg, Germany

- Philip Morris Art Award 2000, Ebisu Garden Place, Tokyo, Japan
- Installation, Garden of the Sculptures, Verecruz, Mexico

- The World Tour, Kanazawa citizen’s art center, Ishikawa, Japan
- Standing in the Future, Telecom-center, Tokyo, Japan

- The library Kanazawa, Kanazawa citizen’s art center, Ishikawa, Japan
- Previous Opening Event, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan

- Hiroshima Art Competition, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan
- Art Exchange Society 97-98, Shinkiba Soko Gallery etc, Tokyo, Japan

- Representation of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa citizen’s art center, Japan

- Art Festival in Tsurugi ‘95 (‘96- ‘97- ‘98), Ishikawa, Japan

- The 20th France-Japan Contemporary Art Exhibition, L-Prize
- International Competition Tannan Art Festival ‘94 (‘95 - ‘01), Fukui, Japan

- The 31th Hokuriku Chunichi Art Exhibition, Grand Prize, Ishikawa, Japan

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