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CREATIVE DESTRUCTION: THE ART OF AKASEGAWA GENPEI AND HI-RED CENTER

Akasegawa Genpei, The Morphology of Revenge: Take a Close Look at the Opponent Before You Kill Him (Enlarged 1,000-Yen), 1963, gouache on paper mounted on panel, 35 1/2 x 70 7/8".

IN THE EARLY 1960s, Japanese citizens found themselves looking askance at the thousand-yen notes that, thanks to a resurgent economy, were increasingly abundant in their lives. The cause of their wariness was the Chi-37 forgery scandal, in which virtually undetectable counterfeit thousand-yen notes circulated throughout the country, identifiable only through ever-lengthening lists of suspect serial numbers printed in the papers—and prompting the government in 1963 to commence the bills’ replacement with a new, “C series” note.

Then, on January 27, 1964, the newspaper Asahi Shinbun broke the story that police were investigating a “young artist and self-styled avant-garde member,” Akasegawa Genpei,* in connection with the scandal, intimating that a solution to the conspiracy might be at hand. The artist had in fact been producing prints of the B-series thousand-yen note—though

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