I need to say something up front about this essay and the last one. It is not easy to make the years 1971 and 1972 as interesting to read about as the five years of visionary developments in On Kawara's work before then, or the seven years of developments in his
ouevre that follow.

Why not? Well, On Kawara was content to stay in New York for the whole of 1971 and 1972, apart from January 1971 (Japan) and December 1972 (Stockholm). The trip to Stockholm at the end of 1972 triggered a desire for travel, and in particular road-trips across America, that would reinvigorate the Date Painting and the 'I GOT UP' postcards from 1973 to 1975. Moreover, there were significant developments in his career in 1974 and in his family life in 1978 that kept the work compellingly interesting.

Nevertheless, I need to set down what happened in 1972, just as I've already done for 1971. I will make it as interesting to read as possible. I am going to go about it on a strictly month-by-month basis, just for the cumulative rigour of it all. You may be tempted to skip a month here or there, dear reader. As independent consumers of content, please don't hesitate to do that. But I, the researcher who is responsible for these words, won't be able to follow suit. Instead, I'll be trying extra hard to make the material comprehensible, enchanting and visually enticing. Wish me luck!


In January, On Kawara sent 31 postcards to art historian Gerard Durozoi, based in Belgium. He is/was the author of
A History of the Surrealist Movement, amongst many other books. But it's not the postcards that were sent to Gerard Durozoi that I'm so excited about, nor the ones sent at the same time to Gilbert Cousteaux, a lawyer in Toulouse. The exciting ones begin in May of this essay.

'I MET' reveals that On met Nobu only once in January, Aoki eight times, while Soroku remained his most frequent visitor with sixteen meetings. Also being encountered were the Naraharas. On was particularly friendly with Ikko Narahara, the photographer, and would meet with him and his wife often when the Naraharas lived in New York from 1972 to 1974, as I detail in a
GAME ON chapter. Kasper König was still in New York, and On saw him thirteen times in the month, often with Kasper's wife and child. Kasper, Ilka and Lili were staying at East Broadway, a property that Kasper König had rented since at least 1967. The 'I WENT' maps show On travelling south from 340 East 13th Street to East Broadway on most of those days.

Crucially, Kasper Konig introduced the Swede, Pontus Hultén, to On on January 19, meetings that also took place at Kasper's place over the next two days. This would lead to significant happenings later in the year, Pontus Hultén being the director of the
Moderna Museet in Stockholm, responsible in 1968 for a large show and accompanying catalogue about Andy Warhol, his first in Europe, and responsible in 1971 for a show by Joseph Beuys, his first outside Germany. If I can't make something out of On Kawara following in their footsteps then I'm not the literate, art historian that I think I am.

1972 could be called 'The Playing of Pontus Hultén'. After all, 1971 had seen On Kawara take part in an international group exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York, be taken on by a top private gallery in Europe, namely the Konrad Fischer Gallery in Dusseldorf, and get his first serious collector in the shape of Dr Jost Herbig. Now the plan was to get him
a major show at a public institution, and a residency at Moderna Musee under the enlightened stewardship of Pontus Hultén was the chosen vehicle to get there. The playing of Pontus began with meetings in Manhattan, was followed up by four months worth of postcards to the museum director from May onwards, and was concluded with On Kawara becoming artist-in-residence in Stockholm in December. This would, I imagine, have been suggested and set up by Kasper König. But On Kawara had to carry it through with meetings, postcards, paintings and a carefully constructed residency. Stay tuned.

Pontus Hultén had met and worked with Andy Warhol and Jospeh Beuys. Kasper K
önig had not the slightest doubt in his mind that On Kawara was in their league (if not Aleague of his own) and that Pontus would soon come to understand that. All On Kawara had to do was be himself.


In February, after making two Date Paintings in January, the Dates began to flow again. Here is a copy of the relevant page from the artist's 'Journal', as reproduced in
On Kawara: continuity/discontinuity in 1980. 1972 would be the last year that On Kawara gave subtitles to his Date Paintings, other than the day of the week it was painted on. So I feel it's worth giving them this much space and time.

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

The ten paintings were of three different sizes, A, B and D. Notice how often the word 'today' comes up in the subtitles. That was the name of the series, of course. Vietnam, Iran, Norway… Nixon in China… India and Pakistan at each other's throats… and finally a quote in Swahili, which Google translates as: 'Where is the car station? I want a Nairobi ticket.'

'I MET' reveals that in February, Nobu wasn't met at all and Aoki only once. On was still seeing Soroku a lot (eight times), but his other main communicator was the photographer, Ikko Narahara, who had nine meetings with him. Kasper was also met nine times, usually with his wife and child, which implies that the Konigs were staying with the Kawaras. Oh, and a couple of times On met Kasper in the company of Konrad Fischer, where The Playing of Pontus would be gone over from various angles.

It was from mid-February to mid-March that a show of Date Paintings was opened by Konrad Fischer at his gallery in Dusseldorf. On Kawara had had his five years producing an
oeuvre and keeping it all to himself. From 1971 he had entered the art market, though On didn't deal with that side of things himself, leaving it to Hiroko, Kasper and Konrad. Or should I say, Kasper, Konrad and Hiroko? As we know from the last chapter, ten Dates were sold to Dr Jost Herbig in 1971, the proceeds allowing One Million Years to be produced. On top of that, 15 Dates were on show in Dusseldorf. Here is a shot of the Feb/March, 1972, exhibition that includes 13 of the 15 Dates up for grabs:

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the Konrad Fischer Gallery.

It is not obvious how the selection has been made by the artist. Though I dare say that discussing the options were what some of the meetings with Kasper König had been about. For instance, On Kawara had painted nine Dates in June, 1971, of which two were hanging in the white cube. Perhaps these Dates, all size A or B, were ones he was particularly pleased with. Alternatively, as his own eye was the sharpest around, perhaps these were Dates that didn't quite hit the spot and so were deemed to be disposable.

What I can say with confidence is that this pattern of providing Dates from the immediately previous year was how On Kawara would satisfy various commercial galleries in the years to come. On Kawara continued to enjoy sole possession of the Dates until after the end of the calendar year in which they were painted. After all, that's what he had once said that he did: he collected dates, and had done since 1966.

I should say too that it is not easy to sell paintings for sums of several thousand pounds each. The strategy of not allowing anything to be sold for five years was a way of disguising that. Even with Kasper K
önig and Konrad Fischer - art world giants - completely onside, convincing potential clients that the buying of On Kawara paintings was a sound investment would have been tough. Carl Andre thought On Kawara had some weird ideas. Customs officials wouldn't accept that the Date paintings were even paintings. A highly regarded art critic in 1966 thought the Date Paintings were to be considered as well-painted signs, pure and simple. You can't just tell intelligent collectors that the work before them is mind-blowing in its nuanced humanity. They have got to come to feel it in their souls, as if all by themselves.


On to March, 1972's Date Paintings per the Journal:

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

Ten paintings again. All either size A, B or D.

And the subtitles? These mention Taiwan, a mere province of China. Northern Ireland, a troublesome province of Britain. But the opening of the Berlin Wall was a light at the end of the tunnel, to mix metaphors. And, to celebrate, a table-tennis tournament was organised in Canada that the Chinese team would be sure to dominate.

On may have discussed the politics of it all with Soroku Toyoshima. With fifteen meetings, Soroku was met much more often than On's other old chums, Nobu and Aoki, and twice as often as either Ikko Narahara or Kasper K

By early 1972 Kasper K
önig was already dividing his time between New York and his director of publishing job at Nova Scotia School of Art. On only met him four times in March. In a 2011 interview given by Dan Graham, he refers to how Kasper König came to be working at Nova Scotia, in the following inimitable way: 'He had no education, and we just met. We had the similar background, and he got me into all the shows I've been in, like Documenta. We were just very close friends because of his irreverent sense of humour. Nova Scotia was because he was doing books. And On and I hit it off, but unfortunately, even though On and I were very close friends, Kosuth used to stalk me and stalked me to On's place. There were a lot of obnoxious people in New York, people who wanted to be artists, who knew nothing about art. But, the thing about On is, like me, his interests were physics and mathematics. He also liked playing pachinko. He wasn't so interested in being a career artist. I'm still not a professional artist.'

That's what I like about Dan Graham. His straight-talking; his MAD Magazine humour. The same irreverent humour that he sought out in Kasper König and, I strongly suspect, in On Kawara. Dan is consistently hard on Joseph Kosuth, though, which I don't know how to take.

Me: "What did you think of Carl Andre, Dan?"

Dan: "Donut salesman."

Me: "Oh come on. Those Tate bricks. They're the real deal, aren't they?"

Dan: "If you think that, then I'm out of here."


Kasper König was met six times and Ikko Narahara four times. Aoki and Nobu were met once and twice respectively, still relatively neglected for the time being. But those friendships would ignite again.

Basically, in April, On painted:

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

Vietnam, Brazil, America, the Soviet Union. Why did Apollo 16 blast off for the moon? To get away from the madness that is called life on earth, I suppose. Today, today, today…

There were ten Date Paintings made in April and On met Soroku Toyoshima the same number of times. But, as I observed about October 1971, they tended to be either/or situations. Either On was Date Painting
or he was spending time with Soroku. The only exceptions to this pattern, when a meeting with Soroku and a Date Painting was made, happened on April 17 and 18, when Apollo 16 was in full swing.

So let's use our imagination. On Date Painted on the first and the second of April and met Soroku on the fourth. I can picture Soroku lifting up
APR. 1, 1972, reading the subtitle typed onto the deep edge, then embark on a three-hour conversation about the Vietnam war. I can picture Soroku lifting up APR.2, 1972, smiling, placing it down again, and getting back into the Vietnam conversation. I base that on the content of the cartoons of Soroku's adult son, Tak. He was one year old at this time though, at home on Lispenard Street with his mother and brother. But I'm suggesting he soaked up his father's (and his father's friend's) obsession with race relations and fairness between human beings.

On then Date Painted on the 5th, 6th and 7th. He met Soroku on the 8th, but he met several other people that day and there wasn't much chance to chat. On met Soroku again on the 9th in On's studio. On had placed the Date Paintings made over the 5th, 6th and 7th in a line on the wall. At least that's what I'm visualising. Soroku regarded them for a while and checked out their subtitles. Finally, he spoke.

Soroku: "I read about the Tasadays."

On: "Yes?"

Soroku: "Do you believe their story?"

On: "I'm not sure."

The Tasadays were a tribe of cave dwellers in the Philippines. It was said that they had been cut off from other human tribes for 1,000 years, that they had no word for the sea and didn't have metal tools. They were a stone-age people. The article that On had cut out of the paper on April 6 was about how the Philippines Government had granted the tribe some land around their caves.

On: "What interests me about them was the caves they live in. It put me in mind of the Cave Paintings found in France and Spain which had been made 30,000 years ago."

Soroku: "My take is pretty cynical. A government agency was created in 1968, acronym: Panamin, Which stands for Presidential Assistant on National Minorities."

On: "An agency looking for something to justify its existence?"

Soroku: "And to please their paymaster, the President."

On: "So I would be wasting my time if I sent the Tasadays an example of my Date Painting to hang in their caves."

Soroku: "If you want to see one of your Dates hanging in the office of President Ferdinand Marcos, go ahead!"

On: "Apparently they have no words for weapons, hostility or war."

Which started off a conversation about the airliner hijacked by five Germans that took off with a 500,000 dollar ransom from San Francisco and flew to an unknown destination. This lasted for three hours but ended on a light note provided by On. That the Germans had flown to the Philippines and were sharing their pay-off with the Tasadays.

Soroku: "Now the Tasadays can afford to buy a Date Painting for themselves. The hijackers should be able to put them in touch with Kasper or Konrad."

Am I managing to hold your attention, dear reader? You will be pleased to hear that things start to get a lot more interesting in their own right come the merry month of May.


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

Hiroko König jumps out from that list. Kasper König had become a father for the second time, and he gave the name 'Hiroko' to his new child. The least On could do was use the name as a subtitle for a Date Painting!

Hiroko K
önig crops up on 'I MET' lists from May 27, as does her mother. Ilka and her new born were staying in New York while Kasper remained working at Nova Scotia.

By late May, the postcards were going to Dr Daled in Brussels and Dr Hultén in Stockholm. The image below is of 'I GOT UP', the 2008 edition, which is available from Michele Didier in Paris. Though I am familiar with its contents (as from May 2023) from examining the pages put online by Tama Art University.

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

Dr Daled was a Belgian art collector and radiologist. Perhaps he saw One Million Years when it was in Brussels. He and his wife had a collection of conceptual art which included work by Richard Long, Marcel Broodthaers, On Kawara, Dan Graham, Sol LeWitt, and Vito Acconci. He bought the Date Painting OCT.31, 1971 that was up for sale at Konrad Fischer's earlier in 1972. (It was still in the Daled Collection as pictured by Candida Hofer in 2005.) Perhaps the postcards to Dr. Daled were, at least in part, to thank him for his purchase.

But it's the other recipient, Dr. K. P. Hultén, that is central to this narrative. As I've mentioned, he was the director of the
Moderna Muséet in Stockholm, and would go on to organise a solo show of On Kawara in 1977 when he had become director of the Pompidou Centre in Paris. But first things first. The postcards sent to him in 1972 were donated to the Moderna Museet in 2005, and this enlightened museum has put online all 117 of the postcards, both message side and picture side, starting from May 14, 1972.

Alas, they are not visible in date order. That would be asking too much. So (pre-Tama Art University initiative) I went through them, and put them in date order, and extracted On Kawara's getting up time, and where he was when he got up. His space-time co-ordinates, as it were.

A word on the following table. Postcards were sent from 340 East 13th Street, an address for On Kawara since 1967 and from where all 120 postcards went to Dan Graham in 1970. The cards also went from 65 East Broadway, Kasper
König's New York address since at least 1967, which he must have held onto even though he was working in Antwerp for several years up until taking the job at Novia Scotia School of Art. Thirdly, Hendrix Motel, was an out-of-town, up-state, fishing location that On had found (in the company of Hiroko and Soroku) in the summer of 1971, and which he would return to several times in the summer of 1972.

14 340 East 13th Street 10.18am
15 340 East 13th Street 9.40am
16 340 East 13th Street 10.42am
17 340 East 13th Street 9.47am
18 missing
19 340 East 13th Street 10.24am
20 340 East 13th Street 10.11am
21 340 East 13th Street 12.06pm
22 340 East 13th Street 7.11am
23 Hendrix Motel…………7.27am
24 340 East 13th Street 8.50am
25 65 East Broadway 8.17am
26 65 East Broadway 8.34am
27 65 East Broadway 10.06am
28 65 East Broadway 8.42am
29 65 East Broadway 8.19am
30 65 East Broadway 5.20am
31 65 East Broadway 8.08am

On Kawara was located at 65 East Broadway for 17 days in a row, from May 25 (to June 11). I wonder if some of On's Date Paintings were still stored there. On and Hiroko were visiting to keep Ilka company, and perhaps to help her with Lili and the new baby. Maybe that's when little Hiroko began to be called Coco, so as to avoid confusion. A particular 'I MET' list for the period is this one:

May 29, 1972
Hiroko Hiraoka
Ilka Katharina Schellenberg
Hiroko K

What a lovely thing these 'I MET' lists can be. Understated to the nth degree. The beauty in them has to be worked for. I will come back to them shortly. In the meantime, let's return for a close look at the 'I GOT UP' cards sent to Sweden.

The first card was sent on May 14. It's the first of eight cards in a row that feature the United Nations HQ, though the theme is introduced discreetly, with the UN headquarters not being mentioned in the photo's description. But it is there, towards the left of the photo.

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

Why the UN building? Well, the subtitles to the Date Paintings keep pointing out trouble spots around the planet, so why not invoke the organisation that is supposed to help the world stay at peace? "Liberty for all," as the stamp says. As all the stamps say.

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

May 16's card, below, doesn't mention the UN building, but again it's there, far left.

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

May 17's card, below, consolidates what On Kawara has been doing for four days now.

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

Unfortunately, May 18's card is missing. But we know what it would have shown. Below is May 19's. An aerial view of the UN building:

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

May 20 comes as a bit of a shock. A view inside the UN General Assembly. On Kawara really is turning the screw. A story of international co-operation. A story being told by a New York Japanese artist to the director of Sweden's contemporary art gallery.

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

The chamber is empty. Let's fill it with concerned voices:

UN spokesman: "Four Turkish hijackers in Sofia today gave up efforts to force Turkey to free three condemned guerrillas and released the passengers and crew of the plane they hijacked yesterday."

UN spokesman: "A hijacker who extorted $303,000 from Eastern Airlines yesterday parachuted into Central America before dawn today."

UN spokesman: "Four bomb-disposal experts parachuted into the mid-Atlantic for a British Royal Air Force plane today and boarded the Queen Elizabeth 2 after an anonymous caller threatened to blow up the luxury liner unless a ransom was paid."

Soroku: "What is it about hijackers and ransoms that is obsessing you at the moment?"

On: "It is not me. It is the world gone mad."

The May 21 card is next. Perhaps this is a way of rounding off the United Nations theme. An iconic view of a Modernist vision.

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

May 22, below. Yes, perhaps the near-repetition of this iconic view is a way of rounding off this sub-set of postcards. The first eight of 118 sent.

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

What actually allows On Kawara to bring the UN sequence to an end, is a physical move of his from New York to the upstate town of Roscoe, from where the next card is sent. If you can spot the UN building in this next postcard you have a better eye than me, dear reader.

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

As the sequence of cards continues through May, the message side of the cards confirms that On Kawara was staying at 65 East Broadway (after a single night back at 340 East 13th Street). Scrutiny of the picture side of the postcards (together with a study of the paragraph descriptions found in the top left of the message side), reveals that the sequence of cards builds up a picture - often via aerial shots - of Mid-Manhattan, Lower Manhattan and the bridges between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Almost half of the 17 cards mention Lower Manhattan, which is where 65 East Broadway is situated.

On Kawara's postcards worked their way from north to south, from Midtown Manhattan to the lower New York harbour, but with special attention on Lower Manhattan. All the cards had a link to the place on East Broadway that On Kawara slept the previous night. Of course, the places would also have a geographical link to 340 East 13th Street, but not quite as strong a connection.

When the cards featured the United Nations, between May 14 and May 22, On Kawara only painted two Dates. Both dealt with international conflict resolution. (But then so did the other nine Dates painted in May so that's not saying too much.) The Date Painting on the 18th was subtitled with the sentence about bomb-disposal experts parachuting onto the QE2. The one on the 19th was subtitled:

"A huge crowd led by students gathered in Tananarive, Madagascar's capital, today and roared demands that President Philbert Tsiranana resign within 24 hours."

Soroku: "Can you picture the President sitting in his office?"

On: "Yes."

Soroku: "Is that a Date Painting on the wall behind him?"

On: "MAY 19, 1972."

Soroku: "There sits a man with no intention of resigning within 24 hours."

There is a lot of pattern to be brought out here. But one doesn't have to be too precise about it. Together the United Nations, little Hiroko, stolid Soroku, and On's Date Painting would heal the world.

But I need to say something more about who these cards were going to, and where that person was receiving them. Pontus Hultén at
Moderna Museet. The Andy Warhol show that I mentioned was, as I said, Warhol's first in Europe. Kasper König, Pontus Hultén, Olle Granath and Andy Warhol were the editors of the catalogue, which König designed. König sent Hultén letters from New York at the time. Warhol wanted to bring the Velvet Underground across to Stockholm with him, but Hultén worried that this would cost too much and suggested a local band take their place. (Ha-ha!) The film Chelsea Girls caused an avant garde sensation and many other European galleries wanted to borrow the copy of the film that had been made available to the Moderna Museet. Best of all, it was claimed by Olle Granath, who put together essays for the König-designed catalogue, that Pontus Hultén was responsible for coining the quote attributed to Warhol, that in the future everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes.

I've followed up that point, since it seems odd. Olle Granath was told by Hultén to find everything that had been written by or about Andy Warhol. And from that Granath was tasked to select a few pithy quotes, from which posters would be made as well as bold graphic pages in the book. There was no 15-minutes of fame comment to be found. But Pontus Hultén felt it was the sort of thing that Warhol would have said, and so it was included. Here is the poster:

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of Moderna Museet.

'Everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes, except On Kawara', is what the Pontus Hultén of 1972 might have said. 'On Kawara would be famous for a million years.'

Fifteen minutes; a million years. Don't take Pontus literally. He's rounding up and he's rounding down.


Let's get back to the Date Painting. Where had we got to?

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

In June, On met Soroku Toyoshima five times (more than anyone else) and there was no overlap with Date Painting days. Actually, the first time Soroku met On in the month was after a gap of several weeks, on June 17:

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

Unusually, Soroku turned up with his wife and child. Hang on, that's not right. The day's 'I WENT' shows that On went to Lispenard Street to see the Toyoshimas. But I wonder where one-year-old baby Tak was. Perhaps he was asleep and so wasn't 'met'. Anyway, I would like to think that On took Soroku back to his place where the two most recent Date Paintings were (in my mind's eye) on the wall ready for Soroku's inspection. That's to say: JUNE 6, 1972 and JUNE 8, 1972. No, that's not right either. The 'I WENT' for June 18 begins with Soroku and Kinu. So On stayed with the Toyoshimas until after midnight. However, On saw Soroku again on the 19th and this time the meeting wasn't at Lispenard Street and could have been either at Nobu's place or at On's, per the 'I WENT'. Let's say On's. At last a chance for Soroku to see On Kawara's last two Date Paintings, which is to say those made on June 6 and June 8. Soroku soon reaches for the paintings and reads the subtitles before resuming his seat.

Soroku: If only the words 'United States' and 'United Nations' were interchangeable."

On: "You mean you wish the United Nations had the power of the United States?"

Soroku: "I wish the words of the United Nations were as strong as the bombs of the United States."

Soroku sits on in silence for a while. Then gets up once again to remind himself of the subtitles.

Soroku: "Every time I think of Stockholm, it makes me smile. Every time I think of Vietnam I want to cry."

On: "I see you are thinking of Stockholm right now."

Soroku: "I see you are too."

On had been 'meeting' Ilka and Coco every day until June 11. In fact he and Hiroko had been staying at Kasper's place to keep Ilka and Coco company in the absence of Kasper, as the addresses on the 'I GOT UP' cards show:

1 65 East Broadway 9.08am
2 65 East Broadway 8.09am
3 65 East Broadway 8.02am
4 65 East Broadway 8.15am
5 65 East Broadway 8.24am
6 65 East Broadway 8.32am
7 65 East Broadway 6.05am
8 65 East Broadway 7.58am
9 65 East Broadway 8.35am
10 65 East Broadway 7.42am
11 340 East 13th Street 8.40am
12 Hendrix Motel…………7.39am
13 340 East 13th Street 10.16am
14 340 East 13th Street 9.31am
15 340 East 13th Street 8.59am
16 340 East 13th Street 10.47am
17 340 East 13th Street 9.48am
18 340 East 13th Street 10.12am
19 340 East 13th Street 8.43am
20 340 East 13th Street 10.22am
21 340 East 13th Street 10.32am
22 340 East 13th Street 9.08am
23 340 East 13th Street 9.47am
23 340 East 13th Street 7.40am
24 340 East 13th Street 4.20am
25 340 East 13th Street 10.54am
26 340 East 13th Street 8.31am
27 340 East 13th Street 9.17am
28 340 East 13th Street 5.19am
29 Hendrix Motel……… 8.06am
30 340 East 13th Street 10.07am

As already mentioned, I extracted the above information from the postcards posted online by Moderna Museet in Stockholm. As it happens, the June cards that were included in the Michele Didier volume were examples of the 'other' card, the one that went to Dr. Daled in Brussels. Because I've created a separate essay that reproduces every day's card to Pontus Hultén, by comparing those cards to the ones included in the Michele Didier volume, it's possible to say if On was sending the same card to each of his two recipients at this time, and, if not, deducing the relationship between the two sets of cards.

By identifying ten cards from the June ones sent to Pontus Hulten, I can say that much the same cards were sent to Dr. Daled, though Dr.Hultén was three cards ahead to begin with, later one card ahead. Of the ten cards to Dr. Hultén traced, eight identical cards could be found in the sequence sent to Dr. Daled. While the other two had close alternatives used instead.

It would have been simpler for On to send exactly the same set to both recipients, that would have cut down the risk of repetition. But game-playing On was not into simplicity in this context, and his mind could cope with the complication. On was not sending out any repetitions in the sequence to either Dr. Hulten or to Dr. Daled. Some near-identical cards, as of the views the United Nations, but no actual repeats.

When it came to 2008 and On had to choose which of the two recipients to use over the summer. It wouldn't have made much difference. He chose to reproduce cards as follows.

May: Dr. Hultén
June: Dr. Daled
July: Dr. Hultén
August: Dr. Daled

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.


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

Soroku seems to have been on holiday for most of July. He was only met on the first two days of the month. So it's down to me to consider the subtitled Dates.

Tourists in Hong Kong; chess players in Reykjavik; killings in Burundi. Time is thin around the cause and dense around the effect. I think that means we (and here we must include the United Nations) spend longer lamenting or celebrating the effects of things than analysing their causes. Why would Hong Kong get a million tourists for the first time in 1972? Why had Bobby Fisher never beaten Boris Spassky at chess before? Why were the killings going on in Burundi? Weren't these the questions that should be asked, according to Nikolai Kozyrev, and, by extension, according to On?

Meanwhile, postcards were still going to Pontus Hultén in Stockholm throughout July. As you can see, some were going from Butternut Grove Campsite in Roscoe, an address that took over from the Hendrix Motel address when On and Hiroko and friends took a break from the city.

1 340 East 13th Street 10.11am
2 340 East 13th Street 10.14am
3 340 East 13th Street 10.19am
4 340 East 13th Street 10.12am
5 340 East 13th Street 10.50am
6 340 East 13th Street 5.45am
7 Butternut Grove…….8.29am
8 340 East 13th Street 9.57am
9 340 East 13th Street 9.27am
10 340 East 13th Street 9.40am
11 340 East 13th Street 10.00am
12 340 East 13th Street 9.01am
13 340 East 13th Street 9.25am
14 340 East 13th Street 9.55am
15 340 East 13th Street 10.46am
16 340 East 13th Street 11.22am
17 340 East 13th Street 10.27am
18 340 East 13th Street 9.40am
19 340 East 13th Street 6.04am
20 Butternut Grove…….6.19am
21 340 East 13th Street 9.56am
22 340 East 13th Street 11.45am
23 missing
24 340 East 13th Street 9.59am
25 340 East 13th Street 10.06am
26 340 East 13th Street 10.17am
27 340 East 13th Street 9.18am
28 340 East 13th Street 10.18am
29 340 East 13th Street 11.20am
30 340 East 13th Street 9.20am
31 Butternut Grove…….6.39am

The three nights spent at Hendrix Motel, Roscoe, in May/June and the three nights at Butternut Grove Campsite, Roscoe, in July, were not Date Painting days, unsurprisingly. I suspect On Kawara went there for the fly fishing, as the place has a famous trout river running through it. Besides, it's what Tatsuo Kondo mentioned in a letter to Tokyo in June of 1971, that the Japanese art crowd who had been crazy for
mah-jongg were now mad for fly-fishing. One can readily imagine On Kawara practising this art. From taking fastidious care of his equipment (I see him tying his own flies), to patiently standing for hours concentrating on the fly, the surface of the water, and the hypothetical fish.

The Hendrix Motel cards are also geographical, one features Route 17, which goes through Roscoe. The first three cards from Butternut Grove are different views of the campsite, including this one.

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

On had been in the middle of sending Pontus Hultén a sequence of cards featuring the Rockefeller building. Full of flags and a golden statue featuring a boy and a ring. But he continued that sequence in August when he got back from the Beaverkill River, so I'll return to that then.

As for
Moderna Museet, where all these postcards were going, a quick reminder that it had hosted Joseph Beuys in 1971. Pontus Hultén achieved what he did on a very low budget. Beuys chose to spend time at the museum installing his exhibition, a sort of retrospective, his firsts show outside his native Germany. Would it not make sense to have On Kawara in residence the year after Jospeh Beuys had been there?

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer.

There was also an ambitious catalogue made for the Beuys show. The cover was wraparound of a work that Beuys had made in 1964 but which was prominently placed in
Moderna Museet.



Here we see Beuys in a fur coat looking towards the work.

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer.

How is this simple sentence to be decoded? Duchamp was an artist until the age of forty, but he became disillusioned and gave up art for the second half of his life. He took to playing chess to a very high standard. Beuys is criticising him for giving up the attempt to influence society through art practice.

On Kawara would have been interested in this because he loved game-playing, including chess. I have been told that in 1965, the year before he began Date painting, he was up all night every night playing chess. He slept by day (while Hiroko worked for money) and played chess at night. His getting up times were never normal.


Throughout June and July, one postcard was geographically linked to the next and the next, the only exception being for interludes in upstate Roscoe. After taking a look up the deep channel between Manhattan and New Jersey, On finally put his foot down (as it were) on the ground of Manhattan in Battery Park, and slowly walked north, sending postcards of the various buildings he encountered on this mental walk, sometimes sending several postcards in a row of the one site if it was suitably iconic. For a week, straddling July and August, he sent postcards of the Rockefeller Center. I'll begin with the fourth in that sequence, sent on August 1:


What a stirring scene, suggestive of international co-operation and human achievement! And On wasn't finished with it…


The statue is of Prometheus, but it reminds me of the statue to Peter Pan that is in the middle of Kirriemuir, J.M. Barrie's birthplace, about ten miles from where I sit putting this essay together in Blairgowrie, Scotland. The Peter Pan statue includes a few quotes from the marvellous book:

"All children, except one, grow up."

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.”

"Oh, the cleverness of me!”

Something about On Kawara's timeless brilliance brings Peter Pan to mind. Except On Kawara was a humble soul.


“Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning. ”

“Wendy, Wendy, when you are sleeping in your silly bed you might be flying about with me saying funny things to the stars.”

That's another parallel between On Kawara and Peter Pan. Peter had his Wendy, and On's brilliant shadow was Hiroko.

If, dear reader, you want the full story of the postcards sent to Stockholm in the summer of 1972, with not a single card omitted, then jump to this page in the 'GAME ON' section of this website. What that essay shows is that On Kawara was giving a guided tour of New York, and being systematic with the geography. Which makes me keen to investigate the series of 'I GOT UP' cards sent to other individuals to see how he varied the story of New York depending on whether he was communicating with a New Yorker or not, and whether the communication was over 30 or 60 or 90 days, and how the story changed over time. In other words, On's notion of New York in 1977, 1978 and 1979 may have evolved from his view of it in 1972.

Have I forgotten something? Oh yes, the Date Paintings.

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

As you can see for yourself, not much Date Painting in August. And On only saw Soroku twice in the month. So nothing to get stuck into there. On hardly left his flat on August 17, seeing only two people apart from Hiroko. Neither of them from the art world. Then on August 27 On walked even less far from his front door, perhaps to buy a packet of cigarettes or post his cards, before returning to his Date Painting and Hiroko, the only person he met that day.

So let's get back to the cards sent to Pontus Hultén in August.

1 340 East 13th Street 10.34am
2 340 East 13th Street 10.12am
3 340 East 13th Street 11.20am
4 340 East 13th Street 10.05am
5 340 East 13th Street 10.16am
6 340 East 13th Street 9,03am
7 340 East 13th Street 11.50am
8 340 East 13th Street 9.59am
9 340 East 13th Street 10.26am
10 missing
11 Butternut Grove………6.16am
12 340 East 13th Street 10.01am
13 340 East 13th Street 12.42pm
14 340 East 13th Street 10.21am
15 340 East 13th Street 10.05am
16 340 East 13th Street 8.39am
17 340 East 13th Street 9.52am
18 340 East 13th Street 10.02am
19 340 East 13th Street 9.57am
20 340 East 13th Street 2.52pm
21 340 East 13th Street 5.52am
22 Butternut Grove…….6.15am
23 Butternut Grove.……8.13am
24 340 East 13th Street 11.16am
25 340 East 13th Street 9.21am
26 340 East 13th Street 10.02am
27 340 East 13th Street 10.44am
28 340 East 13th Street 9.34am
29 340 East 13th Street 9.51am
30 Butternut Grove…….5.28am
31 340 East 13th Street 10.19am

The early getting up times suggest little game-playing. So what was On doing with his time? I'm tempted to suggest he was resting on his laurels. I know that 'I GOT UP', I WENT' and 'I MET' were still being made, but all the same. He is not attacking his practice, constantly moving things forward, like he was from 1966 to 1970. Unless it could be said that the set of postcards going to Pontus Hultén with the multiple getting up places in or around New York, with the multiple aerial views of New York, was building up a complex picture of On Kawara's space-time co-ordinates. As I say, please see the 'GAME ON' essay for more of the New York postcards, rather than this chapter, which will focus on the occasional Butternut cards as marked in red in the above table.

The four 'I GOT UP' cards from Butternut Grove all feature animals that can be found there.


In order, these are: a ten-pointer buck, a young white-tail buck, a red fox and an alarmed skunk. Portrait of the artist as an alarmed skunk that got up at 5.28 A.M. on August 30 to go fishing?

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

So what cards did On Kawara send Dr Daled in Belgium on these four days? Let me check the Tama Art University website. Ah, the same four cards in the same order. Have you reached the end of your invention, On? Have I tracked you down to your lair at last?

I wonder what Pontus Hultén was doing with his I GOT UP cards. I'd like to think he was storing them in a cardboard box. I'm thinking of one of the 500 boxes that were made for the Andy Warhol exhibition at his museum in 1968. Warhol's version of a Brillo box was made of wood. And he suggested that Hultén get them made in Sweden. This was done, but there weren't enough of them to make an impact in the large space they were intended for. So Hultén used his initiative and bought 500 cardboard boxes from Brillo, who sent them flatpack from the U.S. to Stockholm.

If Pontus Hulten did store On's 'I GOT UP' cards in an Andy Warhol Brillo Box he would have had to have had a way of knowing which one.


I think, by simply turning the 'R' in a little red circle into a 'K' in a little red circle, that would have done the trick.


Shines aluminium fast? No, that doesn't work in this context. A Brillo box would be more effective as a unit of storage for a Donald Judd piece, if you
ask me.


Have you noticed that On had been doing very little Date Painting since May? Which remained the case until the end of the year. He may have been learning Swedish in view of his forthcoming residency.

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

On met Soroku ten times in September. Twice as often as anyone else (apart from Hiroko). On didn't meet Soroku on Date Painting days, as usual. But he did meet him three days after painting SEPT. 27, 1972. That meeting was at Lispenard Street, so it may not have involved a discussion about "Chairman Mao Tse-tung and Premier Kakuei Tanaka of Japan in Peking", but they met the next day also, when 340 East 13th Street was part of the day's route but Lispenard Street wasn't. In my mind's eye, on the wall of 340 East 13th Street was a single size D painting.

On Kawara had been making quite a few size D paintings in 1972, twenty altogether. Though from October 1972 there would be nothing bigger than size B until November 1975. Perhaps that was a back-handed tribute to this momentous meeting between Chairman Mao and the Japanese Prime Minister.

Perhaps On would have shown Soroku the cutting that he'd made from the subsequent day's
New York Times for 'I READ'.

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

I can't really imagine what Soroku and On would have said to each other in this context. Both the Japanese men had left their native country as artists, disgusted by events that happened in World War 2. But which events would they have focussed on? The appalling way that the Japanese army had treated Chinese prisoners of war? The fact that it wasn't China that had dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, but America? President Nixon had already been out to see Chairman Mao that year. Which relationship would grow closest, that between China and America or China and Japan?

What does it say on the cutting underneath where On Kawara has scrawled a scribble? Something like 'Chairman Mao was told by Premier Tamaka, who had completed seven hours of substantive talks with Premier Zhou about establishing diplomatic relations and ending a legal state of war between the two countries, that "after heated discussions, people get quite friendly."

Soroku: "Why did you place your mark over the end of that paragraph?"

On: "I was pleased about something."

Soroku: "About what?"

On: "You cannot ask me that."

Soroku thinks about this for a minute, then says: "Come here, On."

The artists embrace warmly.

All of the remaining postcards that were sent in September 1972 to Dr Hultén in Stockholm were sent from 340 East 13th Street, New York.

1 340 East 13th Street 8.50am
2 340 East 13th Street 10.03am
3 340 East 13th Street 3.38pm
4 340 East 13th Street 9.50am
5 340 East 13th Street 2.29pm
6 340 East 13th Street 11.21am
7 340 East 13th Street 6.44am

Why did On Kawara send 17 + 30 + 31 + 31 + 7 = 116 cards to Pontus Hultén? Well, because he was an important contact of Kasper
König's and On had met Pontus in New York at Kasper's place that January. I suspect the postcards led to the invitation to be artist-in-residence at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Though the invite might already have been given back in January, just as Dr Jost Herbig got his cards both before and after placing an order for several Date Paintings. Certainly, On flew to Stockholm on the 11th of December, 1972, and stayed as a resident artist until the end of January, 1973. Perhaps Hultén had also seen one of the European showings of One Million Years. Or maybe he had seen the show of Date Paintings at Konrad Fischer's Gallery in Germany. But I suspect the meeting and/or the postcards would have done the trick. Clearly, Pontus Hulten had a good eye and an open mind. Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys and On Kawara is an impressive sequence that no-one else achieved.

Pontus Hultén is introduced by Hans Ulrich Obrist in
A Brief History of Curating. He was born in 1924. He had a reputation for maintaining a special dialogue with artists, whose careers he often shaped from the start. He was director at Moderna Museet for fifteen years and defined the museum as an 'elastic and open space, hosting a plethora of activities within its walls: lectures, film series, concerts and debates.' Thanks to Pontus Hultén, Stockholm became an important centre of contemporary art in the 1960s. In particular, he helped bridge the gap between Europe and America.

The Hans Ulrich Obrist book contains several long interviews with curators, including one with Pontus Hultén, which contains this revealing comment: 'I had met On Kawara in Stockholm; he was living in an apartment owned by the
Moderna Museet, and he stayed for almost a year. We became friends. I have always thought On Kawara was one of the most important conceptual artists.'

Actually, On met him in New York, months before he went to Stockholm. And On was in Stockholm for less than two months. But it may have felt like nearly a year through the impact that On made through those postcards, which were received every day for four months.

But I've got ahead of myself again.
Come October, On Kawara was still in New York.


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

I'm going to focus on the Date Painting made on October 12. I mean I'm going to try and conjure up a picture of OCT. 12, 1972 with the help of 'I WENT', 'I MET' and 'I READ'.

On Kawara didn't really go anywhere. He went round the block, as you can see from the 'I WENT' below. That means that anyone he met this day came to his gaffe: 340 East 13th Street.


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

I can't help thinking that all these people were invited to On and Hiroko's place at the same time, perhaps for a dinner. Nobu and Miyuki Fukui. the Kojimas, the Naraharas, Nanao Sakaki and Masao Narata. I don't know who that last person is, but Nanao Sahaki might have been the 'special guest', the sort of person who was drawn to On Kawara's presence.

Nanao Sakaki was ten years older than On, so he would have been 50 at the time, with On 40. (Both in their prime, then.) Sakaki was a Japanese poet, author of
Bellyfulls and a leading personality of The Tribe which was a countercultural group in Japan in the 1960s and 70s. According to Wikipedia: 'Members espoused an interest in an alternative community, and rejected materialism.'

I wonder what Sakaki thought of that day's Date Painting.
I trust he would have been intrigued by it.

When he was 20, Sakaki lived off the generosity of his neighbours, spending all his time studying English and reading. After two years, he moved to Shinjuku, became interested in primitive art, and collaborated with a wood sculptor. They visited forests all over Japan for some three years. During this time, Sakaki began to write poems expressing a deep relationship with the forests.

I bet that night at On and Hiroko's place, Sakakai couldn't take his eyes off
OCT. 12, 1972… "That's today. You painted that today, because it's today!"

Sakaki and the wood sculptor then went separate ways, Sakaki returning to Shinkuju and becoming friends with another free spirit. The two of them made a practice of never sleeping in the same place twice. Someone else sought out Sakaki and they shared many interests, including linguistics, Bushman ethnology, Sanskrit, Japanese archeology, Marx, Jung, Nagarjuna, and revolution. I wonder if this 'never sleeping in the same place twice' was discussed. On Kawara had been homeless in Tokyo and he seems to have been very flexible as to where he slept in New York and when travelling around the world.

Sakaki made several trips to the United States, exploring the wilderness, writing, and reading poetry. He spent about ten years in the United States, primarily in San Francisco and Taos, New Mexico, but also walking widely.

The Naraharas and Nanao Sakaki may have stayed til after midnight as their names are also on the 'I MET' list for October 13. It's also possible that Sakaki paid a second visit to see On Kawara, as his name crops up after Hiroko's on the list for October 13, and Hiroko was usually the first person he met in the morning.

On bought a newspaper on the 13th and used it to choose a sub-title for the painting. The 'I READ' suggests he read and extracted a number of articles, but the subtitle he went for was 'Henry A. Kissinger'.

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

Actually, the Kissinger stories may have been taken from the September 27 paper (on the left), the same paper that was used to source the Chairman Mao and Japanese Premier subtitle for SEPT. 26, 1972. Which was a fortnight earlier. In other words it was the story on the left-hand page as On Kawara was assembling the right hand-page. What On should have been doing, according to his own practice, was choose a subtitle from a day's paper that had been used to source the right-hand page, Queen Elizabeth for example.

But it seems more likely that Kissinger's name was in the paper every day. He was negotiating a settlement on behalf of Nixon between South Vietnam and North Vietnam. It was a delicate and interminable negotiation.

I've gone into that one day in October in some detail, even though it's slowed down this narrative which had wanted to rush On Kawara off to Stockholm. I've done this, in part, to show how multi-layered On Kawara's inner life was at this time. He, personally, was looking forward to going to Stockholm. But what was happening in the wider world, centred on Vietnam, was fascinating. And simultaneously he was being visited by wise and well-travelled people.


The subtitles derived from newspapers were drying up. Perhaps it was because On was losing faith in the press and in politics. Days of the week were being used as subtitles instead.
You could trust a day of the week.

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

It seems that On hadn't even read the paper that applied to the day, which may explain why he didn't use a story to come up with the subtitle. This is the relevant page from 'I READ':

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

On only met Hiroko that day. And hardly left the flat. I truly think he was learning Swedish. That would account for both a dropping off in the number of Date Paintings being attempted and the number of meetings with friends.


On December 11, On flew to Stockholm and his residency at
Moderna Museet. Before he left New York he saw a few of his close friends on both the ninth and the tenth. Unusually, Hiroko wasn't around. It's possible that she had taken the opportunity to visit relatives in Japan, or elsewhere. She was going to join him in Stockholm towards the end of the residency and they were going to travel through Europe and West Africa. They wouldn't be back in New York until the end of March, 1973.

Prior to his flight, on both days On saw Nobu, Aoki, Soroku and Takeshi Kawashima, the very four names mentioned by Ansell Bray and Nobu Fukui as being central to the
mah-jongg friendship group, and three of the four names (the other was Kasper König) I provided on that summary of meetings schedule re 1971. These friendships were long-term and ongoing.

To Stockholm via JFK International Airport.
Where did On Kawara stay when he arrived? The address on his postcards is 'Torpedverkstan'. However, in the 'I WENT' maps, On Kawara marks his getting up place (the red dot) as in a building very close to and just north-west of the Moderna Museet.

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

On Kawara did take a stroll through the museum on December 17. As well as the permanent collection, there was an exhibition of watercolours by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880–1938) but I dare say he was thinking of Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys whose footsteps he was treading in. After that he walked over the long, low bridge. Everything is much lower in Stockholm than in New York. The bridges are at sea level and there are no skyscrapers. He walked up the side of some formal gardens and into a large department store. Nordiska Kompaniet, known colloquially as NK.

Years ago I stayed in Stockholm for a week, as the guest of artist Per Hüttner who I'd been collaborating with over a book about his work. He now (2022) tells me that the post office is located in this building, something I can't confirm from looking at the Google pictures. Which just goes to show the value of local knowledge.

The next day, On Kawara's route was much the same as on December 17. He was building up a picture of this new city, this flat and calm and white city. Though he didn't go into
Moderna Museet (well, he did go into one room, though it wasn't to touch base with Pontus Hultén, who wasn't met that day or the day before) and he walked past NK in order to go into a store in a nearby square.

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

I have one more high-quality reproduction of 'I WENT' for December at my disposal. On Dec. 27th, On Kawara once more popped in to Moderna Museet, the time to see the director (at least he did in my mind's eye and Pontus is on the day's 'I MET' list) but I'm not sure whether that would have been at the beginning or the end of his day's walking.

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

I believe the catalogues to the Andy Warhol and the Jospeh Beuys shows would have been made available to On. Not least because Pontus Hultén would have kept copies of each in his office as status symbols. Not least because Kasper König designed the Warhol one and it has been recognised as a classic catalogue cum artist's book. Boldly printed on cheap paper, with no academic essays but instead the atmosphere of The Factory about it.

Flicking to any page could have initiated a discussion between director and visiting artist:

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of Moderna Museet and the Estate of Andy Warhol.

On: "Kasper would have been working on this in 1967. I remember talking to him many times that year. He seemed struck by something I told him, that Western society values 'one' above all, while in Japan 'complements' dominate all thought."

Pontus: "But in that case one of the cans would have been tomato and the other something else, mushroom, say."

On: "Let's turn the page and see what happens."

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of Moderna Museet and the Estate of Andy Warhol.

Pontus: "Beef!"

On: "Ah, but 200 cans of beef soup. Two cans of tomato on the previous double-page. Two hundred cans of beef soup on this page. Two hundred and two cans of beef or tomato soup altogether. Turnover and see what happens:

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of Moderna Museet and the Estate of Andy Warhol.

On: "Liz and Liz. Not Liz and Marilyn. Liz and Marilyn would have been 1 and 1. Liz and Liz is 1 + 1 = 2."

Pontus also wanted to chat with On about Joseph Beuys's visit. Moderna Museet hadn't made such good job of teh Beuys catalogue, but photographer had accompanied Joseph Beuys and taken an impressive set of photos. Let's say Pontus had copies of a few in his office.

Beuys had been an unignorable presence at the museum. All eyes had been on him the whole time of his installing.

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Lothar Wolleh and his Estate.

Pontus Hultén had done his best to keep things on an even keel. And indeed Beuys took his work seriously and was always willing to discuss it in an open-minded and practical way.

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Lothar Wolleh and his Estate.

But Beuys also showed a keen interest in his own myth and in developing that, at every opportunity, with the help of his photographer.

Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the photographer, Lothar Wolleh and his Estate.

Pontus: "So, On, how famous do you want to be?"

On: "I do not want to be famous. I want my work to be appreciated all around the world for what it is, and nothing more. As you know, there are to be no photos taken of my face and I will make no public statements."

Pontus: "You do know that there is a danger that these precautions against fame themselves will help create a cult of personality?"

On: "I know."

Pontus: "Do you know to steer clear of those artists that have most effectively made a cult of personality?"

On: "You mean Warhol and Beuys?"

Pontus: "Those two in particular. Indeed, Joseph Beuys in particular."

On: "Do not worry. Our paths will not cross, forgive the pun."

Pontus: "You are going to avoid him? Will that be possible? Kasper wants you to meet as soon as possible!"

On: "Kasper has suggested that I send 'I GOT UP' cards to him. But the only person in Dusseldorf who will get those is Konrad Fischer and members of his family. Kasper says to me: 'but you send cards to Sol Lewitt, Baldessari and Dan, so why not Joseph?' I reply: 'If I send him an 'I GOT UP' card featuring the Statue of Liberty every day for 120 days, it would be misunderstood by everyone, it would change my life, and it would interfere with what I understand to be my work."

Pontus: "You could just meet him, On. Keep it low key. You do that all the time."

On: "He already knows my work and, I am told, very much likes it. He is curious about me as well. And that would end in disaster."

Pontus: "So he won't be appearing on an 'I MET' anytime soon?"

On: "Not if I see him coming. And it is difficult not to spot him from quite some distance!"

Meeting over, On walked in much the same direction as before, crossed a long bridge, went into NK again, then off in the other direction. The artist was getting to know Stockholm. The Date Painting and postcard king of New York did indeed feel he was artist-In-residence in Stockholm, with no-one else looking over his shoulder.

The following is the pick of the postcards he was sending to Nicholas Logsdail, in London, and Roger Mazarguil in Paris.

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

This card again tells us where On Kawara was staying in Stockholm, and also, on the picture side, shows us. He was on the island top right, connected to the mainland by a long bridge. The next day he embarked on his first Swedish Date Painting.

The custom in Sweden is to place the numbers of the day of the month before the abbreviated letters of the month. DEC. 28 in New York becomes 28 DEC. in Stockholm. And then there was the extract cut from a Swedish newspaper. So again, On Kawara was giving a subtle set of space-time co-ordinates. Perhaps that's an important part of what consciousness is. Where am I? When is this?

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

Let Google translate some of that front page, as On Kawara would certainly have been able to do:

'Svenska Dagbladet: Swedish daily newspaper.'

'Inget nationellt Vietnamuttalande: No National Vietnam Statement.'

'Ett krig i raseri och ilska: A war in fury and rage.'

'Lagre vinster stimulerar ej: Lower profits do not stimulate.'

'Gott nytt ar 1973: Happy new year 1973.'

On Kawara's subtitles for the three paintings he did in December need to be considered. So that's what I'll do in some detail.

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

"Jag vet inte," means 'I do not know' in Swedish. In the On Kawara literature, this has been interpreted as suggesting an existential crisis in the artist's life. It has been linked to the series of 30 pure black pages (with a few white dots that could be stars or glitches in the developing or photocopying process) that On Kawara included in his Journal after having allegedly become emotional whilst lying on his back and observing the Stockholm night sky. I imagine that taking in the immensity of the universe, a year or so after having produced One Million Years, would have underlined how tiny and unimportant we are as a species, never mind as individuals.


However, the black pages were included in the 1973 journal, not put together until the end of that year. Also arguing against an 'existential crisis' while in Stockholm is the fact that subtitling the Date Paintings with the days of the week, and not using a quote from a local newspaper, began before he flew to Sweden. It began with 30 October, 1972, and continued with 23 November, 1972, when On Kawara was still in New York. Actually, it began long before that, when On used days of the week to subtitle the Dates he made in Tokyo in December of 1970.

The 'I do not know' may simply be a reference to grappling with the Swedish language. On Kawara had had years living in a Spanish-speaking country, and years in an English-speaking country, to enable him to pick up those languages and add them to his native Japanese. He didn't have the same opportunity with Swedish, though I suspect he did know a certain amount of the language having studied it in the closing months of 1972 while still in New York.

Let's not forget that On Kawara produced a page of 'I READ' to go with 28, DEC. 1972. And here it is. The aesthetic is something that puts me in mind of Joseph Beuys. Or am I just saying that because of his 1971 presence in Stockholm?

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

'Bombterror Hanoi blir... 'Bomb terror Hanoi becomes…'

Kissinger had messed up. Or rather, Nixon had made the negotiation impossible for Tho, in South Vietnam and Thieu in North Vietnam.

'Nordvietnam uppgav pa torsdagen att de an phong forersakat samma förödelse som ett Jor digt uppgav ambassaden i Hanoi att...: North Vietnam said on Thursday that the An Phong had caused the same devastation as a country, the embassy in Hanoi said…'

As you can see, the page has been marked up in red, emphasising that On Kawara could read the Swedish language. That would make sense given how he presented his Date Paintings, with extracts from the daily newspaper of the city he was living in, and made additions to his 'I READ' file. As I've already said, the likelihood that On was learning Swedish might explain why he did relatively little Date Painting from August/September to mid-December.

In which case the "Jag vet into" subtitle, the words written on the extract which has 'Bombterror Hanoi' as headline, could be an expression of frustration at the news he was reading. The artist trying to come to terms with human beings dropping bombs on each other while the night sky above Stockholm went ignored. On Kawara didn't understand how people could behave in such an unenlightened way.

There is
a second page of 'I READ' for December 28, with its main article taken from the next day's paper but applying to the 28th:

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

'Sadat igen: Kriget mot Israel ar oundvikligt: Translates as: The war against Israel is inevitable.'

It seems that whether On Kawara was in New York reading the
New York Times, or in Stockholm reading the Dagen Nyeter, he would have been reading much the same thing. (As we are today, fifty years later.) The planet had the same trouble spots from wherever you viewed it in the Western world. Even the most influential of artists fade into insignificance.


Further evidence that On Kawara could understand written Swedish is provided by the 'I READ' that was filed in respect of 29 DEC. 1972 and 31 DEC, 1972. Let's take those one at a time:

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

Because of the way On Kawara has stuck the three stories onto the page, and the relatively low quality of the reproduction, it means that there are not many full sentences available for translation. Something about Nixon stopping a new ambassador in Washington being sent from Sweden seemed to be causing a stir. Clearly the Swedish government was aghast that American planes were bombing North Vietnam.

There is a second page of 'I READ' for December 29. A change of scene, looting in Nicaragua?

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

'De fatties jul I Managua: Christmas for the poor in Managua.'

On Kawara was not poor. He was artist-in-residence in Sweden's capital city. But he could empathise with the poor. Didn't they too get up in the morning? Didn't they too go places and meet people?

There is a change in tone for the Date Painting made on the final day of the year. Or at least there is in the articles cut out for 'I READ'. You don't need me to tell you that the story on the left says goodbye to 1972, and hello to 1973:

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

There is a second page re 31 December in the 'I READ' file. It pictures the same smiling woman:

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

'10 satt att bota baksmalla: 10 set to cure hangovers.' Presumably that means 10 ways to cure hangovers. Well, an old Scottish saying is that the best way to avoid a hangover on New Year's Day is to drink the same amount on every other day of the year.

By December 31, On Kawara was only half-way through his Stockholm residency. I will end this chapter with a typical piece of On Kawara generosity. The Date Painting presently under consideration (31 DEC. 1972) was given to his friend, Pontus Hultén, and it now belongs to the
Moderna Museet. It was on display in 2021, when I first drafted this chapter, and it was on display (without the box) this summer when I eventually got there in person. I suspect the old museum director would be very pleased about that, as it epitomised what he was trying to do through his stewardship of the collection and his friendship with contemporary artists.

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

Of course, what was given to Pontus Hultén wasn't the 'I READ' pages that I've reproduced already. It was the front page of the Dagens Nyheter as shown directly above, with its main story about B-52s bombing North Vietnam while the rest of the world protested.

Pontus Hultén didn't give away the painting lightly. He donated it to the museum in 2005 - along with the glorious sequence of postcards that he'd been sent in 1972. And he died in 2006. A Date Painting, just as much as a collection of 'I GOT UP' cards, is for life, not death.

As we've seen, On Kawara continued to line his Date Painting boxes with an extract from the day's newspaper. So in that sense he didn't give up on reading the news. And he continued to make an addition to 'I READ' whenever he made a Date Painting. He just abandoned the idea of picking out a headline and using that as a subtitle. Perhaps because he knew there were limits to his understanding of certain languages. Perhaps because it would have been asking too much of his non-Swedish audience to be presented with Swedish sub-titles. Though the possibility remains that he had simply come to the conclusion that he would never understand an endless sequence of violence.

Or perhaps he was coming to accept the importance of a weekly rhythm to his life. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. A sequence of words redolent with meaning for us all.

Next chapter.