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.


Solo exhibitions

La (deuxième) Galerie Particulière, Paris
La Nuit Blanche, Hôtel de Ville, Salle des Tapisseries


Inga Gallery, Tel Aviv
Mikiko Sato Gallery, Hamburg
Erunst Barlach Haus, Hamburg
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, Marseilles, 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, Milan, Italy
Nizayama Forest Art Museum, Toyama, Japan
Art Gallery Artium, Fukuoka, Japan
CAI, Comtenporary Art International, Hamburg

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


Group exhibitions
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, U.S.A.
Two Billion Light-Years of Solitude / Kanazawa Art Gummi, Ishikawa
Peace Meets Art! / Hiroshima Prefectural Museum, Hiroshima
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, Wasington, U.S.A.

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, U.S.A.

Force of Nature, Van Every / Smith Gallery, Davidson College, NC, U.S.A.
Force of Nature, Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Charleston, SC, U.S.A.
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
hoch hinaus / Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerlamd
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
Landschaft / rontgenwerke, Tokyo, Japan
Mutated Zen / The Nunnury, London, UK
respiri / Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Milano, Italy

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
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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