New York

View of “Arakawa,” 2019. From left: A Couple, 1966–67; Untitled (Webster Dictionary A & B), 1965; The Communicating Vases, 1964–65. Photo: Rob McKeever.


Gagosian | 980 Madison Avenue

It’s hard to get a read on the artist-architect Shusaku Arakawa (known mononymously as Arakawa). The notorious self-mythologizer is best remembered for the architectural fantasies he designed and constructed alongside his lifelong partner, Madeline Gins, ostensibly to help people live forever. But he died in 2010 at the age of seventy-three. “This mortality thing is bad news,” Gins said afterward, only to pass four years later. Arakawa’s admirers have been evasive about his transhumanist predilection, explaining it away as poetic metaphor. Did he really believe in eternal life? Or was he playing some kind of metaphysical joke?

It seems Arakawa continually delighted in keeping his intentions unclear. At the Gagosian exhibition of his lesser-known paintings from 1965 to 1984, some of his images read as cool, cerebral exercises. He wanted to capture “the condition that precedes the moment in

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