Las meninas reborn in the night IV: peering at the secret scene behind the artist, from the series Las meninas reborn in the night I-VIII
11 Jun 1951 -
In this meditation on Diego Velázquez and the 17th century Spanish artist’s compelling painting at the Prado, Madrid, Morimura has typically reworked Las meninas, enhancing the mysteries and creating a possible narrative of appearance and disappearance. Morimura is also intrigued by the painter’s interest in those outside the mainstream of society as much as those who patronised him, and this parallel’s Morimura’s own interests. The artist was allowed to photograph at night in the Prado, and, as is usual in his work, every figure is played by Morimura. What is unusual is that this is the first time Morimura has used an actual location rather than remaking it, and the first time he has appeared as himself looking at a work of art. The title, …reborn in the night plays on the notion that objects in a museum may come alive after the spectators have gone and reimagine themselves, very much as an artist (Morimura) might.
Velázquez Las meninas (maids of honour) 1656 is one of the most analysed paintings in the history of Western art. Who is looking at who, who is a reflection or representation, remains tantalisingly unresolved. It is a painting that Morimura had long considered as a work he wished to ‘inhabit’ because of its status and complexity. The subsequent suite of eight photographs begins and ends in the Velázquez room at the Prado.
In-between, ‘Morimura’ is seen looking at the famous painting where it appears the two artists gaze at each other, then ‘Velázquez’ moves out of the painting toward us, while ‘Morimura’ stands on the distant staircase inside the painting. This is followed by two scenes of the artists at work, they and their subjects mirroring each other; there is a reversal, then another, then the paintings on the wall have all become ‘Morimuras’. At the last the figures have gone.
Morimura’s erudition is exceptional in regard to the histories and traditions of both east and west. There are also parallels between Japan’s status with regard to the historical and contemporary centres of art practice and Australia’s. Morimura’s career is now 30 years in duration, and he has exhibited in major Australian group shows since 1989 including Asia Pacific Triennales, the Biennale of Sydney and Zones of Love: contemporary art from Japan MCA 1991. He is also represented in major collections worldwide, and has held important solo exhibitions such as at the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh USA 2013, Japan Society, New York 2002, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston 1997, Fondation Cartier, Paris 1993.
Las meninas renacen de noche IV
type C photograph
4/5 + 2APs
148.0 x 167.0 cm image; 163.0 x 182.0 x 6.1 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed l.c. verso frame, black ink on white label "Y Morimura". Not dated.
Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation acquisition with support from the John Fairlie Cuningham bequest 2016
Not on display
© Yasumasa Morimura
Shown in 1 exhibition
Time, light, Japan: Japanese art 1990s to now, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 Dec 2016–14 May 2017