On Kawara - One Million Years

On Kawara - One Million Years

On Kawara - One Million Years installation view


For the summer of 2023 I am proud to present a sound installation by the conceptual artist On Kawara. The gallery is currently only open by appointment. To make an appointment simply contact me here


In a certain sense the phrase "I am still alive" can never be sent as it cannot be received by the addressee instantaneously…It is only valid at the very instant that it is being written, and in the very next second it no longer is a certainty.
- On Kawara


On Kawara (1932 - 2014) was a conceptual artist whose work focused on the concept of time and its relationship to human existence. One of his most notable series was the Date Paintings, where he meticulously painted the date of each day on monochromatic canvases, following strict rules and methods. These paintings captured the ephemeral nature of time and served as visual records of the passing days. Kawara's work also included telegrams, postcards, and books that documented his everyday life, emphasizing the banality and transience of human experience. 

Like his forerunner Marcel Duchamp, Kawara retreated from the art scene, avoiding his own exhibition openings and declining to be interviewed, so that his public persona came to be defined solely through his work. But that work itself seems - at first sight - to offer little more reward to biographers. Instead, it methodically and meticulously documents the trajectory of On's life, without apparent ornament, an art based on ideas rather than aesthetics. 

The extraordinary duration of Kawara's process-based projects - one of which, his date-painting series Today mentioned here, lasted almost fifty years, producing almost 3,000 individual works - and the meditative consistency with which he applied himself to his tasks, sets his oeuvre apart and links his work to his background in Buddhist and Shinto philosophy. By drawing attention to the minutiae of daily existence, Kawara's work focuses our attention on the most basic elements of our experience of the world: our location on the planet, and our passage through time.

One Million Years exhibited here, originally consisted of two books, One Million Years: Past (For All Those Who Have Lived and Died) and One Million Years: Future (For The Last One). The books list, respectively, the one million years before the artwork was conceived, and the one million years afterwards, and are composed of text cut, pasted and photocopied by the artist. On the occasion of Kawara's solo exhibition at the Dia Art Foundation in 1993, the project added a performance element involving a male speaker and a female speaker reading dates from the book, aloud, in turn.