On Kawara visited who I think were his parents, Junji and Utako Kawahara, on several days in January 1971. That is January 11, 12, 20, 21, 22 and 28. Let's get this in perspective. Their names do not appear on 'I MET' for On's December 24 birthday, Xmas 1970, or New Year 1971. New Year was spent with the Okazakis, the Akutagawas, the Nishiharas and with his hosts, the Ishibashis. Though on January 2, four members of the Kawahara family were also present: Fumiko, Jun, Ei and Ayumi. Brothers, sisters and cousins? I don't know.

On January 4, On Kawara left Tokyo in order to do some travelling in the land he had exiled himself from. The Ishibashis didn't go with him, but the Okazakis from Tokyo, who he'd been seeing there, did.

As 1971 began, postcards were being sent to John Perreault, the New York art writer and artist. He was art critic for The Village Voice at this time and championed the avant garde. In 1968, when several names were used to describe the art now known as Minimalism, he predicted that this term would "stick".

A few of these postcards are juxtaposed with the day's 'I WENT' in the book
On Kawara: Horizontality/Verticality

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The above confirms that with the New Year celebration out of the way, On Kawara left Tokyo to go to Okayama, travelling with the Okazakis, at least. That is, they travelled south, towards Hiroshima and Nagasaki, though not as far as those once decimated places. In fact, they went to a sort of paradise. A manicured landscape dotted delicately with shinto temples and miniature trees.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The map above is a detail from the 'I WENT' of the same day in 1971 as is the above postcard: January 4. Turning to Google, I look around, as On Kawara must have done half a century before. With me feeling certain that he would have been looking at much the same thing, so controlled and timeless seems the landscape. A Street View image reminds me of the Charles Jenks' work permanently installed in the grounds of Jupiter Artland, near Edinburgh. Such a shame that no-one ever did for On Kawara what Richard Demarco did for Joseph Beuys: invite him to Scotland. The postcards are of the same place he was visiting, which is not unusual for Kawara.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The above postcard shows he had moved, and was now staying on a hillside, close to two shrines. Information which is confirmed by this detail from his 'I WENT' of the same day, January 7, 1971.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

On Kawara was staying in accommodation handy for two shrines. It looks like it was a private house that the artist was sleeping. In which case it's more likely that he was with friends or family. The 'I MET' for January 7 reveals the following. As well as the Okazakis, Kazuko Nishihara was travelling with them from Tokyo.

January 7, 1971:
Jun Usezaki
Yasuhiro Wake
Kazuo Okazaki
Tamako Okazaki
Masako Wake
Kazuko Nishihara
Yoshiko Isezaki

The next postcard to John Perreault confirms On Kawara continued to explore Okayama.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Perhaps I didn't need to include this particular stop in this account. But I'm greatly enjoying soaking up a Japanese aesthetic. As I feel On Kawara may have been in January 1971, reminding himself who he was and where he'd come from. So let it stay.

Above is the right-hand page in
On Kawara: Horizontality/Verticality, with On Kawara emerging from his horizontal time. And below is a detail of the map found on the left-hand page, showing where On Kawara went during his vertical hours.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I've located On Kawara's three sleeping places for January 4, January 7 and January 8. All in the vicinity of Okayama. The first stop, the peaceful park, being much the closest to the city centre. There was no Date Painting being done during this time, On was giving himself to his Japanese friends. He was in the moment.

Returning to Tokyo, On spent time with his family, as I mention
at the start of this chapter. He last 'MET' Junji and Utako Kawahara on the 22nd, spent a few days with the Ishibashis and the Okazakis, and after that the I MET list are blank for four days. On was on his own as he travelled back via Hawaii. He would not return to Japan again until 1978, and then for a specific purpose that I won't hint at for now. On January 29, in a Hawaiian hotel room, he painted the date:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The subtitle of the above Date Painting reads: "A devastating cyclone, Felice, tore across Mozambique, the Portuguese possession in East Africa today. Government officials said they feared as many as 100,000 persons might have been killed."

On Kawara's hotel was a high-rise close to the beach itself. Once again, On Kawara was in position 'A'. Soaking up the best that this World Heritage Site had to offer. Indeed, how did On Kawara spend the whole of January, 1971? In my opinion, he was World Heritage Site-hopping. The hotel had a fabulous view of the beach and bay from many of its windows. It would also feature on the picture side of the postcards OK would send from here.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

A similar card went to Hiroko on the 30th. These two cards are reproduced in On Kawara catalogues. She was still living in the loft that had been found for On's painting back in 1967, I see.



Back in New York, On Kawara began sending postcards to Germano Celant, an Italian gallerist, curator and writer who had received eight 'I AM STILL ALIVE' telegrams in 1970. One of his books is called
Conceptual Art, Arte Povera, Land Art, which is a catalogue from a show he curated in Turin in 1970. He wrote the catalogue's essay. On Kawara featured in this book/exhibition, along with many others.

Something else to pick up from the card is that the picture is of the Guggenheim in New York. On Kawara had been selected to take part in an important international group show, opening mid-February. Perhaps that showed the wisdom of not allowing his work to be included in the Guggenheim's Japan Art Festival in autumn of 1970. International group show, yes, Japanese art festival, no.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The catalogue for the Guggenheim show was a box within a box. Inside an inner box was an illustrated text, with essays by the two selectors, first, Diane Walden, and second, Edward F. Fry. The box also contained fold-out pamphlets for the 21 selected artists. Who were:

Thanks to the Guggenheim for making this available online.

The division of artists into nationalities seems dated now. Surely On Kawara identified as being 'based in New York' even then. It also has to be said that all but one of these 21 artists were male. And none of them, as far as I'm aware, was black. Moreover, when you flick through the catalogue essays, the images (there are none representing On Kawara) give the collective impression of white men exploring, dominating and taming nature. Richard Long's work in the landscape is given prominence. Richard Serra's heavy-metal work is also unmissable. And Bruce Nauman is given a double-page spread, where the artist is shown, on both pages, dressed in black t-shirt and jeans, bursting with enterprise.

Some of the artists got a four-page fold-out, while On Kawara got just two pages. These are revealing. The only 'image' On Kawara has in the catalogue is this:

Thanks to the Guggenheim for making this available online.

What is it? It's a list of the days in the first five years of his operation, where he made a Date Painting. And while that may make perfect sense to the reader of this website, it might be a little more obscure to the uninitiated.

On Kawara's other page contains, on the far left, a list of exhibitions he'd been involved with since Date Painting began. His bibliography, also to the left, is confined to a couple of things Joseph Kosuth had written about him. His biography, on the right, is expressed in the same format as that of the other artists in the show.

Thanks to the Guggenheim for making this available online.

Note that his biography is
not expressed as a number of days. I suspect On Kawara realised he'd missed an opportunity here. After all, his work in the exhibition was this.


Besides, in a postcard sent to the same Joseph Kosuth in November, 1968, On had boldly added his age in number of days. Let me reproduce that below, though it's out of chronology:


As I say, in the exhibition space were a month's worth of Date Paintings from March 1, 1970 to 31 March, 1970. On had wanted to show the entire DP-per-day exercise, January to March, 1970, as had appeared in the Tokyo Biennale, but he wasn't allocated enough space in the show for that. What a great trilogy that might have been. I don't mean the three months, though that is likely to have made a big impact on the audience. I mean, first, the row of Date Paintings in the Guggenheim exhibition. Second, the list of dates from 1966 to 1970 in the catalogue. And, third, the number of days On Kawara had been alive. Of course, On Kawara learned from this experience and from then on his biography always was expressed in days.

On Kawara attended the private view. What else accounts for the fact that on his 'I MET' list for February 15, appear nine of the participating artists?

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

In some ways, in the absence of Kasper Konig who was not in New York at the time, Konrad Fischer was the most important name on that list. The Germany-based dealer that On Kawara had sent 120 postcards to in 1969. Konrad Fischer had professional connections with several of the artists in the show, for instance Richard Long who he went on to work with for decades.

Tate Papers includes a text - by Lynda Morris, drawing on work by Sophie Richard - that emphasises how important Konrad Fischer - as a dealer and a curator - was in ensuring the success of Conceptual Art in both Europe and for American artists. She tells us that the curator, Diane Waldman, went out to Germany with certain names in mind, including Joseph Beuys, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke, but that none of those artists survived her consultation with Fischer. Which explains why Joseph Beuys wasn't part of this Guggenheim show. Because Konrad Fischer had no interest in him being there!

All of the Guggenheim artists that On Kawara met per his 'I MET' list on February 15 were Konrad Fischer artists. Which makes me think that it may have been a special Konrad Fischer invitation event (a dinner party?) rather than the official Guggenheim opening. Scrutiny of the day's 'I WENT' shows that On went nowhere near the Guggenheim on February 15. A private party, then.

Were there limits to Konrad Fischer's influence? One of his artists, Daniel Buren, was excluded from the show because other exhibiting artists objected to the enormous striped flag he'd installed, from skylight to just above the floor, impeding the view of their own work. Carl Andre (another Fischer artist) pulled out and several artists (including Sol LeWitt, Robert Ryman and Lawrence Weiner) signed a letter of protest. Dan Flavin wrote a damning letter of his own. All of these artists went on to be represented by the Konrad Fischer Gallery, suggesting that ultimately he was an irresistible force as far as artists commercial interests were concerned. I'm not sure if On Kawara signed the group letter of protest, but I wouldn't have thought so. Daniel Buren became a friend of On Kawara's and they met again in Nova Scotia in 1973. Buren wrote a moving essay for
On Kawara: SILENCE which came out in 2015, shortly after Kawara's death.

It is said that On Kawara stopped going to his own openings. It's said he found the conversations trivial. But I'm not sure that rings true. He had a curiosity about people, and life in general, as we've seen. If an artist talked about himself and his art to the exclusion of all else, On would have found that interesting too. Perhaps the problem was more to do with unwanted photography. OK had decided he did not want to be photographed. There were things he
did want. And he didn't want anything else on top of that. He wanted postcards, Date Paintings, 'I MET' lists. 'I WENT' maps and 'I READ' volumes. That was it. No more. And if he attended his shows it would have been too easy for a journalist to clock the Japanese guy standing in the same room as a row of Date Paintings and to make hay (click away).

I've just looked through the archive of letters that Tatsuo Kondo sent to his editor in Tokyo. There is one from February 1971 which mentions that if the editor wanted any photos from the Guggenheim International, he should let Tatsuo know. I'm surprised he doesn't offer an opinion on the show, or talk about On Kawara as the one Japanese artist included. Possibly Tatsuo Kondo's loyalties were to the Japanese Art Festival rather than the international group show.

The next day (Feb. 16, 1971), On Kawara made a Date Painting. It's subtitled: "I got up at 8.09 a.m. and painted this." This was the first time he'd used that sentence construction since five days in a row while painting the date in May, 1969. A statement of intent, perhaps.

Feb. 16, 1971: "I got up at 8.09 a.m. and painted this.

Feb. 22, 1971: About the British government selling helicopters to South Africa.

Feb. 23 1971: About South Viet Nam's military intentions.

Feb 24, 1971: About Algeria nationalising its natural assets, that previously had been French.

Feb. 25, 1971: "I got up at 11.03a.m. and painted this."

On Kawara was back into a painting rhythm. The subtitles are all quotes from the newspaper, except for the personal statement ("I got up") that is much more formally tight than the personal statements that had appeared in 1966 and 1967. Such as "I am afraid of my date paintings," and "I make love to the days".

On Feb 28, On Kawara sent a giant postcard showing the United Nations headquarters in New York to Francoise Lambert in Milan, wife of his Parisian gallerist, Yvon Lambert. This card has been recently bought by the Swiss historian, collector and gallerist, Larkin Erdmann who is in the process (as at February, 2023) of framing it so that the card can be viewed from either side:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation. Photo courtesy of Larkin Erdmann.

I have to say that a getting up time of 3.22pm suggests a mah-jongg all-nighter. On Kawara has sent the card from what has been his and Hiroko's studio address since before going to Mexico.

And the picture?

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation. Photo courtesy of Larkin Erdmann

This is the same view of New York which On Kawara sent from 97 Crosby Street in mid-April, 1969, while staying with Hirotsugu Aoki upon his return to New York from Mexico and South America. Actually, immediately on his return, for a week or so, he stayed with Nobu Fukui at 53 Greene Street and sent a companion Giant Postcard of New York, a different but similar view of what he had come to regard as his home city.

In order to better understand this 'I GOT UP', in 2022 I asked AGO for the 'I MET' list from both Feb. 27 and Feb. 28. Here is Feb. 27:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation. Photo courtesy of Art Gallery Ontario.

Actually, to attempt to understand why the getting up time on Feb. 28, 1971 was 3.22pm, one needs to consider three 'I MET' lists: 26, FEB., 27 FEB. and 28 FEB. Luckily, although I didn't ask for it, the Feb. 26 info can be deduced from the left edge of the above photo.

FEB. 26, 1971

FEB. 27, 1971

FEB. 28, 1971

Remember that these 'I MET' lists were made from midnight to midnight, but that late night conversations and/or
mah-jongg games meant that people were not going to sleep until, say, 6 or 7am in the morning. So On may have been with his wife, Hiroko, his very good friend Soroku and his friend, Shu, who was successful as an artist where he lived in Rome, but often seems to have visited the Kawaras in New York. Now if they were interacting after midnight that would explain why these three names are also first on the list on Feb. 27. At some stage, possibly after On Kawara got up (late), they were joined by Shu's wife and Isamu Kawai, who seems to have been a minor figure in the art world of the time. (I've come across a collaboration he made in New York with Yasuo Ihara, On's photographer.) Perhaps the Takahashis and the Kawaras made up a four for mah-jongg. Perhaps it was Soroku and Isamu who played with the Kawaras. My knowledge of mah-jongg is not extensive enough (yet) to tell me whether six people could have played together.

But hang on, given the names on Feb. 28, the Takahashis and Soroku Toyoshima must have been gone by midnight, when Feb 27 became Feb. 28. Only Isamu and Hiroko are on both the 27th and 28th I MET list. So perhaps not
mah-jongg after all. Although Hirotsugu, another very close friend of On's may have joined them shortly after midnight and made up a foursome with On Kawara, Hiroko and Isamu. Later in the day (I assume) On met the Kojimas. Nobuaki being a successful Japanese performance artist, famous for draping himself in cloth that was interpreted as being the striped part of the American flag. Born in 1935, Nobuaki Kojima studied in Tokyo, eventually moving to New York from 1972-1976. I have a feeling the Kawaras and the Kojimas would have had a lot to talk about. But waking up at 3pm draped in the American flag, I ask you!

To hedge my bets with Art Gallery Ontario, I asked them if they would provide the previous and the subsequent 'I MET' to Feb 27/28, that included Nobu Fukui's name, but only if Nobu Fukui's name wasn't there on Feb. 27/28. The helpful librarian had to go back a week to February 21:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation. Photo courtesy of Art Gallery Ontario.

As well as Nobu and his wife, On and Hiroko met the Naraharas (he was a well-known photographer) and the Kojimas again. Also Jiro Takamatsu, born 1935, a prominent Japanese performance/conceptual artist who was much respected during his career, though he remained in Japan. That's four pairs plus Jiro. A golden opportunity to have a mah-jongg tournament? We have to remember that On didn't drink. Playing games was done on a nightly basis. More or less every night, I suspect.

Remembering the midnight cut off, I would suggest that On had a late night chat with Ikko Narahara and Jiro Takamatsu and Hiroko on the 20th, then the next day the Kawaras, the Kojimas and the Fukuis interacted. Chit-chat, ping pong,
mah-jongg, whatever.

And subsequent to Feb 27/28, when did Nobu first crop up? Not until March 26.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation. Photo courtesy of Art Gallery Ontario.

On only meet Hiroko, Nobu and Miyuki that day. Probably not a mah-jongg day. But then what do I know?

I wonder why I've left the above analysis in. Maybe to show how difficult my job was until Tama Art University put all the 'I GOT UP', 'I WENT' and 'I MET' online. Dear reader, I'm going to go into that side of things a little later in this essay.



Five Date Paintings in March:

Mar. 3, 1971: About a Chinese satellite launch.

Mar. 5, 1971: "I got up at 12.30P.M. and painted this."

Mar. 9 1971: About a murder in Northern Ireland.

Mar. 19, 1971: About the location of a place in Chile.

Mar. 24, 1971: "I got up at 11.25A.M. and painted this."

I have
a repro of one of these. It's a size D painting: MAR. 3, 1971. Let's compare it with a size C painting from March, 1967 and the MAR. 3 (size B) from 1970.


These are different sized paintings, so I hesitate to say too much. But what can be said is that On Kawara was basically painting in the same font in March 1971 as he had been in March 1967. He had evolved into this style by late-1966 and he hadn't changed it in any material way since.


Apr. 6, 1971: About the death of Stravinsky in New York.

Apr.7, 1971: "I got up at 2.12 P.M. and painted this."

Apr. 13, 1971: "I got up at 11.41 A.M. and painted this."

Apr. 16, 1971: About the U.S. table tennis team in China.

Apr. 17, 1971: About the independence of Bangladesh being declared.

Apr. 19, 1971: About fires in the Cherokee National Forest.

Apr.20, 1971: About a solar-powered moon rover.

Apr. 21, 1971: About student protests in Venezuela.

Apr.22, 1971: About Soviet astronauts in earth orbit.

It is
APR. 20 I have a repro of. So let's compare it with an April Date from 1967:


One can immediately see that the R is different. The reason for this may be to do with lack of practice. In the case of numbers, there are only 9 of them, so each comes round quite often. But in the case of letters, because there are 26 of these, of which only three or four are used in a typical month's abbreviation, the artist could easily forget how these are constructed due to their infrequency of use.

JAN, FEB, MAR, APR, MAY, JUNE, JULY, AUG, SEPT, OCT, NOV, DEC. There is only one B and one G in
a whole year. Only two Rs and two Cs. Not surprising then, that when APR. comes around after a full year, that the artist draws the R slightly differently, which might commit him to a certain look for the rest of the month.

From early April until late June, Roger Mazarguil was receiving a daily postcard. Roger Mazarguil owned a restaurant in Paris called Chez Georges. He was enthusiastic about conceptual art and would talk to the American artists that lunched at his restaurant, such as Daniel Buren, Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd and Carl Andre. I've learned from an online interview with Roger Mazarguil's son, that Roger named his cat Iroko after On Kawara's partner, who he admired for her delicacy. When in Paris, the Kawaras dined at Chez Georges. Though this may have been a year or two later.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I've also seen a June, 1971, postcard to Roger Mazarguil. It's picture side is of the Guggenheim. So On Kawara may still have had positive feelings about appearing in the group show there.

What with cards going to Germano Celant (Genoa, Italy) and Francoise Lambert (Milan, Italy) this might signal a slight change in emphasis in recipients, from art writers and conceptual artists from New York, to enterprising gallerists and collectors from Europe.

In April, On Kawara sent the following telegram to Klaus Honnef in Munster. Actually, Klaus was sent an unusually large number of such telegrams, nine in March alone and six in April.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Klaus Honnef was honorary professor of photography theory at the Kassel Art Academy. He was one of the organisers of Documenta 5 and 6 that took place in Kassel. He curated many exhibitions and wrote several books on contemporary art, pop art and Andy Warhol. Tate Papers tell us that Klaus Honnef and Konrad Fischer worked together to come up with section 17 of documents 5. This consisted mostly of work by Konrad Fischer's artists, another example of Fischer's curation and his salesmanship getting entangled somewhat.

In other words, by sending 120 postcards to Konrad Fisher in 1969 and several telegrams to Klaus Honnef in 1971, On Kawara was maximising his visibility in the art world.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Apparently, On Kawara wrote 21 of these telegrams to Klaus Honnef in 1971. I wonder what difference On Kawara remaining alive meant to him? Although he wrote the message, On Kawara wasn't responsible for the look of the telegrams, which varied depending on which country they were being received in. I would describe these German telegrams as being rendered in a Joseph Beuys aesthetic. Although it could be that Beuys got that look from something in his own culture. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?


On Kawara painted at least one Date Painting every day of May.

May 1, 1971: A list of maximum temperatures in 21 cities round the world.

May 2, 1971: About Indian planes violating Pakistani air space.

May 3, 1971: About 7000 anti-war protesters in Washington.

May 4, 1971: "I got up at 11.17 A.M. and painted this."

May 5, 1971: About the closing of the foreign exchange markets in West Germany.

May 6, 1971: About a warning given in America to avoid eating swordfish, which has high levels of mercury.

May 7, 1971: About the resumption of trade between the U.S. and China.

May 7, 1971: About President Pompidou flying at twice the speed of sound in Concorde.

I'll pause there because these eight paintings (resold by Christie's in 1998, following Herbig's death in 1996) were from a batch of ten sold to Dr. Jost Herbig, a scientist from Cologne. This means that On Kawara, no longer in the first five years of his project, was now willing to sell his work. I'm not sure when the sale was actually made (through Konrad Fischer in Dusseldorf, see next para), but the Dates were still in On Kawara's possession when he did an end of year photo survey, as we'll see.

Actually, there is a series of four letters between Konrad Fischer, Hiroko Hiraoka and Jost Herbig that throw light on the transaction. First, in March 1971, Konrad Fischer sent a list of all On Kawara's Date Paintings to the end of 1970. Second, in June, Hiroko wrote to tell Konrad Fischer that On has finished
One Million Years and that Jost Herbig wanted to buy some Date Paintings. Third, on November 3, Dr Jost Herbig wrote to Hiroko. The transcript says that he was looking forward to receiving On Kawara's 'I GOT UP' postcards. (In fact he'd been sent his first postcard on July 14, 1971, and would be sent his 131st and last postcard on November 21, 1971.) The letter went on to say that Jost Herbig has spoken to Konrad Fischer about making an advance so that On Million Years could be produced and that he would be happy to receive a selection of Date Paintings in return as soon as they were ready. Fourth, on November 12, Hiroko wrote to Jost Herbig thanking him for the advance, telling him that One Million Years would not have been possible without it and details an arrangement with Kasper Konig and Konrad Fischer re the transport of 10 paintings.

What's interesting about this is that On Kawara plays no part in the transaction. Instead, he has authorised Hiroko to deal with it. But what an ideal first buyer - someone so interested in the work as a whole that his buying of Date Paintings is specifically intended to finance the making of new work. Though I don't myself see that the making of
Million Years Past would have cost that much. Perhaps the binding of ten volumes of 500 pages each is a bigger job than I imagine. And the edition was of twelve.

I will come back to this major transaction (the sale of 10 paintings to Dr Jost Herbig, which I presume included May 8, 1971 and May 9, 1971 as well) when we get to November in this account. In the meantime, back to May's Date Painting sub-titles:

May 8, 1971: "I got up at 12.32pm and painted this."

May 9, 1971: About West Germany floating the mark against the dollar.

May 10, 1971: About the drowning of 75 passengers when a bus plunged into a reservoir near Seoul.

May 11, 1971: The name of an ancient temple in Cambodia.

May 12, 1971: About an earthquake in Turkey.

May 13, 1971: About Uganda's government's attempt to bring back and arrest a former President.

May 14, 1971: "I got up at 12.21 P.M. and painted this."

There is almost weekly rhythm going on here. Let's carry on and see if we can be more specific about this.

May 14, 1971: About the Communist party chief in Czechoslovakia lashing out against the nation's leading popular singer.

May 15, 1971: About uranium radioactive waste in Colorado, U.S.A.

May 16, 1971: About hairnets being introduced for long-haired Swedish servicemen.

May 17, 1971: About the kidnapping of an Israeli Consul General in Turkey.

May 18, 1971: "I got up at 6.51 A.M. and painted this."

Or is it groups of five? Is that where the rhythm is?

May 19, 1971: About a Soviet Union spacecraft sent to Mars.

May 20, 1971: About the possibility of a U.S./ Soviet Union arms deal.

May 21, 1971: About the murder of two New York policemen in Harlem.

May 22, 1971: About pollution in two Rhine tributaries killing millions of fish.

May 23, 1971: About the kidnapping of a British politician by Argentine guerrillas.

May 24, 1971: "I got up at 11.04 A.M. and painted this."

Or is it groups of six?!

May 25, 1971: About a Soviet supersonic airliner's maiden flight to the West, landing in Paris.

May 26, 1971: About Australian Airways, Quantas, paying a ransom to a hoaxer.

May 27, 1971: About the Soviet and Egyptian leaders signing a15-year peace treaty.

May 28, 1971: About the Singapore Government revoking a Singapore newspaper's license.

May 29, 1971: A list of four Jews who had been sent to prison in middle America.

May 29, 1971: "I got up at 12.06pm and painted this."

Six times in the month, On Kawara tells us what time he got up and painted the date. May 4, May 8, May 14, May 18, May 24, and May 29. That is every fourth to sixth day he did so. It's not entirely systematic, there is an element of spontaneity, but there is an element of system too, as in so much of On Kawara's oeuvre. He did exactly what he liked. But he liked strong patterns.

The odd thing is I don't have a repro of any of the painted May dates. Though, as you'll see before the end of this chapter, I know that they do exist.


In June, On Kawara made nine Date paintings. The subtitles take in India, Africa, the United States, Japan and Vietnam. It's JUNE 1 and JUNE 3 that I have repros of, so let's see them in comparison with a June 1967 Date. But first their subtitles:

JUNE 1, 1971: "A number of cholera deaths in the refugee camps near the Indian-Pakistani border."

JUNE 3, 1971: "North Vietnam announced today that it was cancelling all arrangements to receive sick and wounded prisoners of war from the South on the ground that only 13 out of 570 originally announced would be transferred."


The U has got wider. The J has changed from 1967. I did say that certain letters only came up once or twice in the year, but J comes up three times. Clearly, the artist changed his mind how to render it between 1967 and 1971. July should confirm this.

On Kawara made nine Dates in July. The sub-titles mention Kissinger, Persia, New York, Iraq and Arnold Palmer. Twice Kawara made two Dates in a single day. I have repros of the two made on July 17, both size A, and am displaying them beside JULY 4, 1967, size C, which accounts for its characters being slightly stretched vertically.


Again the J is different. It has evolved from 1967 to 1971. The 1971 version is more in step with the other letters. Giving a calmer and less fussy feel to the whole.

JULY 31 Date's subtitle refers to Apollo 11 astronauts taking the first motorised trip across the moon's surface. On Kawara made seven Date Paintings in August 1971, the first four of which concern Apollo 15. I don't have repros of any of them, but the subtitle of AUG.6, 1971 is suggestive. "The Apollo 15 astronauts sped closer to earth today with such precise aim that for the first time, no course correction was considered necessary before splashdown.' I expect AUG.6,1971 looked exactly like AUG.6,1967, with no corrections necessary.

Right, I'm going to have to inject some enterprise into this essay. In my opinion, the first five years (1966 to 1970) have gone from strength to strength as chapters, because On Kawara was constantly pushing on in that period. But in 1971 On took his foot off the accelerator after fulfilling his first five-years objectives. Another factor is that I haven't got enough 'I MET' lists to work with. I did ask Art Gallery Ontario (AGO) for a few while doing the second draft of this work, and for those around Feb. 28 for this third draft, and the librarian supplied them, but really I could do with seeing many more about this particular year: the year of New York.

I wonder how AGO would respond if I asked them to fill in this schedule for four names and three months of 1971. The names along the top are those of the artists that Nobu Fukui has told me that On Kawara played
mah jongg with. The first three were close friends, and Ansell Bray (see the 1973 essay) told me that Takeshi Kawashima was the sociable centre of the Japanese New York artists and that he was friends with everyone, and the main host of the mah jongg parties.


If the above schedule was to be filled in for April, May and June, I would know how often On Kawara met each of these individuals, either alone or collectively. I would get some idea how important mah jongg was to On's social life. Though I would also need to get a few 'I WENT' maps if I was hoping to tell whether the games were played mostly at 97 Crosby Street (Aoki's place), 53 Greene Street (Nobu's), 61 Lispenard Street (Soroku's), 340 East 13th Street (On's and Hiroko's) or 7 Dutch Street (Takeshi's). The venue probably rotated between some or all of these locations. It would be fun to work out the rota.

On second thoughts, a four-month period to ask for seems right. On Kawara had a habit of posting four months' worth of postcards to an individual once per year. In 1969 it was Konrad Fischer. In 1970 it was Dan Graham. It was Dr. Jost Herbig in 1971.

I think it would only take a co-operating librarian about an hour to do this for me. But the schedule looks a bit intimidating and I don't suppose they get requests such as this very often. I risk AGO turning me down for the first time. And once they've said "no", it might be difficult to recapture their co-operation.

The trouble is, dear reader, I keep pushing my correspondents too hard. I feel I have to get the most out of everyone who gives me any information. But it's still fresh in my mind that after extracting seven emails from Nobu Fukui in four days, his final email contained the lines:
'I am very sorry, but I am getting a headache reading your email. Your obsession with On is maddening! Please no more questions, no more emails. I can't handle it.'

Nobu is a young-seeming eighty. It is fabulous that he has given me the information that he has. I hope he understands that I am extremely sorry to have caused him any distress. However, he has insisted that I don't send him any more emails, so that's that. Though he has said that he may still answer my 'unanswered' questions, if and when he feels like it, in the fullness of time. True, Nobu looks like he might make it to be 100. Aoki's mother was 107 in 2020, it seems somehow relevant to mention. Sigh.

I know what will happen with AGO. If they supply me with the four-month information I'll write back immediately asking for the same information for August, September and October. Shall I leave it for the moment? Yes, why not let discretion be my watchword for once. (Ha! - I have just asked AGO for three-months of results.)

I can be certain that Soroku Toyoshima's name will be prominent on the completed schedules. Of the 91 days, I expect he was 'MET' as many as 10 times. Let me take this opportunity to say something about him.


Soroku was 'MET' on two days of the six covering the Apollo moon landing of 1969. He was 'MET' on the only published 'I MET' for 1970, being October 24. He was 'MET' on one of the few 'I MET' lists published in 1971, being October 3; and, as you'll see, he was there at On's birthday on December 24, a list I requested in 2022 from AGO. And he will be MET, as you'll see in subsequent chapters, from 1972 to 1979.

So who was Soroku Toyoshima? There is a 10-minute film about him on Youtube, not subtitled in English, from which the following still was taken. He is the only one of the inner circle I'm choosing to use a photo of. Why is that? I suppose I want this image to stand for them all. Soroku, Nobu, Aoki and On. The team of Japanese New York artists.

Reproduced with the forbearance of the copyright holder, I hope.

Soruku was born in 1939, so he was about Nobu's age and a few years younger than On. He became an artist after art school, practised in Tokyo for a few years with the Neo-Dadaists, but migrated to the US in 1964. Now Dadaists were a group of artists who blamed the bourgeois (including traditional artists) for the First World War, and it seems that the Neo-Dadaists carried on that line of thought in respect of subsequent wars, such as WW2. By 1970 he was living in New York, still attached to the Neo-Dadaists, but had stopped making work, possible because he had a wife and a three-year-old child to support. It's not clear when the interview was made. Sometime in the early 1970s, I'm supposing, possibly 1971.

The video also contains footage of Soroku being helped to carry a metal sculpture and position it in what I take to be a Manhattan back garden. It would seem to be one of the last pieces he made, and it's called something like 'Foundation Moulding Factor Arrangement', dated 1970. His four helpers appear to be Japanese. His fellow Neo-Dadaists? It is possible that either Aoki or Nobu or even On Kawara were among his helpers, but the footage is not sharp enough for me to tell. They leave the piece lying on the ground.

Reproduced with the forbearance of the copyright holder, I hope.

The video ends with more from the interview, where Soroku is sitting on steps, dressed in a check shirt. Where did Soroku live in the 1970s again? At 61 Lispenard Street, which I suspect wasn't a loft, as Soroku refers (I've been told by a Japanese acquaintance) to not having a studio in the interview. Lispenard Street is in New York's Tribeca, on the borders of Chinatown, Little Italy and Soho. Soho being where On Kawara and Aoki lived. In other words, the Toyoshimas lived a little to the south of On, Nobu and Aoki.

In 1971, the Toyoshimas had a second child, Takeharu, who has gone on to be a cartoonist. He began to draw SAM (Secret Asian Man) in 1999. The strip did well and was syndicated, and so for five years from 2007, SAM was very visible across the United States. In this period, Tak produced a strip a day which was eventually collected into a self-published book called
The Daily Days. (The title has an On Kawara ring to it.) Tak makes a point of saying in an interview that both his artist parents were supportive of him being a cartoonist, though they had warned him that being any kind of artist was not an easy thing to succeed at in material terms. Though it has to be said that On Kawara need up being extremely successful by any standards, including material terms.

Reproduced with the forbearance of the copyright holder, Tak Toyoshima, I hope.

The book explores what it is to be an Asian Man living in New York. It is clearly autobiographical, the SAM of the cartoon being a cartoonist and being married to an Irish-Italian woman, as Tak is. They have one son (as Tak did at the time) and a hot-headed cousin, a right-on white friend, and a gentle, techy black friend. Racial identity and racism are continually explored in insightful and amusing ways. The writing and illustration both have a consistently light touch.

Look again at SAM's face. The black rectangles are supposed to be heavy eyebrows. However, if you remove SAM's bright, round, beady eyes, the black patches are more easily read as eyes themselves. Eyes that are giving nothing away.

Altered and reproduced with the forbearance of the copyright holder, Tak Toyoshima, I hope.

The above face could be that of Soroku Toyoshima, Hirotsugu Aoki, Nobu Fukui or On Kawara. Though On Kawara successfully blacked out his whole face. I wonder if On Kawara saw himself as a Secret Asian Man. I had a few questions about this. I thought it would be a good idea to write to Tak Toyoshima, since I couldn't approach his father, who died in 2013, a year before On Kawara.

Dear Tak,

I’m currently researching and writing about On Kawara. I believe your father was one of OK’s closest friends in the period covered by I GOT UP, I MET, I WENT. I dare say 'SORUKU TOYOSHIMA' is on hundreds of I MET lists. I can’t quite check this out, as only a very limited number of I MET lists have been published, and those are skewed away from Japanese-American days spent in New York, and biased towards Western art contacts in various countries. However, there is a complete set of I MET in just one public institution, Art Gallery Ontario, and the librarian there has been very helpful in answering my requests for I MET info.

Some specific questions:

1) Do you know if your own name is to be found on On Kawara’s I MET lists? If so, can you give me an example?

2) Did your father receive a sequence of I GOT UP postcards? If so, between what dates?

3) What did your father think of On Kawara’s work, and vice versa? What did they do to support each other’s art practice?

4) I assume you met On Kawara. Is there anything you feel you can tell me about those meetings?

I do hope you will find it possible to trust me with some of the information you have. Though I will quite understand if you feel it’s too complicated to do that.

Does secret Asian man of yesterday have to be secret Asian man of tomorrow? I hope not, and I suspect that’s one of the things your book, which I have ordered, will illustrate. On Kawara has added so much to my quality of life, and I’d like to play my bit in passing on his wisdom.

I’m really looking forward to reading your book, as its world view is bound to have an impact on my work-in-progress. And if you could reply in some way to this email, that would be very much appreciated.

Best wishes from Scotland on a dark and rainy day: NOV. 17, 2022

Have a good one yourself,

Duncan McLaren

A few days later, I received a reply.

Hello Duncan, thanks for reaching out. I do know Mr. On as a family friend but to be honest I was so young that I have no active memory of any of his art dealings or his relationship with my father. Sorry to not be of more help but good luck with your research. Thanks again. --TAK

To which I replied, more or less straightaway. What's embarrassing about my follow-up email was that I make a big mistake in it. Working too quickly, I assumed that 'Takeshi Kawashima' was 'Takeharu Toyoshima' on an 'I MET' list! (At least I didn't think the name was Takashi Hashimoto. Or Takeshi Kawashima.) The irony is that some of Tak's cartoons focus on society's difficulties with Japanese names and with his Japanese name in particular. I have had no second reply from Tak Toyoshima.

However, Tak's book has arrived. On its second page is this, the strip drawn for July 20, 2007:

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder, Tak Toyoshima.

Which neatly underlines my own embarrassment. SAM mentions his own background occasionally. This individual frame, for example:

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder, Tak Toyoshima.

I wonder what team Soroku Toyoshima was thinking of when he gave this advice to Tak. He may have been thinking about his Japanese-New York team, including On Kawara, Hirotsugu Aoki and Nobu Fukui. Did Soroku make a personal sacrifice for them as a group? It is something I will be bearing in mind.

The sweet news is that Art Gallery Ontario has generously given me what I asked for. They have even done so using 21st Century technology:


APRIL: Nobu met four times and Soroku seven times. Only once did On see Nobu and Soroku on the same day. Suggesting that On Kawara had a close relationship with both, especially Soroku. Though Soroku and Nobu didn't necessarily have a close relationship.

Back to May:


MAY. On Kawara met Aoki twice and Nobu twice, both on the same day. This is in a month where On made a Date Painting every day, but it still suggests that On's friendship with Aoki took in Nobu, and vice versa. It suggests to me that Nobu and Aoki were friends as well, though not necessarily.

Back to June:

Table courtesy of Art Gallery Ontario.

JUNE. On met Aoki three times and Soroku eight times. But on no occasion was the visit on the same day. This suggests a distance between Aoki and Soroku, though it may have been bridgeable on party days, none of which have been caught in this sample.

This three-month period emphasises the distinct friendships between On and Aoki, On and Nobu, and On and Soroku. On met them five times, six times and fifteen times, respectively, with the only significant overlap being between Aoki and Nobu.

One wonders if Takeshi Kawashima's name belongs on the same schedule, given that he was not met at all in the period. It was Ansell Bray, who appears on an 'I MET' in 1973, who emphasised that Takeshi was the focal point of the Japanese-New York artists' scene, and that he hosted many
mah jongg parties. And Nobu too listed him as central to On's mah-jongg socialising, after Aoki and Soroku. So I may ask AGO if they would update this schedule to the end of the year, adding months July to December to their existing reply.

It's here I must insert something that has come up while working on 1972 (in March, 2023). Here is a paragraph from
a letter written by Tatsuo Kondo to his editor in Tokyo. It helps explain the above 'I MET' pattern:

June 17, 1971:
'Mahjong used to be very popular among Japanese writers in New York, but recently most of them seem to have switched to fishing. I'm not very familiar with American-style fishing with reels, but next weekend there will be a painting competition, so I'm thinking of going there for the first time in a while. Mr. Atsushi Kawahara is completely absorbed in it, and seems to be enthusiastic about making his own mosquito needles. It's not like conceptual art and fishing have something in common, so…'

Atsushi Kawahara is On Kawara's given name. It's something I explained in the 1966 chapter.

'Mosquito needles' is a weird translation.
Ansell Bray was a keen fisherman and he told me that On Kawara liked to make his own flies. So I suppose ‘mosquito needles’ means fish hooks made to look like flies.

Tatsuo Kondo is puzzled by On's obsession with fishing. What has it got to do with conceptual art? On Kawara took his game-playing and his travelling seriously, they were just as important to him as his art. You need precision and patience to be a good fisherman. On Kawara had these qualities in abundance.

The fishing mentioned went on in upstate New York. Ansell Bray told me all about that in 2021, but I thought that the activity really got going in 1972. However, I've seen so few of the 'I WENT' maps and the 'I GOT UP' postcards for the summer of 1971 that it's quite possible that the trips to Roscoe were going on then. Indeed, it's clear that this must have been the case.

It is also clear from the 'I MET' lists that I've received for 1971 that On Kawara's friendships with Aoki, Soroku and Nobu went on post-
mah-jongg, but more on a one-to-one basis.

It is time to admit that my most recent request to Art Gallery Ontario has been turned down. In March 2023 the librarian explained to me that he couldn't justify the time that my requests were taking to do and that he suggested that I hook up with a local researcher who I could pay to extract the information I needed from the volumes of 'I MET' in Art Gallery Ontario's library. I'd anticipated this turn of events and had written to One Million Years Foundation in February 2023 wondering if I could somehow be given UK or online access to 'I GOT UP', 'I WENT' and 'I MET'. It was in May 2023 that I was told - not by Million Years Foundation, so I've no idea if my request had helped achieve this outcome - that Tama Art University, Tokyo, was putting all the information online.

As I write, it is October, 2023, and I can summarise On's meetings with his inner circle for each month following his return from Japan to the end of the year as follows, having looked at every single 'I MET' List for the post-Japan part of the year:

……….NOBU…AOKI….SOROKU…KASPER (instead of Takeshi Kawashima who doesn't show up)



So Soroku was On's closest confidant in 1971. I suspect Aoki went to Japan for nearly four months in the summer and autumn, certainly his numbers are down on his usual totals. Kasper Konig was around quite a bit, but that is partly because he and his family were staying with On and Hiroko when he was in New York, such as in September, as Ilka and Lili's names crop up too, that's Kasper wife and first child.

Soroku went fishing with On and Hiroko in the summer. He was there with On and Hiroko when they had a day's trip to Monticello in upstate New York. Soroku was also there on the inaugural trip to Buttergrove Camp, Roscoe, which became the regular fishing trip destination in subsequent years. Soroku did have a wife and one child at this stage, but they crop up only on the occasional 'I MET' list. On did not see Soroku socially. They talked together, one to one. But what did they talk about?

Interesting that On did not meet Soroku at all in May. Perhaps Soroku was out of town, but we know that On Date Painted every day of that month. Is it possible that talking at length with Soroku and Date Painting were either/or activities? There is a suggestion of that if you look at August, when On met Soroku on seventeen different days and Date Painted on five days, on three of which he didn't see Soroku. The pattern is stronger in October when On met Soroku on the first five days of the month, then made a Date Painting on the sixth, then met Soroku for the next four paint-free days, then made Date Paintings on five of the next six days, none of which involved meetings with Soroku. Indeed, of the 31 days in the month, On either Date painted or talked to Soroku, with four exceptions. On three of these On did neither, and once he both Date Painted and saw Soroku. How do I explain this exception?

On: "Can't stop to talk, Soroku. It's a painting day."

Soroku: "Tomorrow then. I have so much to say about race relations, the Middle East, the Cold War and this year's Nobel Prize for Literature."

On: "That's a date."

Of course, I have no idea what On and Soroku talked about. But I know what subjects Tak Toyoshima explores in his cartoons. If Tak wasn't the son of erudite, sensitive parents, then I'd be surprised. If On and Soroku talked intensively about politics before the budding cartoonist was even born and then when he was a child, Tak may be unaware of it, but that doesn't mean that it didn't happen and that his worldview wasn't strongly influenced by it. A golden triangle of enlightenment.


As we know from the correspondence with Dr Jost Herbig, On Kawara finished work on
Million Years Past by June, 1971. I believe twelve sets of the work were made. The work was being shown in galleries around Europe, starting with Galerie Konrad Fisher in Dusseldorf. It then travelled to Milan and Paris in 1971. Below is a photo taken at the opening at Galeria Toseli, Milan, in 1971. Nobody seems to be looking at the work. The sort of opening that annoyed On Kawara?


The show's progress through 1971 to 1973 is shown by the following table, which needs to be read from top to bottom within each year, but from bottom to top, 1971 to 1973:

Thanks to the David Zwirner Gallery for making this available online.

As you can see the Million Years exhibition was quite the hit, eclipsing the showing of any Date Paintings in these years.

As for the Date Painting production schedule in 1971, let's update that. One in September. 17 in October. 17 in November. And ten in December. Every painting was made in New York. Each painting had a subtitle taken from the newspaper, except for the following (going back to the beginning of the year):

FEB. 16 "I got up at 8.09 and painted this."
FEB. 25 "I got up at 11.03 A.M. and painted this."
MAR. 5, 1971 "I got up at 12.30 P.M. and painted this."
MAR. 24, 1971 "I got up at 11.25 A.M. and painted this."
APR. 7, 1971 "I got up at 2.12 P.M. and painted this."
APR. 13, 1971 "I got up at 11.41 A.M. and painted this."
MAY 4, 1971 "I got up at 11.17 A.M. and painted this."
MAY 8, 1971 "I got up at 12.32 P.M. and painted this."
MAY 14, 1971 "I got up at 12.21 P.M. and painted this."
MAY 18, 1971 "I got up at 6.51 A.M. and painted this."
MAY 24, 1971 "I got up at 11.04 A.M. and painted this."
MAY 29, 1971 "I got up at 12.06 P.M. and painted this."
JULY 17, 1971 "I got up at 11.38 A.M. and painted this."
JULY 25, 1971 "I got up at 12.53 P.M. and painted this."
AUG.7, 1971 "I got up at 1.28 P.M. and painted this."
OCT. 12, 1971 "I got up at 5.47 A.M. and painted this."
OCT. 25, 1971 "I got up at 9.49 A.M. and painted this."
NOV. 6, 1971 "I got up at 9.29 A.M. and painted this."
NOV. 23, 1971 "I got up at 12.16 P.M. and painted this."
NOV. 24, 1971 "I got up at 11.54 A.M. and painted this."
NOV. 25, 1971 "I got up at 12.15 P.M. and painted this."
NOV. 26, 1971 "I got up at 9.50 A.M. and painted this."

Perhaps this style of subtitle was a way of dealing with days where the artist didn't read the newspaper.

It would make sense to cross-reference the getting up times with the postcards, so I've done that. Of course, there are no anomalies to report, On Kawara really did get up at those times per the 'I GOT UP' cards. What I realised when I was doing the check is that giving such a subtitle to a Date Painting could be a good sales tactic. In other words, if the recipient of an 'I GOT UP' card got back to On Kawara saying he appreciated the postcard, On (actually, Hiroko) could say that there was a specific link to the day's Date Painting via the getting up time.

The above 22 Date Paintings from 1971 are linked to 44 'I GOT UP' cards in this way (2 cards per day). Michelle Didier's edition of 'I GOT UP' shows that the individuals in receipt of 22 of the cards were Germano Celant (Italian art historian, critic and curator), Haruo Fukuzumi (Japanese editor and translator), Roger Mazarguil (Parisian restauranteur and art collector), Dr Jost Herbig (German science journalist and art collector) and Gilbert Cousteaux (Toulouse lawyer and possible art collector).

I recall Roger Mazarguil's son telling me via email that his father invested in a single Date Painting. Though that was from 1978 so it can't be used to support my 'sales tactic' hypothesis. Also, Dr. Jost Herbig had already bought ten Date Paintings from May of 1971, before he was receiving postcards which began to go to him from July 14. I doubt if On Kawara was really trying to tempt him to buy Dates painted on July 17, July 25, August 7, October 12, October 25 or November 6. Though, if he had known about the postcards sent to Roger Mazarguil on May 4 and May 8, 1971, he might have dearly wished they had been made out in his name and sent to him. A Date Painting and the associated postcard? With your name on the postcard? You would feel you owned the day. Though I don't think that's fair on Dr Jost Herbig. He seems happy to have bought a batch of Dates without knowing in advance which days they were. In other words, he got it.

Nevertheless, I can put together the objects concerned for July, 17, 1971. Date Painting and 'I GOT UP' card. How does this feel Dr Jost? (He can't tell me, he died aged 55 in 1994.)


Maybe it doesn't feel so good as the card has had to be scribbled on by a third party as the address wasn't right. Oh well, there is nothing that is perfect in this world. Don't look for perfection, look for connection. Everything connects. The first card was sent out with the wrong address on July 14. The first card to be tentatively altered (a line was placed through '5 KOLN') was sent on July 16. Then the address was fully corrected on the July 17 card as reproduced above. Those wrongly addressed cards must have been returned to On Kawara, after all his address was on every one, so why not? And so by July 21, the card was going out to Dr Jost Herbig at the correct postal address. As for who should get the JULY 17, 1971 painting given the mutilation of the July 17 postcard and Dr Herbig;s early death. Well, why not consult the I MET for that day and give it to that person. You see how that all connects?


Time to discuss the end of year survey that I mentioned earlier. There is a double-page set of photographs that appears in On Kawara, continuity/discontinuity.


It's a series of photographs of Date Paintings made in 1971, included in On Kawara: continuity/ incontinuity. At the foot of the pages is stated: 'From Journal of 1971'. A study of the background suggests that all the images were taken at the same place. In other words, On Kawara takes five or six Date Paintings out of their cardboard boxes and photographs them at this chosen spot in his studio. Does he do that as the year progresses? Or is this an end of year survey? I suggest the latter, as to do anything as systematic as this, and have the photos developed in the pre-digital way, would be easier to do a single time. Not that On Kawara always liked to make things easy for himself.

A total of 84 paintings are shown, while the actual number of paintings made in 1971 was 126. Therefore 42 paintings were not included. Why not? Let's start by focusing on the first half of the year, the left hand page.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Starting with the top left image. The two paintings made in Japan are not shown (presumably because they were left in Japan) and nor is FEB. 16 (presumably because it had been given to David Zwirner, in whose home it was photographed by Candida Hofer in 2005). Moving to the top right image. March 3 is missing. Down to the second row. Left image. None missing. Between the left image and the right image, April 20, 21 and 22, plus May 1 and May 2 are missing. My first thought was that two of these were sold to Dr. Jost Herbig. But the missing Dates are five in a row, and so it may be that the editor of the volume simply chose to leave out that photo, if it was taken. Several of the May Dates definitely sold to Dr Jost Herbig in November 1971 are in this photographic record.

Before the bottom row, left image the following paintings are missing: May 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25. That's ten in all. (If it hadn't been for Christie's record of 1998, stating clearly that eight of the paintings sold to Herbig were May 1- 7, then one could have supposed the missing Dates from May 16-25 had been shipped to the buyer. But not so.) So, again, it could be that two photos have either not been taken, or excluded from the layout for practical reasons.

My tentative conclusion would be that at the end of 1971, On Kawara has photographed all his Date Paintings for the year. Save the two he gave to people in Japan, and the one he gave to his American dealer, plus another.

Let's see what the right-hand image tells us.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Between the top left and top right photos there are no paintings missing, despite the 15-day gap. Between the second and third rows, missing are Oct 11, 12, 13, 15. Missing photo? Between the third and fourth rows, missing are: Oct 29, 31; Nov 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 19, 20. That comes to ten paintings, so I suspect that's just two omitted photos. Between bottom left and bottom right, Nov. 25, 26, 28, 30 and Dec 6, 10, 14, 15 and 16. That's nine paintings. Which suggests two more omitted photos.

My tentative conclusion is the same. Or put it this way. On Kawara did not sell his Date Paintings in the year of painting (though he did give away the odd one), because an end of year survey was important to him. Perhaps it gave him pleasure to see the year laid out in terms of his output of paintings. After all he'd once said that he 'collected' dates. Not a painting made every day, by any means. Though he'd achieved that throughout the month of May, 1971. But at least one painting had been made in each month of the year.

Having painted a Date for every day in May, 1971, On Kawara held onto the 'set' until the end of the year. But then ten of them were sent to Dr Jost Herbig. His first big sale? Maybe that gave him a thrill and maybe not. I suspect Kasper, Konrad and Hiroko would all have been delighted.


It may be that the four October paintings missing were given to Kasper
König. I suspect that he had been in Europe for most or all of the time since Kawara got back from Mexico in spring, 1969. He was director of the experimental space A 37 90 89 in Antwerp from 1969. I expect Kawara sent postcards to him there, but I haven't come across such a thing yet. I know now that Kasper König crops up on quite a few'I MET' lists, when visiting New York (clearly he wasn't in town for the Guggenheim opening in February, 1971), because he does feature in the following 'I MET' from October 3, 1971, which is one I've long known about:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Gilbert and George had a show at the Sonnabend gallery. And as G&G had been taken on by Konrad Fischer, Kasper König and his wife, Ilka Katherina Schellenberg may have been keen to catch their performance and to meet the artist duo. I don't know exactly what happened. I think Gilbert and George, who were just four years into their partnership, were each day of the show singing 'Underneath the Arches' in a room on which their huge canvases spilled forth, an early variation of the G&G philosophy that they've succeeded in keeping alive for five decades now.

Watching the odd couple perform may have helped solidify an idea of British quaintness in On Kawara's mind. I imagine Kasper König did most of the talking when whatever 'meeting' took place. But that is speculative. Could the presence of Kasper König in New York really explain the four 'missing' On Kawara's from October 11 to October 15? Kasper had been given On Kawara paintings as early as 1967, so it's perfectly possible.

Oct 11, 12, 13, 15 may be missing from that photo sequence, but I do have good repros of Oct. 22, 24, 26 and 29. Let's see how they stack up. The first three are size A, the fourth is size B

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Maybe it's easier to compare them like this:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

How do the Cs line up?

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Pretty well.

How do the 2s stack up?

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Not bad, one has to say. Near perfection achieved with ruler and pencil, I surmise. But if it's near perfection achieved with templates, that's fine by me too.

Let's end this year by seeing who On Kawara met on his birthday. I've marked Hiroko in red as she would have been the first person that On met in the morning, though clearly there was a post-midnight meeting to bring December 23 to a close. A meeting with On's closest Japanese friends, all of whom I'll be saying a lot more about at the appropriate time, though Aoki was not there on this occasion:

December 24, 1971
Toshiko Kawashima
Soroku Toyoshima
Takeshi Kawashima
Nobumitsu Fukui
Miyuki Fukui
Hiroko Hiraoka
Ilka Katharina Schellenberg
Kasper Konig
Walter de Maria
Dan Graham
Doug Waterman

The birthday itself (Dec. 24) was not a Japanese affair. Rather it was spent with Hiroko and a group of Western friends, all of whom were arty, including Kasper König. Kasper and Dan were On's closest Western friends. Happy birthday, On Kawara. The contemporary art world is your oyster.

Dan: "So, On, how old are you?"

On: "Kasper will tell you."

Kasper: "I can't work it out."

Hiroko (smiling): " On is 14,235 days old."

Dan: "I was thinking 13.870 days."

Hiroko: "Oh, Dan, that was last year!"

Dan: "I get you. I have to multiply 365 by 39 instead of 38. I can do that. Give me a piece of paper and 30 seconds…Sure, 14,235 days old."

Hiroko: "14,235 days strong, gentle, financially disinterested, remorseless and kind."

Next chapter.