Praemium Imperiale 2015 - Tadanari Yokoo and Mitsuko Uchida honoured

The Praemium Imperiale are a series of global Arts awards presented annually by the Japan Art Association. The awards were created to celebrate the centenary of the Japan Art Association and were first presented in 1989. The concept of the awards came from the then patron of the Japan Art Association, HIH Prince Takamatsu (1905 – 1987), younger brother of Emperor Showa (1926 to 1989). Six nomination committees, each chaired by an International Advisor, propose candidates in five fields: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Music and Theatre/Film with final sections being made by the Association’s appointed committees in Japan.

This year two Japanese artists feature among the laureates – Tadanori Yokoo for Painting, and naturalised-British classical pianist Mitsuko Uchida for Music. The Awards Ceremony is held in Japan in November, in the presence of HIH Prince Hitachi, the younger brother of the Emperor and current Honorary Patron of the Japan Art Association.

Tadanari Yokoo – Painting

Tadanori Yokoo first came to prominence in the 1960s as a graphic designer in Japan’s avant-garde and pop culture world with his bold, colourful designs.
Later, in the 80s he transitioned from graphic design to painting, though his works continue to be illuminated by a powerful sense of colour and design. With his strong graphic style and use of bold colours, many came to see him as Japan’s answer to Warhol and his works soon came to be recognized worldwide.

The subjects of his painting are varied, going backwards and forwards between reality and dreams. He takes his audience on journeys - down to the bottom of the earth, to the sea, or to waterfalls (also the title of a series of his work). But what really underlies Yokoo’s art is death. He observes that he does not see death from the world of life but instead sees life from the world of death.

Tadanari Yokoo © Japan Art Association/Sankei Shimbun
In 2012, the Yokoo Tadanori Museum of Modern Art was established in the city of Kobe. It houses over 3000 artworks, from all periods of his creativity.  The following year, the Teshima Yokoo House, opened on Teshima Island in the Seto Inland Sea, Kagawa Prefecture. Globally, his works can be found in more than 120 museum collections. In particular, his work can be found in the current “The World Goes Pop” exhibition at the Tate Modern in London (until 24 January 2016).

Mitsuko Uchida – Music

Mitsuko Uchida is a performer who brings a deep insight into the music she plays through her own search for truth and beauty. Born in Japan but now based in London, her home since 1972, she first came to Europe in 1961 when her father, a Japanese diplomat, was posted there. She entered the Vienna Music Academy, continuing her studies there even after her family moved from the country.

She is renowned for her interpretations of Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Beethoven, both in the concert hall and on CD, but she has also illuminated the music of Berg, Schoenberg, Webern and Boulez for a new generation of listeners. “To decipher what these composers of the past and present have written on pieces of paper ― this is the starting point for us performers.” By “making conversations” with the composers through the scores, she tries to understand what those composers wanted to express.

Mitsuko Uchida has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to aiding the development of young musicians and is a trustee of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust. She is also Director of the Marlboro Music Festival and in May 2012 she was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Gold Medal.

Mitsuko Uchida © Japan Art Association/Sankei Shimbun
In June 2009 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Regularly holding concerts in Europe she will next perform in the UK in early October and is due to perform again in the Suntory Hall in Tokyo in November after an absence of two years.