Established in the Ginza district in Tokyo in 1872, Shiseido is today a global manufacturing and sales corporation in the fields of cosmetics, salons, pharmaceuticals, toiletries, and nutritional products. After inaugurating its global business with sales to Taiwan in 1957, Shiseido began marketing to Europe in 1963 and to the United States in 1965. In Japan, Shiseido has long been considered an important force in the arts through its product designs and advertisements—which were originally overseen by the company’s first president, Shinzo Fukuhara. Shiseido currently organizes exhibitions of contemporary art in two public galleries in Tokyo, and mounts permanent installations in the Shiseido Art House and the Shiseido Corporate Museum in Kategawa. It also publishes a monthly magazine of culture and fashion, called Hanatsubaki.
In the early 1980s, Shiseido began to expand its cultural presence through the sponsorship of exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Fondation Cartier in Paris, among others. It has also sponsored individual art projects such as How’s Your Feng Shui? by Cai Guo-Qiang, which was exhibited at the Whitney Biennial 2000. Shiseido’s innovations in art, design, and marketing have been the subject of major exhibitions at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York (1985), the Musée de la Publicité, Paris (1986), and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris (1997).
Shinzo and Roso Fukuhara
Shinzo and Roso Fukuhara were sons of Arinobu Fukuhara, who founded Shiseido in 1872. As two quintessential mobo, or "modern boys"—the term coined for the sophisticated, up-to-date young men who frequented the fashionable Ginza district—they shared a passionate involvement with photography that helped to bring that art form into the mainstream of Japanese modernism.
The first Japanese artist to focus on Paris as his theme, Shinzo Fukuhara captured subjects such as park chairs, secondhand bookstores, billboards, and scenes under a bridge in his book of photographs taken in 1913, Paris et la Seine (Paris and the Seine), which was published in 1922. Shinzo organized the group Shashin Geijutsu-sha (The Photography of Art) in 1921, and in 1923 he proposed a theoretical framework for modern photography, the first to be published in Japan, in his essay The Light with Its Harmony. As successor to his father as head of Shiseido in 1915, Shinzo had relatively little time for making art, and many of his photographs were destroyed in the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923; only a small number of his works survive.
Shinzo’s younger brother Roso Fukuhara, on the other hand, enjoyed the freedom to pursue his art full time and became one of the pioneers of modernism in Japanese photography. At a time when other Japanese photographers were imitating paintings, Roso used the camera to record scenes and objects—rooftops, a tin wall, a bare-branched tree in a lake—that previously had not been considered suitable for art. In 1924 he and Shinzo founded the Japan Photographic Society, which he served as Vice Chairman until 1948.
The exhibition Shinzo and Roso Fukuhara: Photographs by Modern Ginza Boys, 1913–1941 is on view at Sepia International, Inc., 148 West 24th Street, 11th Floor, New York City, from September 16 to October 14, 2000. For more information, call 212/645-9449 or visit www.sepia.org.