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  • Pierre Restany (1930-2003):Philosopher of Art
  • Susumu Shingu

One of the reasons for my trip to Europe to visit friends from late May to early June 2003 was to see Pierre Restany, about whose condition we had been concerned. When I saw him in hospital on the day after my arrival in Paris, I was relieved to see him looking as energetic as ever and able to enjoy our conversation. In spite of his diabetes, he was allowed to return home 2 days later. We all believed that he was recovering. However, very unexpectedly, he passed away on the morning of Ascension Day (29 May), only 2 days after returning home. He was 72 years old.

Internationally known, Pierre stood out especially in his clear grasp of the streams of contemporary art and in his philosophical art criticism. Most likely he is best known as the godfather of "Nouveau Réalisme," his name for the activities of young artists in Paris in the 1960s. Among them were Arman, Tingueley, César, Yves Klein and Niki de Saint-Phalle.

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Pierre Restany, watercolor, 18 X 20 cm, 2003.

© Susumu Shingu

I first met Pierre in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988, on the occasion of the Olympiad of Art for selected international artists who gathered there to create permanent sculptures in Seoul's Olympic Park. He stood for quite a while watching the swaying movements of my cluster of sculptures floating on the lake. Then, suddenly, he turned to hug me and whispered, "These sculptures make me happy. There is poetry in them." Ever since that moment, we have made it a point to meet frequently in Paris, Milan and Japan.

Pierre spent his boyhood in Morocco. After moving back to France he studied there, and also in Italy and Ireland. Once he started his career as an art critic, he lived half the year in Paris and half in Milan, while also traveling frequently throughout the world. He was fluent in many languages; our communication always took place in my second language, Italian. That is probably why we became such close friends so rapidly. Our frank friendship was far more than a relationship between art critic and artist. Accompanied by our wives, we traveled together often in Italy and Japan and to Morocco and Macao.

I am an artist, making sculptures that move with the natural energy of wind and water. Most of my works are permanently installed in public spaces. One day, I came upon the idea of traveling with my wind sculptures to some of the most characteristic natural landscape sites on our planet in order to raise awareness of how beautiful Earth is. It was Pierre that I first chose to talk to about this crazy idea. We were sitting in a Paris café. I remember clearly how his hands started to tremble as he listened to my explanation. "I had not understood that you care about nature that much. This is a global project that only you can realize. You should do it!" he said. Thus, Wind Caravan was launched, beginning in the rice paddies near my studio in Sanda, Hyogo, Japan, in June 2000. Pierre and his wife, Jos Decock, were there for the opening. [End Page 6]

Pierre loved art. Once he became interested in a piece, he tried to get to know the artist, visiting the studio to observe how the artist worked. I think that we shall never again see such a passionate art critic as he.

On 4 June, over 500 of his friends, artists as well as others outside of the field of art, came together for his funeral, held at the church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. It was a sad coincidence for me that I had witnessed his last moments during my short trip to Europe. Now that he is gone, I can see precisely how much I learned from him of the precious truth of life. [End Page 7]

Susumu Shingu
3990-7 Aimoto
Sanda-shi 669-1358


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