Looking Into the Contemporary Art of Mr.

Looking Into the Contemporary Art of Mr.

Although anime has been developed by a slew of Japanese artists, much of anime’s success and popularity is because of the elusive Japanese artist Mr. While some are drawn to anime from an entertainment perspective, others are captivated by the artisticsm that anime encapsulates. 

Anime has now become a globalized sensation, however seldom few know of its origins and the originator.  Young childlike girls with giddy smiles in Japanese schoolgirl uniforms with spirited facial expressions is standard anime aesthetic. 

Many of us can recall seeing these images during our youth, often mesmerized by the deeply rounded glossed eyes of many anime characters like Asuna, Orihime Inoue, and Sailor Mercury to name a few. 

It was the artist Mr. who created the anime archetype, deriving inspiration from life around Tokyo, Japan, and lolicon. Identifying as an otaku, Mr. transposed his lolita complex into his art, creating memorable images that are now anime’s archetype. 

Mr. the artist — born as Masakatsu Iwamoto in Cupa, Japan — felt a kindredness to Japanese former Yomiuri Giants baseball player Shigeo Nagashima; choosing to use the pseudonym “Mr.” out of respect to Nagishima, who was nicknamed Mr.Giant. 

Mr.(Artist) journey as an anime pioneer began after he was discovered by the acclaimed Japanese contemporary artist and manga trailblazer Takashi Murakami in 1995. Graduating from the Department of Fine Arts at Sokei Art School in Tokyo in 1996, Mr. continued his connection with Murakami, working as his assistant and member of Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki art studio.


Mr. art debuts on the contemporary scene and redefines Anime with an Otaku flare

At the time Mr. was releasing his art, there wasn’t much positive connotation surrounding the term otaku nor major acceptance of anime as a whole. Popular amongst the Japanese youth and vilified by a good portion of the older Japanese generations during that time, Mr.’s mission as an artist included eliminating the harsh stigma associated with anime and otaku culture. 

Mr. pushed boundaries in anime art with his hypersexual lolicon images —young women portrayed as childlike girls that are typically depicted in an ero-kawaii fashion— behaving in sexually suggestive manners. An example of this would be illustrated in Mr.’s art pieces “Snakes Nest 2” and “Hellooo, There!” 

As a self-proclaimed otaku, Mr. infused all of his ostracized and unusual penchants into his art, creating an entire fantasy world for the anime cartoons he designed. Mr. inserts Tokyo-like landscapes to support the anime characters that are the focal point of his paintings. This is evident in his artwork like “The Endless Landscape of This Reality” and “V.”

 In his 2019 art exhibition “Melancholy Walk Around The Town”, Mr. highlighted the Tokyo neighborhoods Akihabara and Ikebokuru, the hub of otaku culture. Although much of Mr. ‘s art has recurring themes, he has created in every area of art including sculpture, video, and installation art.  In his earlier works, Mr. utilized everything but a canvas, presenting much of his paintings on store receipts and takeout menus from around Japan.

Deriving much of his inspiration from around the globe, Mr. pegs Alberto Burri  — a key component in the 1960’s Italian Arte Povera movement  — as being among his most significant influences. He also found artistic muse in 1960s Japanese and English pop culture, formulating his own technique from a culmination of these entities.

Connected to the Superflat art movement through his mentor Takashi Murakami, Mr. helped spearhead an entire wave of artistry that was the blueprint for future anime animators. The concept of flattened graphic design merged with eclectic subject matter  — consumerism, sexual fetishism, grossly twisted imaginativeness — is why Mr. is one of the key popularizers of the anime genre. 

Adding to the otaku culture — a “cute” aesthetic surrounded by an obsession with adolescence, manga, anime, and video games  with each artwork, Mr. has been a major figurehead in the advancement of otaku aesthetics into the mainstream. Although Mr. ‘s creations stem from his own personal fantasies rather than cultural commentary, Mr. ‘s contributions to anime have still been highly influential. 

Mr. has also supported other anime artists who wanted to push the culture forward. Wanting to show the art world that anime art extended beyond Takashi Murakami, Mr. helped introduce contemporary anime style artists like Yoshitomo Nara, Chiho Aoshima, and Aya Takano.

The 2000s were a massive success for Mr. and during this time he was a part of a multitude of art exhibits that were a combination of solo and group. Although the majority of Mr.’s art are depictions of lolicon due to his fantasies, he has made a complete shift in his art themes as of 2010. 

The shift in the artwork of Mr.

After the 2011 natural disasters and nuclear meltdowns that occurred in Tohoku, Japan, Mr. explored concepts of destruction by merging his classic bright kiddish anime characters with gritty abstract chaotic backgrounds.

In his 2012 exhibition at Lehmann Maupin and 2015 show at the 2015 Seattle Art Museum, Mr. created an interactive experience with viewers; comprising an installation art of debris found around Japan. Mr. designed these exhibitions to highlight the destructive aftermath of the 2011 Japan disasters, giving the viewer insight into the psychological aftereffects the disasters caused. 

Since the 2010s, Mr. has continued to intertwine elements of destruction with his light-hearted anime drawings. Most of his later work is painted on burned and trampled canvases, emphasizing his two contrasting themes: dark destruction and cute innocence.

A fixture in contemporary Japanese art, and respected in the art community overall, Mr.’s work crossed over into the American market after collaborating with superstar hip hop artist and music producer Pharrell Williams. After Mr. animated Pharrell Williams 2014 “It Girl” music video his work catapulted into crossover stardom.

As a fan of anime movies and shows like Pokemon, Spirited Away, Sailor Moon and others, it is insightful to learn about an artist who was a key reason in the success of those shows. Although each anime artist is different, many share commonalities that stem from the artist Mr. One of my favorite pieces by Mr. has to be “Desire” by Mr. 

“Desire” by Mr. is lolita, extremely bright, and innocent. Sometimes art by Mr. can be misunderstood and interpreted in  various ways depending on who you ask, however in “Desire,” the theme is quite clear. 

You are still able to buy artwork by Mr. today through websites like PERROTIN. So far Mr. ‘s art has been displayed in museum and gallery exhibitions across the world including: Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Hong Kong, Osaka, Daegu, Paris, New York, Minneapolis, Chicago, Miami, Jerusalem, Los Angeles and London. 

Below is a timeline of Mr. ‘s solo and group art exhibitions throughout the years.

Solo Exhibitions

  • 1996 – Frone & Perrine ‘97, Shop33, Tokyo, Japan
  • 1997 – Aoi Gallery, Osaka, Japan
  • 1998 – Oh-Edo Kunoichi Ninpocho (Greater Edo Handbook of Female ninja techniques), Shop33, Tokyo, Japan

– Mr., Painter of Alps, Galerie Tomio Koyama, Tokyo, Japan

  • 2001 –  “Venus #2”, Vedanta Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • 2003- Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
  • 2004- “ISSEY x Mr., ISSEY MIYAKE by Naoki Takizawa, “Tokyo, Japan”
  • 2006- “Mr.,” Musée d’ Art Contemporain, Lyon, France

“Nin-stealth,” Galerie Perrotin, Miami, FL

(Included fellow Kaikai Kiki organization members Chiho Aoshima and Aya Takano)

  • 2007- Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2008 – “Nobody Dies” Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France, Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2010- “Solo Exhibition” Leeahn Gallery, Daegu, South Korea
  • 2012- “Metamorphosis: Give Me Your Wings” Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York, NY
  • 2013- “Sweeet!” Gallerie Perrotin, Hong Kong
  • 2014- “Live On: Mr.’s Japanese Neo-Pop” Seattle Art Museum, Seattle
  • 2015 – “lost -Mental sketch modified” Hidari Zingaro, Tokyo
  • 2016 – “Tokyo, The City I Know, at Dusk: It’s Like A Hollow in My Heart” Galerie Perrotin, Seol

           “Sunset in My Heart” Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York, NY

  • People misunderstand me and the contents of my paintings. They just think they are nostalgic, cute, and look like Japanese anime. That may be true, but really, I paint daily in order to escape the devil that haunts my soul. The said devil resides inside my blood, and I cannot escape from it no matter how much I wish. So I paint in resignation” Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong
  • 2019 – “ A Call to Action” Musée Guimet, Paris

Group Exhibitions


Pico Pico Show, Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, Japan


Tokyo Sex, NAS, Tokyo, Japan


Hiropon Show, George’s, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Ero Pop Christmas, NADiff, Tokyo, Japan


– Hiropon Show 32/80, NADiff, Tokyo

– Hiropon Show Vol.7, PARCO Gallery, Nagoya, Japan

– Sampling, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc., New York, USA

– Attention Spam, Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Los Angeles, USA

– Hiropon Show PO+KU Art Revolution, Logus Gallery, Tokyo, Japan


– Superflat, Shibuya Parco Gallery, Tokyo; PARCO Gallery, Nagoya, Japan

  • 2005 – Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture, Japan Society, NY
  • 2015- “Animamix Bienmale” Daegu Art Museum, South Korea
  • 2017 – “The Doraemon Exhibition Tokyo 2017” Mori Arts Center Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

            “Yokohama Triennale 2017” “Islands, Constellations and Galapagos”

 Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama, Japan.

  • 2018 – “Megane to Tabisuru Bijutsuten” AOMORI MUSEUM OF ART,

Aomori; IWAMI ART MUSEUM, Shimane; Shizuoka

Prefectural Museum of Art, Shizuoka, Japan

  • 2019 – “Bishojo: Young Pretty Girls in Art History” Museum of National Taipei University of Education, Taipei.
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