the contemporary art installations of chiharu shiota


The contemporary art installations of conceptual Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota (b. 1972) use found objects like beds, books, toys, suitcases, shoes and windows enveloped or suspended in a cobweb of strings.  It’s a fascinating concept: think about it – what’s your automatic interpretation when you see used objects through the prism of cobwebs? I think of abandonment, decay, and the dichotomy between life and death, past and present.  This is exactly her premise, and in addition she explores the memories of the people infused into these everyday objects.



Shiota’s artwork, like much of installation art, is really the result of two artistic currents crossing paths.  First think of Marcel Duchamp’s ready-made urinal as sculptural art.  Then add a dose of 1960s conceptualism, where the ideas take precedence over the physical concerns.  Put them into a space that changes one’s perception and voila you have contemporary installation art.



This large installation in a bedroom (above), currently on view at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, is quintessential Shiota.  Aside from the obvious used linens/bed and the lugubrious web of strings, Shiota encourages us to think about who lived there, what happened to them, what type of people were they, etc.



Most contemporary installation art is site specific and it can be a very transforming experience.   However, as a New York City based art advisor I tend to prefer more intimate art that works well in a client’s home. And this is why I really like Chiharu Shiota’s work.  Not only is she creative enough to craft complex large installations but is equally adept at producing wonderful smaller pieces that compliment a personal art collection.

Take, for example, the book suspended in a web of random strings of wire and wool. I find it to be both an object of beauty (doesn’t the webbing remind you of lace as well?) and also an object of reflection.  What is this book about?  Who was its last owner?  What were they like? How did the artist make this? It’s a perfect piece of art, in size and subject, for a collector’s home.



Think of the contemporary installation art of conceptual artist Chiharu Shiota as another version of sculpture, where the focus is not necessarily in the form anymore, but in the idea.  I invite you to feel free and explore the questions triggered by the art, which is exactly the whole point of the work.

Note: Through May 31, 2014 Shiota’s work can be seen at The Mattress Factory, a museum of contemporary art in Pittsburgh, where she string wrapped 8 rooms of a 19th century row home.

richard rabel
richard rabel: interiors + art
interior design and art advising
new york city

image credits: Chiharu Shiota.  She is represented by Galerie Daniel Templon in Paris and Matthias Arndt in Berlin.