Ishiuchi Miyako - Photographs London Tuesday, November 23, 2021 | Phillips
  • 'Photographing for Apartment was about my past – it was also about photographing the process of growing up.'
    —Ishiuchi Miyako

    Ishiuchi Miyako’s (b. 1947) first photobook Apartment, self-published in 1978, comprises photographs of old apartments – their exteriors, interiors and residents – in Tokyo and Yokohama. From 1977 to 1978, Ishiuchi studied these derelict post-war housings that were rapidly disappearing along with their communal way of life. The Japanese artist explains why she pointed her camera at this subject:


    Until we moved into the house my father built when I was 19 years old, my family of four lived in a six-tatami-mat sized apartment in Yokosuka. My father’s intention was to live there temporarily but it became longer. That experience was impactful. Apartments are temporary residences for most people; various people live there for a period and then leave. However, old apartments are alluring. There, I felt so many things left behind by humans.


    While shooting these old buildings, Ishiuchi was especially drawn to the walls, patterned by stains and cracks, which seemed ‘to retain the smell of people on the move.’ In Apartment #13, offered here, we see a dark hallway with haphazardly placed postboxes, stacked shoes and stored bikes. Ishiuchi focuses on the traces left by generations of former residents and their untold stories, experiencing what she describes as ‘the amazing sensation of tapping into collective memory.’ This emotionally charged photograph represents a poignant meditation on the intangible qualities of time, space and memory.


    In 1979, Ishiuchi became the first female artist to receive the prestigious Kimura Ihei Award for her Apartment series, and the only woman to be included in the group exhibition Japan: A Self-Portrait, at the International Center of Photography, New York. Among her numerous awards, she became the first Asian female artist to receive the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography in 2014. She also represented Japan at the 2005 Venice Biennale and her work has been exhibited internationally, including recent retrospectives Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (2015-2016) and Ishiuchi Miyako: Grain and Image at the Yokohama Museum of Art (2017-2018).


    Photographs from Apartment reside in the collections of major museums, including the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; and Tokyo Photographic Art Museum.


    M. Ishiuchi, Apartment, Tokyo: Shashin Tsūshinsha, 1978, cover.
    • Provenance

      Andrew Roth Gallery, New York, 2013

    • Literature

      M. Ishiuchi, Apartment, Tokyo: Shashin Tsūshinsha, 1978, n.p. (variant crop)
      M. Ishiuchi, Sweet Home Yokosuka 1976-1980, New York: PPP, 2010, n.p. (variant crop)



Apartment #13

Gelatin silver print, mounted.
Image/Sheet: 50 x 63 cm (19 5/8 x 24 3/4 in.)
Frame: 52 x 64.5 cm (20 1/2 x 25 3/8 in.)

Signed in rōmaji and dated in pencil on the reverse of the mount.

This work is one of two early prints made by the artist for the purpose of exhibition. Early, large-format prints of Apartment are rare.

Please note that the artist’s name appears in Japanese order with the surname before the forename.

Full Cataloguing

£10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for £12,600

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London Auction 23 November 2021