Japanese artist gets his claws into a 'Ship's Cat'

Kenji Yanobe is little known outside of the Japanese art community but he has big plans to change all that.

Kenji Yanobe is little known outside of the Japanese art community but he has big plans to change all that.

Born in 1965, Yanobe graduated from Kyoto City University of Art. He hit the art scene big time in 1990 with his debut work “Taking Machine” at the Art Space Niji in Kyoto as a 25-year-old. Visitors were able to climb into a tank filled with physiological saline to meditate. The work won him the Grand Prix of Kirin Plaza Osaka Contemporary Art Award. 

Since then, Yanobe has created several functional mechanical sculptures that deal with the theme of “Survival” in contemporary society. His works are politically charged but in a humorous way, which has earned him critical acclaim.

His latest offering to the world of art is the “Ship’s Cat (sailor),” a large-sized installation currently on display at Sky Park in the city’s Joy City shopping mall.

A “cat” is used repeatedly in most of his installations. With eyes of lights and its feline face covered by a helmet, the cat sculpture, according to the artist, foreshadows a future of hope for human beings traveling in outer space.
The “Ship’s Cat” refers to cats from the Age of Exploration, sometimes referred as the Age of Discovery, which began in the 15th century through to the 17th century. Initially, cats were used to rid ships of vermin such as rats. But they eventually became a beloved creature due to their cuteness, or treated as a tutelary figure due to their ability to sense danger.

“The sculpture was created based on the hope that it would be a guardian to this chaotic world, ensure safety to people, promise beautiful encounters and aid the youth in their voyages,” says the Osaka born artist.
Apart from the “Ship’s Cat,” the artist also brought his large-scaled installation series “Sun Child,” “The Star Anger,” “Anger from the Bottom,” “Jumbo Torayan,” “Sun Sister” and “Flora.”

After the Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima Daichi nuclear disaster in 2011, Yanobe created “Sun Child” as a symbol of hope.

The artist has also explored various creative activities, which go beyond the order of contemporary art, including picture books, theater and film designs. He has collaborated with several artists from different fields, including Issey Muyake, Arata Isozaki, Beat Takeshi and Sebastian Masuda to question the origin and meaning of art.
In 2013, he exhibited “Anger from the Bottom,” a collaborative work with Takeshi, a world famous Japanese movie director, at Setouchi Triennale 2013.

For those who are interested to know more about Yanobe’s art, there is a pop-up store with some art derivatives and a detailed introduction to the artist on the sixth floor of the mall.

Japanese artist gets his claws into a 'Ship's Cat'


Date: Daily, 10am-9:30pm

Venue: Joy City Changfeng

Address: 6/F, 196 Daduhe Rd

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