Sea of Buddha 001

Sea of Buddha 002

Sea of Buddha 003


Sea of Buddha



The art scene I knew in New York in the 1970s was dominated by minimal and conceptual art, experiments in visualizing how abstract concepts. It occurred to me that similar motives inspired the making of art in twelfth-century Japan, when they reproduced the afterlife conceptualized as the Buddhist Pure Land Western Paradise in model form in this world. Thus we have an installation of a thousand and-one Senju Kanon "Thousand - Armed Merciful Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara" figures passed down eight- hundred years to this day in Kyoto. After seven years of red tape, I was finally granted permission to photograph in the temple of Sanjusangendo, "Hall of Thirty-Three Bays." In special preparation for the shoot, I had all late-medieval and early-modern embellishments removed, as well as having the contemporary fluorescent lighting turned off, recreating the splendor of the thousand bodhisattvas glistening in the light of the morning sun rising over the Higashiyama hills as the Kyoto aristocracy might have seenin the Heian period (794-1185). Will today's conceptual art survive another eight-hundred years?


- Hiroshi Sugimoto