When I took a break from working though On Kawara's life, year by year, I didn't think 1974 promised to have much going for it after what had been a very busy 1973.

I was wrong.

1974 was the year that a most ambitious show was realised. A show gradually conceived and put together through conversations between On Kawara, Hiroko Kawara and Kasper König that had been going on since 1969, or even earlier. I've known for a while that the 1974 exhibition in Bern had a catalogue, and have owned a copy since March. It is suggestive of great things, but has its limitations. However, I have today stumbled across the online archive at Bern, and this has led to revelations. Below is a screen shot of the online

Thanks to Kunsthalle Bern for making this invaluable resource available. Current state of the page can be viewed here.

Each of the dots represents a document (photo, letter, drawing) in the archive and each of the expanded dots mean that the activities of a researcher or archivist has meant that the document is available online. To everyone in the world, wherever they sit at their computer.

One of the documents is a letter from Hiroko to Kasper König dated 14 July 1969. I think it's found it's way to Bern as it suggests that the idea of showing 'one year's production' was originally conceived as covering 1968. Which is of course the year when On Kawara began I MET, I WENT and I GOT UP.

Every one of this letter's seven paragraphs contains unique insights into On Kawara's life and work, and I will try and set these out at the most appropriate moments in these essays, perhaps by adding postscripts to the earlier ones. What I will say right now is that the first paragraph mentions that OK had been in hospital to check if he had a cancer. On Kawara did not paint any Dates between July 5 and the moon landings. Therefore the size of the paintings made on July 16, 20 and 21 might well reflect, if only in part, the artist's joy on getting the all clear in regard to his health. Perhaps that's when the phrase 'I AM STILL ALIVE' came to mind as well, though it didn't appear in telegrams until a few months later. Actually, what did the three preliminary telegrams of December 1969 say?




Something like that anyway.

The rest of the documents in the archive, many of them created by Kasper König, will be brought to your attention a little later in this essay. But said groundbreaking show didn't open until the end of August. And before that, On Kawara did a lot of other things. So let's take it slowly and chronologically, as if we had all the time in the world.


The first two months of the year were spent in New York. Three January Date paintings and six February ones were completed. No doubt On and Hiroko's social life was resumed, and meetings with remarkable folk happened. But I don't have access to I MET or I WENT for this period, so let's just skip it.

Actually, there is an I GOT UP from January reproduced in
On Kawara: SILENCE. It was sent to Michael Asher who at the time was a conceptual artist who'd begun teaching at the California Institute of the Arts in 1973. Asher's Writings 1973-1983 were published by the Nova Scotia School of Art, but not until Kasper König had left that job. Rather than designing new art objects, Asher typically altered the existing environment, by repositioning or removing artworks, walls, facades, etc. How about moving the bridge in the postcard that was sent to him a few hundred yards? No, Michael Asher's interventions were more subtle than that, and On Kawara would have appreciated this. Never mind the bridge in the picture, where was On Kawara posting this card from?

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

140 East 31st Street. Was that one of the artist's addresses previous to his travelling in 1973? I need to remind myself of On Kawara's New York addresses going back to 1966:

1966-1968 (First Date Paintings; pre-Mexico)
405 East 13th St (On’s huge studio)
123 Chambers Street (Hiroko’s studio)
340 East 13th Street (studio and flat for both On and Hiroko replacing 405 East 13th and 123 Chambers Street)
65 East Broadway (KK’s flat)

1969 (Post-Mexico)
53 Greene Street (Hiroko’s flat)
97 Crosby Street (a flat once used by friend Hirotsugu Aoki)
340 East 13th Street (ongoing studio)

1972 (postcards to Pontus Hultén in Stockholm)
340 East 13th Street
65 East Broadway (KK’s flat)

140 East 31st Street (a new address)
24 East 22nd Street (per Kasper König letter to Bern, also the odd 1973 postcard)
97 Crosby Street (many postcards in 1973)
140 Greene Street (a new address, with table-tennis table)
205 East 78th Street (info. to follow)

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

This latest New York flat (140 Greene Street, I think, the Dates are from February to April, 1974) brings to mind Hiroko's 14 July 1969 letter to Kasper, in which she writes:
'We were looking out for a loft in Manhattan to stay and to keep his new paintings. On wanted to have a living loft in Empire State Building to paint his "Date". Unfortunately it is hardly possible to get AIR in such a high building. On the way back to New York from South America we also had plan to get a "studio" in Las Vegas but I don't know when it will be realised.'

Which in turn brings to mind a drawing by Paul Noble called
Paul's Palace. Another visionary artist who sees the presence of a table tennis table as essential to the solipsistic life of an artist! In Noble's case, the table is in the 'garden'. What the drawing doesn't reveal is that there is a Date Painting hanging in the wall of every room. Surely there is! Can you see that the building spells out PAULPALACE from top to bottom in an architectural font of the artist's own devising?


Paul Noble, Paul's Palace.

Where was I? Or rather where was On? In March, On and Hiroko went on another road trip. Why not? The 1973 one had clearly been a blast. This time they were travelling a north-south route, exploring the east coast of America, down to Florida and back. Nine stops in all. Ready to roll?



March 12, 1973. Arrive.
March 13, 1973. Date Paint.
March 15, 1973. Depart.

It's less than hundred miles in a south-western direction from New York to Philadelphia, so On and Hiroko would only have been on the road for an hour and a half or so. There had been no Date Paintings since the end of February, but there would be a single one painted here. This is it:

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

As well as buying a copy of the Philadelphia Inquirer on March 13, On Kawara sent a postcard to Roger Marzguil in Paris. That's the guy who owned a restaurant and who was an admirer of contemporary art, and a friend of both On and Hiroko, not an art professional as such. Though in this case (as on several occasions in 1973) the compiler - Kasper König's assistant, shall we say - of the book On Kawara: Horizontality/Verticality has not matched the correct picture with the message. The picture shown would have been the day before's or the day after's. However, as Kahlil Gibran put it in a piece selected by On Kawara for his Ikon catalogue: 'Yet the timeless in you is aware of life's timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today's memory, and tomorrow is today's dream.'

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

Let us see if On Kawara's accommodation is still available, 47 years after his and Hiroko's road-trip…

Unusually, it doesn't seem to be. I've gone down to street level at the junction of Market Street and 20th Street, which is in the middle of the aerial view below, and all the buildings seem commercial, with no hotel units.


So let's concentrate on where On and Hiroko went on March 13, 1974. They seem to have covered quite a lot of ground, but the I WENT map certainly suggests a highlight of their day in Philadelphia was the visit to the art museum, top left.


The way that On Kawara has marked the map suggests they may not have looked around, but gone straight to a single exhibit. In which case it was probably the statue of Diana.


I can't help feeling that being in Philadelphia Art Museum would have had On and Hiroko chatting about the forthcoming exhibition in Bern.

On: "Imagine, a whole art museum full of a single year of my output!"

Hiroko: "Stay in the moment, On. Bern in August will be with us soon enough."

On: "In the time it takes for an arrow to fly from a goddess's bow to her lover's heart?"


March 15, 1974. Arrive.
March 16, 1974. Date Paint.
March 17, 1974. Date Paint.
March 18, 1974. Depart.

It's 250 miles from Philly to Richmond, a journey that takes about four hours without stops.

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

I don't have access to any I WENT maps or I GOT UP postcards on this occasion. Why not? Because
On Kawara Horizontality/Verticality reproduces that information on the artist's first visit to a city, but not thereafter. And Richmond was a stop at the end of the 1973 road trip (actually on January 4, 1974).

So there is nothing for me to say.


March 18, 1974. Arrive.
March 19, 1974. Depart.

It takes six hours to drive the 320 miles between Richmond, Virginia, and Columbia, South Carolina.

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

There is no sign of a hotel at 505 Knox Avenue Drive in 2021. So I'm out of the city almost as quickly as On and Hiroko.


Towards Jacksonville. How far is that? A four-and-a-half hour drive should just about be enough to cover the 290 miles.


March 19, 1974. Arrive.
March 20, 1974. Date Paint.
March 21, 1974. Depart.

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

The paper tells us that gas stations had been closed on Sundays. That might explain why two Date Paintings were made at Richmond. The second was made on Sunday March 17 and it wouldn't have been possible to drive all the way to Columbia in South Carolina on one tank of petrol. Although the 1974 legislation was made due to a shortage of Saudi oil imports, the same kind of thing might be needed soon to protect the world from global warming. Indeed, if On and Hiroko were doing their trip in 2021, they would be motoring in an electric car. On's politics, as revealed through 'I READ', and the extracts boxed with the Date Paintings, would strongly suggest as much.

Anyway, the driving to Jacksonville day, March 19th, was a Tuesday, and the Date was a Wednesday. On which morning On Kawara rose at 10.47am.

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

There is still a hotel at 2300 Phillips Highway. Scottish Inns? I haven't heard of that organisation. The blue and yellow sign does not inspire me to say: "Pull over."


On and Hiroko did a bit of exploring on the 20th.


But I'm not going to investigate. You see I'm in bit of a hurry myself. A hurry to be investigating those documents that concern the Bern exhibition. Here is the first one, written by the director of the Kunsthalle Bern to Kasper König, in Halifax, on March 20, 1974:

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

Being in German, that's not of immediate use to me. Luckily the internet is awash with free translation services:


Michael Werner was a German gallerist who was working with Kasper König at this time.

Twerking must have a different meaning here to the one I associate with Miley Cyrus.


Perhaps that's why a copy of Hiroko's July 1969 letter ended up in the archive at Bern. Kasper felt it helped to show where On was coming from.

I think this letter would have come as great news to Kasper König. I believe he would have wasted no time in communicating the gist of it to On Kawara. But On and Hiroko were on the road and
incommunicado until back in New York. So let's get back to the road-trip.


March 21,1974. Arrive.
March 22, 1974. Explore?
March 23, 1974. Date Paint.
March 24, 1974. Date Paint.
March 25, 1974. Explore?
March 26, 1974. Date Paint.
March 27, 1974. Explore?
March 28, 1974. Depart

Although this was a road-trip, its culmination was Miami Beach and that's where our tourists spent longest. I say 'tourist' because Hiroko finished her letter to Kasper in July 1969, by saying how much On liked the word 'tourist' and that he would have liked his profession to be stated as such in all of his official documents.

So there you have it. On Kawara: tourist of the interior.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation

When one sees the I WENT map for March 24 (coming soon), one understands why On chose this extract from the
Miami Herald. It's a society built on water.

It's a pity I only have one of the eight postcards that On sent from Miami Beach. This one (immediately below) features Woolworths, which links back, in my mind at least, to the day that an I WENT map strongly suggests that On visited a Woolworths store in Mexico City. Perhaps there was an item of stationary that he regularly bought from the store. Perhaps Woolworth was a reliable source of local postcards.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation

Here is the I WENT map I mentioned. Which shows that the lapping sea is to be found on both sides of Miami Beach.


Might as well find the hotel. Or at least the site of it. It looks like the building is divided into flats now. Yip, luxury condo flats for the rich. There is no building between this high-rise and the beach


On and Hiroko standing on a balcony looking out to sea.

Hiroko: "We are enjoying the sunrise."

On: "Last autumn we were in California, on the beach at Santa Monica, enjoying the sunset, looking towards Japan.."

Hiroko: "Last spring we were on the beach at Dakar, enjoying the sunset, looking towards Middle America."

On: "What tourists we are."

Hiroko: "King and Queen Tourist."

"King and Queen of the Pelicans we;
No other Birds so grand we see!
None but we have feet like fins!
With lovely leathery throats and chins!
Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still!


Hiroko: "Do you know more?"

"We live on the Nile. The Nile we love.
By night we sleep on the cliffs above;
By day we fish, and at eve we stand
On long bare islands of yellow sand.
And when the sun sinks slowly down
And the great rock walls grow dark and brown,
Where the purple river rolls fast and dim
And the Ivory Ibis starlike skim,
Wing to wing we dance around,--
Stamping our feet with a flumpy sound,--
Opening our mouths as Pelicans ought,
And this is the song we nightly snort;--
Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still!"

Trouble is, global warming means that hurricanes make landfall far more often than they used to, and these flats must take a hammering.

If you're a condo-owner, or a rich tourist, or even just an Edward Lear admirer, and you're on the beach, you often need to have half an eye out to sea. Trouble brewing?


If only Richard Nixon hadn't ended his Gasless Sunday. If only he had extended Gasless Sunday to the other days of the week. Then folk might still be living - and touring - like kings in Florida.

Of course, On Kawara might have done his bit too. The three paintings done in Miami Beach are subtitled: "Saturday", "Sunday" and Tuesday." With his political antennae out, might not he have called them "Gasless Saturday", "Gasless Sunday" and "Gasless Tuesday"?

It was on March 27 that Kasper König replied to the director of the Kunsthalle in Bern. I can't read Kasper's handwriting and there would be little point in feeding what I can make out into the online translator, full of errors as it would be. Besides, it was essentially a holding response. Thanking Johannes Gachnang for the opportunity and promising to give him all he asked for shortly after he had liaised with On Kawara.

Meanwhile, on a younger planet…


March 29, 1974. Arrive.
March 30, 1974. Depart.

A three and half hour journey (237 miles) back north from Miami Beach to Orlando, still in Florida. It's a long state. On Kawara didn't make a Date painting.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation

I think he and Hiroko got back on the road on the 30th. But the I WENT map doesn't quite confirm that. The red biro goes to the edge of the map but no destination is marked.


However, On and Hiroko moved on to Columbia on either the 30th or the 31st, so let's not worry too much about that.


March 30, 1974. Arrive.
March 31, 1974. Date Paint.
April 1, Depart.

It would have taken our travellers over six hours to bridge the 430 mile gap between Orlando and Columbia. So I think it's reasonable to suggest they made the trip on the 30th and On waited until the next day to Date Paint.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation

Again, this is the second visit to Columbia, South Carolina. So it's not registered in On Kawara: Horizontality/Verticality.

I'll just check and see if there's anything on the web. I Google 'On Kawara I GOT UP 1974'. No, nothing for March 31st, though a few images of postcards come up for April, May and June. Suffice to say, for now, that Claire Copley, who had been sent postcards in December 1973, was receiving the second postcard from March 1 1974 to June 19, 1974.


April 1, 1974. Arrive
April 2, 1974. Rest.

April 3, 1974. Date Paint.
April 4, 1974. Date Paint.
April 5, 1974. Depart

Nearly 500 miles between Columbia and Washington. Which would have taken more than seven hours in the car, without stops. So I've marked in the day after travelling as a rest day. Though it may have been a day of gentle exploration as well.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation

One of the two daily postcards was still going to Roger Mazarguil in Paris. See the huge smile on his face as he slides a plate of oysters in front of hs customers and tells them about his artist friend's progress up and down the east coast of America!

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation

The Kawaras were staying in a hotel not that far from the White House. Below can be seen the hotel currently at the junction of 15th Street and L Street.


The I WENT for April 3 is impressive. Both the layout of the city, and the Kawaras route through it.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation

It looks as if they went for a walk between Potomac Park and the river. See the left edge of the above map. And it looks as if they went off the track in order to investigate what is marked as a Japanese pagoda on today's map as provided by Google. I couldn't distinguish a pagoda, but there are plenty of blossoming peach trees.


From here there is view across the tidal basin to what?

Hiroko: "Would that be the White House?"

On: "No. That is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial."

Hiroko: "Who was Thomas Jefferson?"

On: "The Third American President. He served as such around 1800."

Hiroko: "Know anything about him?"

On: "He was an early archaeologist. He collected books. He fathered several children through his black slave who was 30 years younger than him."


Hiroko: "And what is that column?"

On: "A monument to George Washington."

Hiroko: "The first President."

On: "He owned hundreds of slaves. But he did change his mind about slavery during his lifetime, and his wife granted freedom to them all after he died and in accordance with his wishes."

Hiroko: "Which is the one that had the beard?"

On: "Maybe you mean Abraham Lincoln. He abolished slavery."

Hiroko: "Where is his monument?"

On: "I have it here in my head: Shall I recite it to you?"

Hiroko: "Of course."

On: "
There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, "It is just as I feared!—
Two Owls and a Hen, four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard."


There are only a few I METs reproduced in On Kawara: SILENCE, the last book to be put together in his lifetime On Kawara chose the 24 examples. I have little doubt that in choosing April 3, 1974, On was remembering the day that he and Hiroko explored the capital of the United States together, king and queen of the pelicans.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation


April 5, 1974. Arrive.

April 6, 1974. Date Paint.
April 7, 1974. Depart

There are 140 miles between Washington and Philadelphia. So that's another 2 hours 20 minutes on the road. As it was a return visit to the city, the I GOT UP and I WENT is not reproduced in
On Kawara: Horizontality/Verticality. And for the same reason the Date Painting is not reproduced in Date Paintings in 89 Cities. These two books have stood me in good stead. So I'm not complaining.

Let's just get back to New York. Less than a hundred miles and we're home.


Back in New York, a letter from Kasper König would have been waiting for the Kawaras.

'Good news. Kunsthalle Bern is go-go-go.' Or words to that effect. 'However, there is much to be done in preparation for this unmissable opportunity. We need to meet.'

I expect they met quite often from April to June. But that doesn't mean On Kawara neglected his ongoing projects. I have seen the I WENT for April 21. It's not that clear, so I haven't reproduced it, but it shows at the bottom of the route that OK went to 24 East 22nd Street during the day, but that he slept at 205 East 78th Street, which seems to be a new flat. From this address he sent postcards to Claire Copley in California…

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation

…and to Keiji Usami in Japan. Usami being a Japanese painter known as representing the Japanese art scene when he appeared in 'The New Japanese Painting and Sculpture' at MOMA in New York in 1966.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation

I only have access to a single I MET of the period, May 23, 1974, and Kasper König is on that list, along with his partner and other family members. Kasper was living in New York at the time, or had moved there from Halifax in order to organise the On Kawara show for Bern.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation

(Yvonne Rainer was a dancer and choreographer who was making the transition to filmmaking in this period, and becoming increasingly feminist in her outlook. Not sure about Marguerite McCarthy. And I'm not sure whether the beautifully named Hiroko König was the daughter of Kasper, or what relation Lili König was to him. A little research would no doubt clarify the situation, but I don't think we need to know.)

In April, On Kawara only painted two Date Paintings, both after the 20th of the month. In May too, he only made two Date Paintings. And in June two more. Why such record low productivity? Because On had to work with Kasper on the exact form of his forthcoming show. The idea evolved to show a whole year's production, and 1973 was chosen in preference to 1972 after long discussion between the pair. (KK tells us this in his 8-page letter to Johann Gachnang of May 28, 1974.)

It's likely that certain amount of work was needed to tidy up the I MET files for 1973.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation

But basically these should have been good to go. Likewise the I WENT maps. As with the I MET lists, these were put back-to-back in transparent plastic sleeves, so that any particular page could be displayed face up in a cabinet.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation

The same went for the I READ files.

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation

Those last three images are slightly deceptive, in that there were three files of I MET, and three of I WENT, and two of I READ, covering 1973. And, as I say, the plan was to open the files and lay out certain pages so that they could be scrutinised.

It was felt that the Journals from 1966 to 1973 should all be part of the show. So that the audience could see how the Date Paintings project had begun, and evolved over time. König explained their importance in his letter to Gachnang of May 28:

'The inclusion of the journals. Those accompanying the TODAY series, which began in 1965 [he means 1966: a rare slip], give us the opportunity to use an original On Kawara contribution as a documentary background for the core of the exhibition. OK has agreed to present the original journals 1965 - 1972 at this exhibition in Bern. Against this background, the exhibition visitor is given a very personal insight into the complexity and the apparent contradictions of the entire TODAY series, without being bothered by the currently popular educational and didactic exhibition methodology.

I should say that the English translation is by Google, with some common sense adjustments by me.

'The journals were made by OK as a catalog of the respective year and exist only as unique copies. As with all of his work, he did not consider the planning problem of a public presentation. The journals are spiral bound. The unpaginated pages (approx. 54) are back to back in perforated plastic sleeves (21.6 cm x 28 cm). The content of the example of the journal from 1966: (The structure is the same for all journals.)

'I have already sent you copies of the subtitles from Halifax. For the exhibition, the pages of the journal, which have previously been glued on both sides, will be put into individual pockets so that they can be shown completely flat.'

In other words, sorting those journals out was keeping On (and Hiroko) busy from April to June or July. That and talking through the exact composition and presentation of the forthcoming show.

Here is another extract from the May 28 letter:

Technical remarks on the presentation

Entrance hall: Journals 1966, 1967 and 1968, 1969 are in 3 separate display cases, each 7 m long; of which the journals 1967 and 1968 are in the Mitterlen double showcase back to back. (See sketch.)

Reproduced with the forbearance of Kasper König, I hope.

Each showroom has two display areas, each 30cm wide. The display areas are set at about 45 degrees and will occupy the first half of the journal including the photo series - the lower half (second half of the journal) will show the subtitles. The ratio of the size of the first to the second part of the journals fluctuates considerably. But the leaves can be placed from the middle of the display case.

Side light hall. north: Journals 1970, 1971, 1972, in showcases like in the entrance hall. 1970 and 1971 lie back to back in double showcases. The showcase for the Journal 1972 will be 1.50m longer.

Lantern light room: the pictures are hung on all four walls. The entire hanging area (including the calculated hanging distance from picture to picture - one third of the respective picture width) is 33 meters 70 cm. Including additional space for corners and passageways, we will get by with 40 m running pavement.

The journal from 1973 is shown in a flat four-page showcase volume, the journal only in a row, in a closed square.

I think that last sentence is just about comprehensible when the sketch is taken into account. The green question marks are questions about the space that Kasper asks later in the letter. Clearly, the exhibition was designed in detail by Kasper König in consultation with On Kawara. The main contribution of the director at Bern was to follow his precise instructions.

The May 28 letter did not deal in detail with the I GOT UP postcards. It just mentioned in passing that the choice and number had still to be decided. So in June that's what On and Kasper sorted out. They came up with the bold plan of showing a full set of 1973 postcards. That is to say, one for each of the 365 days of the year.

KK sent an even longer letter to Bern concerning this, with pages which looked like the one reproduced below. The red annotations indicate the postcards that would actually be on display.

Reproduced with the forbearance of Kasper König, I hope.

KK was bearing in mind where in the world the postcards were being sent to. Which is why the New York cards to Lucy Lippard were preferred to those to the gallerist, B. Bischofberger in Zurich (too close to Bern).

KK also bore in mind the two instances where they did not have a full set of postcards available. One was those cards that that had been sent to M. Kemeny, who worked at the Galleria Lambert in Paris. Some of the postcards having gone missing because On Kawara had omitted the gallery in the address. Also those to Paul Kennedy in Australia, only 9 out of 45 having been made available to Kasper in New York.

The eight pages of Kaper König's letter can be summarised as follows, where those printed in red ink are the ones selected for display. Being 239 from 'postcard one' and 126 from 'postcard two'.

Postcard one Postcard 2

9 R Mazargul (Paris) Nicholas Logsdail (London) 9

14 L. Jugle (Los Angeles) G.C. Politi (Milan) 14

8 H Darboven (Hamburg) Van Eelen (Amsterdam) 8

16 B. Bischofberger (Zurich)
Lucy Lippard (New York) 16

33 Kasper König (Halifax) Nicholas Logsdail (London) 6
G.C. Politi (Milan) 4
L. Lippard (New York) 8
K. Fischer (Dusseldorf) 10
L. Fugle (Los Angeles) 5

26 C. Kawai (Los Angeles) L. Fugle (LA) 23
R.Mazarguil 3

45 J. Castenfors (Stockholm) P. Kennedy (Australien) 45

20 S. Brouwn (Amsterdam) H. Daled (Brussels) 20

21 D.+ H. Vogel (New York)
G.C. Politi (Milan) 21

23 M. Kemeny (Paris)
U. Meyer (New York) 23

25 J. Herbig (Munchen)
S. Tanaka (Japan) 63
41 M. Kemeny (Paris)
K. Cook (Halifax) 3

77 K. Fischer (Dusseldorf) K. Cook (Halifax) 6
Sol LeWitt (NY) 8
Lucy Lippard (NY) 13
R. Mazarguil (Paris) 15
Ursula Meyer (NY) 18
D+H Vogel 17

7 B. Bischofberger (Zurich) Claire Copley (LA) 7

239 126

A couple of things can be surmised about On Kawara's process.

1) He tended to begin/end the two postcard sequences at the same time, but not always.

2) Sometimes postcard one would go to a recipient for an extended period, during which time there would be several recipients for postcard two.

The same kind of retrieval process had to go on for the I AM STILL ALIVE telegrams. Which may have been easier as the recipients were usually professionals working for galleries, and there were not so many of these as it was not a daily project.

All this must have been achieved by July, because it was on or about July 15th that KK had promised to travel to Bern to be on hand for the actual installation. On Kawara took the opportunity of getting back to Date Painting in the second half of July, making one DP for each of July 20, July 23, July 24, July 25 and July 29.

No doubt there was still much to do. This is suggested by Hiroko's telegram to Kasper König (care of Johann Gachnang) of August 8:

Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation

This telegram is slightly puzzling. For in the Bern catalogue it states:

Biography of On Kawara
(August 16, 1974)

15,211 tage

That, in French and German, is all that is printed on one prominent opening page. Now I have checked the arithmetic. On Kawara was born on 24 December 1932. And by August 16, 1974, he had indeed lived 15,211 days, once you add in the days relating to 29 February every Leap Year. But I don't believe that Hiroko would have made a mistake when she was correcting a previous error, so she must have been giving On's age to August 1, 1974. (The difference between 15,211 and 15,196 being 15).

Then the decision must have been made to give the number of days lived until August 16. Why that date, given that the exhibition didn't open until August 30? Well, I don't know. I think it became customary for On Kawara to date his biography to a show's opening date. But obviously not on this occasion. One thing to be pointed out is that On Kawara didn't make a Date Painting on August 1, but he did on August 16. And to celebrate this fact I am going to paint August 16, 2021 while I still can. I thought I would have lots of time to do this at my leisure, but the day has crept up on me.

A coat of Burnt Sienna to start:


And then a second coat:


That's fine. And after applying a coat of Payne's Gray, see below, one can still appreciate the warmth of the underlying brown seeping through.


But a second coat of Payne's s Gray later, I'm wondering why On Kawara bothered about the brown (maybe it's still there in a subtle way), and I'm ready to start the difficult bit. The drawing of the letters, in particular the curves, and especially the 6, which will be the first time I've done one.


And now for the second most difficult hour. The laying down of the letters in paint. Approximately, five minutes into it…


That's a good start. But I don't want to get ahead of myself. The opportunity has to be taken to go back to 1974.

The catalogue was a balancing act. KK wanted it to be out for the opening of the show. He also wanted photos of the 85 Date Paintings to be in the catalogue. This is what he came up with. Or at least this is the first 22 paintings from 1973, 11 in the top photo and 11 in the one underneath:

Reproduced with the forbearance of Kasper König, I hope.

Let me just make a little more progress with my Date Painting.


Whoops, the edge went from my concentration just then. What a raggedy 6! Better take another break.

Opposite the page with the first 22 Date Paintings of 1973, are two photos containing the next 22 paintings, taking us from early April to early July.

Reproduced with the forbearance of Kasper König, I hope.

I'll leave that to bed down in your mind, dear reader, while I paint another letter…


Turning the page in the 1974 catalogue, one is presented with another double-page of Date Paintings. Taking us, on the left-hand page, first from July 4 to August 22, and, in the photo below, from Sept 12 to Oct. 24…

Reproduced with the forbearance of Kasper König, I hope.

…And on the right-hand page we go from October 25 to November 20. And, in the photo underneath, from November 21 to Dec 30…

Reproduced with the forbearance of Kasper König, I hope.

But notice, all the paintings are on the same stretch of wall. The markings on the item of furniture make that clear. KK has hung the Date Paintings a batch at time, and photographed them in one corner of the Kuntshalle Bern. Perhaps because another show was up at the time.

But he got what he wanted. Photos of all 85 DPs
in situ.

Well done, Kasper König. I'm so impressed that I'm going to dedicate this 2021 Date Painting to you, the true friend and supporter of a great artist.


It's subtitled 22,995 Days. I'm sure you'll realise why. No need to double-check my arithmetic. (Note to self: think about painting August 21, 2021, my 23,000th day. Oh, Jesus! How I have wasted my precious time.)

A few more things about the catalogue. It consists of about 150 unnumbered pages wrapped in a pale blue cover. The exhibition may have been a whole year's production, but budget constraints meant that the catalogue could not be anything like as comprehensive.


The catalogue contains an essay by Rene Denizot that covers nine pages, written in French and translated into German and English.


In the May 28 letter, KK says this:

'As already mentioned, I have been in contact with Rene Denizot for a year, whom I was able to gain for a catalog contribution in relation to the planned Kawara exhibition in Stockholm.

'Denizot is a philosopher, theorist, (Heidegger school). And has been very interested in the work of On Kawara for years. In Halifax there were extensive talks between Kawara who showed us the work and which took us on to New York. Drafts for the text exist - and Denizot’s intention is to write a text accompanying the exhibition that has translations on the topic and should be in French and English. So far we have spoken of a “parallel text” that exists in the context of the exhibition and indirectly deals with Kawara’s work.

'It is important to make the decision to commission the Denizot Text before summer. It will only be possible to receive the text from him when the editorial deadline is set. He also asked me for an advance payment for translation costs. With your consent, I would like to authorize him to finish the text. His address in Paris is: 117 Rue Championnet, Paris 57018 / France. Explanatory comments from the organizers - wherever necessary - would of course appear in the catalogue in addition to the Denizot text, perhaps as extended captions.'

In all this, KK clearly got his way. However, his next concern was:

'Excerpts from “I GOT UP” should, if possible, be shown in color. Of course I only mean the front of the postcards. The multi-colored reproductions of the postcards are very important to me personally and ironic in the context of art catalogues, especially since they neither want to interpret, nor manipulate, material value. I very much hope that it will be possible to make these expenses.'

As you can see, colour was only used to show the front and back of a single postcard. The remaining postcards were shown as small black and white photos over ten pages.


However, KK had only budgeted for ten pages to be used for the I GOT UP series, which suggests he had accepted that only about 75 out of 365 postcards would be reproduced, about 20% of the total. Which is quite a compromise for a book describing itself as 'One Year's Production' and representing an exhibition that featured 100% of the postcards in their original size and in full colour.

But KK got the last laugh in that he somehow got away with (perhaps by not mentioning it in his May 28 letter) reproducing a total of 30 all-black pages of which this is a double-page sample.


Why? Well, out of loyalty to On Kawara. 15 such double-pages appeared in the Journal for 1973, being black and white photos of the night sky taken in Stockholm at the beginning of 1973. Taken at a time when looking up into the starry sky at night made On Kawara feel his utter insignificance. A feeling surely related to how he felt while coming up with his Million Years Past and Million Years Future projects.

The darkness and the emptiness just go on and on. Maybe one gets that feeling as one turns over the black pages of the catalogue. The lack of consciousness just goes on and on…

On the other hand, these 'blank' pages could have been used for extra coverage of I MET, I READ and I WENT. Let's consider I MET:


24 out of 365 I METs were published. Covering the period from September 16, 1973 to October 7, 1973. Part of which time was spent in Roscoe where On and Hiroko would go for fishing weekends in New York state. Obviously, that choice of materials would have been come from On Kawara. So as not to give certain things away? For some reason, On didn't mind all 365 sheets of I MET being available for exhibition purposes, but he was less keen on the material being made widely available in permanent book form. Perhaps he knew that by presenting so much information in the exhibition, no viewer would be able to come to terms with it.

Similarly for I WENT, there were only five pages published. A tiny percentage of the whole year, which again was made available as part of the exhibition.


Five days in a row from June 1, 1973, to June 5, 1973. When On was in Halifax and going off the map each day to do something at Musquoidoboit Harbour. In other words, the maps chosen could hardly be more obscure. At least they were printed at a decent size, so that one can make out the unrevealing detail of the map.

Lastly, I READ. The purchaser of the catalogue gets twenty pages of this. They show the kind of articles On had been reading and how he marked up the pages for his own reference. Sample pages from January, February, March and April, so quite generous compared to the amount reproduced of I MET, I WENT and I GOT UP.


Actually - correction - they are not just sample pages. They are a continuous sequence, because On Kawara only filed away articles that related to each Date Painting. So what's there is everything from the 13th Date Painting, in January, to the 24th Date Painting of the year, in April. 11 paintings out of 85 being, once again, a relatively small proportion of the total year's production.

Would it have been 'better' if the 30 black/blank pages had been used for more I GOT UP, I MET, I WENT and I READ? Yes, but there was something perverse going on. On had a compulsion to divulge it all, yet he wanted to keep everything a secret. He couldn't give without simultaneously holding back. Or at least that's how it seems to me.

Maybe that takes us back to the importance of complementariness. The gift of information
complements the absolutely private person.


All that sets us up nicely for the show's opening on August 30, 1974. Here is the poster designed by Kasper König making use of On Kawara's 100-year calendar that was produced by William Copley in 1969.


On and Hiroko did not attend the opening. Although, as we'll see, they saw the exhibition before it closed in October. This photo of the contemporary art gallery, Kunsthalle Bern, is from 1969.


Who has taken the liberty of parking on the pavement, right outside? Wait for the big reveal!

The photo below, shows the piece of furniture that crops up in the photos of the 85 Date Paintings that appear in the catalogue. Indeed it crops up eight times in the four pages given over to the Date Paintings. I now suspect it's a bin.

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

A good solid bin, accessible for the depositing of rubbish from human hand on all four sides. However, as far as the show is concerned, it supports a tray, or large box lid, which contains books or binders whose pages can be scrutinised and turned over.

The photo below shows how the postcards were displayed for the exhibition. In such a way that both sides of each postcard could be looked at. Which makes sense, as both sides need to be seen: one side complements the other.

Visitor 1: "I believe there is going to be an artist's talk."

Visitor 2. "Really? I heard On Kawara didn't attend his own openings and never talked about his work in public."

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

Below is a drawing that Kasper Konig made (back in May) to go along with the plan he sketched of the show. It shows a visitor in the entrance hall of Kunsthalle Bern, where the early Journals were displayed, his eye apparently much taken by his sighting of the Date Paintings.

Reproduced with the forbearance of Kasper König, I hope.

Which puts me in mind of the following photo, taken in 1969, when Joseph Beuys took part in a group show at Kunsthalle Bern. Just look at the swaggering confidence of the man! A big iron on his wrist. Top Gun or what? Of course, he was rear gunner in a bomber in the Second World War, so that maybe explains why he gives the impression of being some kind of post-War, postmodern, European cowboy. A gunslinger to amuse the baby boomer generation? Surely he has come to give the artist's talk in the absence of On Kawara.

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

Joseph Beuys and On Kawara must have met. But did they? (Oh, to have access to the complete I MET series just to check that out.) Would they have been impressed by each other? I mean they are opposites. Beuys is all presence. Kawara is entirely absent, leaving the most meticulous work in his place.

I think they would have met in New York in 1970 if Konrad Fischer had been supportive of Joseph Beuys. But Beuys wasn't part of his stable, so Fischer made sure that Beuys wasn't part of the international show at the Guggenheim.

They both (OK and JB) had a connection with Halifax. But I think they just missed each other. On Kawara's 'Million Years' show was at Halifax in 1971 and he visited the Nova Scotia art school in 1973. Joseph Beuys went there to a conference of prominent artists in 1970. And, to the surprise of all, emerged as the conference's natural leader: being so approachable, hugging everyone, and always having something inspiring and political to say. The other artists just stood around, listening to the man dressed in fishing jacket and homburg. Not an easy costume to pull off. Certainly not as a German. A little more humility was expected from a citizen of a defeated nation. I think that's something that On Kawara had to face up to as well. They both chose to become rootless, international, men of the world, though opposites.

At some stage, Joseph Beuys would have met Kasper König, and surely König told Beuys all about the New York-Japanese artist whose fascination with time and consciousness was giving rise to a singular and astonishing

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

"Now what do we have here? " says the laconic master, immediately getting everyone's attention without use of the word 'Achtung'.

"Simply the date.
Ja. Days that belong to you, me and to the artist. But how many of us really own these dates?

"In contrast with the simple, straight aesthetic of On Kawara, you can see I've been messing about with some plaster, beeswax and fat in the corner of the gallery. What does my dismal little line on the floor have to say about On Kawara's restrained rationality? They play off each other as opposites. Don't they? They sing together.

"Do you know a Japanese band called The Beatles?
Nein? Do you know a German band called The Rolling Stones? This is one of theirs:

"When I'm watchin' my TV, and a man comes on and tells me
How white my shirts can be.
But, he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke
The same cigarettes as me.
I can't get no - oh, no, no, no - hey, hey, hey!
That's what I say."

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

"By the way, On and I do smoke the same brand of cigarettes. I am not proud of that. I don't suppose On is proud of it. We are children of the 20th Century, formed by the rough and ready times we live through.

"By the way also, do you want to know what On Kawara looks like? He goes about in a homburg, a freshly laundered white shirt and
a fishing jacket. No, don't laugh! - I'm serious. All great artists would look exactly the same if you could see into their souls."

"I look around and what do I see. A group of people dressed in fishing jackets and homburg hats. Nein, don't laugh every time! Everyone is capable of being an artist. That's what On is saying in his work. That's what I am saying in my work, God help me."

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

"Ha! I should not have invoked a God that does not exist. We exist, that's all we know. It is up to us to transform our lives into all that they could be. You, Sir. Is your life all it could be? If not, what is holding you back? The government? The university? Other people's expectations? Just do what you like, you might be surprised at how little people expect from you. You might be surprised at what you can get away with. Ja! Very surprised!"

"Let me tell you about On coming back from a tour of South American cities a few years ago. He was with Hiroko, his charming and brilliant wife, who told me the story I am about to tell you. He had boxes like these ones, except bigger, filled with paintings. Two different sized boxes, for size A bilder and size B bilder. Maybe ten boxes altogether, because he was transporting about 50 Date Paintings, which were all the paintings he had made while staying in Lima, Caracas, Brasilia, Montevideo, Sau Paulo, and so on.

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

"So they collected the boxes with the rest of their luggage and made their way to customs. On thought he had better declare them. Big mistake. The customs officers wouldn't believe that the dates were, in fact, paintings. Why would anyone paint the date? They didn't know what to make of them. They looked at his passport and all it said was 'Tourist'. They thought the dates might be a code. Which dates had been recorded and which were missed out? What was the significance of the background colour? Was there a pattern? They kept the paintings for about a month then gave up, and told On to take them away. But they still didn't know what to make of the Date Paintings. I could have told them. 'We won't live forever, so we'd better do our living in the days that we have got.'.

"Today, yesterday, tomorrow. That's the time-frame to focus on. I'm here today, I was in Dusseldorf yesterday, I will be in Scotland tomorrow, chasing the deer from one end of Loch Awe to the other."

At the end of the talk, there is a spattering of applause. Beuys acknowledges it with an ironic bow.

Later, in a Bern
bierkeller, Joseph Beuys can be found talking to a string of A-list art celebs who were also at the opening. For fifteen minutes, he has been knocking back premium lager from a litre pot, while Andy Warhol has been sipping from a Coke while fiddling with his camera. A single photo exists of their exchange, which was overheard and recorded for posterity by Kasper König:

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

Dear reader, have you read enough meticulously researched and restrainedly expressed paragraphs about the opening of On Kawara's first major show? All right then, easily sated one, let's move on.


One can see why On Kawara would not have felt comfortable to be at his own opening in Bern. A very private individual surrounded by all that extraordinary and idiosyncratic work. He would have been self-conscious about attracting attention as the individual responsible for it. People might even have been tempted to take his photograph in conjunction with the work.

So he stayed in New York and Date Painted. Well, there were five DPs made in September, all in size B. But he would have been curious about the show. Such an ambitious production, the likes of which had never been seen before. I don't know who the postcards went to in September. Or who On Kawara MET. Or where he WENT. This was so obviously an in-between time that he has never felt motivated to put any of the material up for publication or exhibition.

But we do have an I GOT UP from right at the end of the month, published in
On Kawara: Horizontality/Verticality following On's flight to Switzerland. Clearly Hiroko was with him. She had been heavily involved in the show's preparations and wouldn't have wanted to - or been expected to - be left out.

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

Ikko Narahara was a Japanese photographer of On Kawara's generation, whose work is in the collection of MOMA in New York. On and Hiroko met him often in New York in 1973, so he would have featured on many I MET lists in the Bern show. Visitors would have had a chance to pick out his name looking down upon the long, square-shaped vitrine as marked on Kasper König's diagram.

I wonder how long On Kawara stayed in Geneva. Obviously he didn't arrive or depart the city on September the 29th, as the line of red biro remains quite close to the city centre. He must have been itching to get to Bern is all I can say, so I don't suppose he would have hung about for more than a day or two.

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

Perhaps he was in Bern from the beginning of October. But the only evidence I have is again from On Kawara: Horizontality/Verticality, in the form of a single 'I GOT UP' and 'I WENT':

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

Let's take a peek at what the hotel looks like in 2021.


A world heritage site.

And what a charming map. The hotel is in the top half of it, surrounded by medieval churches and clock towers, and the art gallery is the focal point in the bottom half, close to an enormous bridge over the river.

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

I guess the Kawaras would already have been in Bern for a few days, but October 6 was the last day of the show, and so the artist would no doubt have his reasons for taking a final look round it. The aerial photograph below has the Kunsthalle in its centre. But the first thing one notices is the bridge and the dam. There is quite some height difference between the water and the art gallery. I didn't know Switzerland's capital city was so quaint.

This photo is taken at right angles to the above map.


Let's get down to Street View:


The casino! On might have been tempted to go straight there and play. Certainly, he would have been nervous the first time he approached the gallery. For on that occasion he was going to be a viewer of his art work, not the artist. And he must have hoped that he would like what he saw.


Let's imagine that On Kawara is entering the Kunsthalle, Bern on the last day of the show. Let's try and see the exhibition through his eyes on that occasion. Maybe with the aid of those diagrams that Kasper König made.

Reproduced with the forbearance of Kasper König, I hope.

On does not spend much time with the Journals for 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969. They show that he made a lot of Dates beginning in 1966… They show that he went to Mexico in 1968… They show that he commemorated the moon landing in 1969… They show that he made a painting every single day through the first three months of 1970…

He passes through to the Date Painting room. He walks around the outside of the inner square, looking down at the pages of the Journal. He can hardly believe that Kasper got away with the thirty black pages… The monthly lists of DPs are a handy summary, and the eye travels, easily enough, between those and the Dates on the walls. What is this feeling that fills him? Relief? Pride? Joy?

Reproduced with the forbearance of Kasper König, I hope.

After a few circuits of the Dates, it's through to the side room where the I WENT maps have been delicately affixed to the walls and the I MET sheets lie face-up in the chest-high display 'square'. Those I METS where Hiroko Hiraoka is not the first name on the list catch On's eye. Then something swops round and he sees just how often Hiroko's name tops the list of people he met each day.

On was on his own in Stockholm, and while travelling through Europe and Africa. Then suddenly Hiroko joined him and there was the marriage in Dakar. No, that is a secret. But there is obviously something special about I WENT for March 16, 1973. Surely every visitor to the show must have noticed it. Not to mention all the I METs where Hiroko's is the only name on the page. Though Kasper says "No," to both these observations. And On trusts Kasper.

Reproduced with the forbearance of Kasper König, I hope.

Halifax…Cape Breton…Ansell and Dina …Salmon fishing….

"Look, On. The day a salmon took my fly!"

"How could I ever forget!"

Then back to New York for a road trip right across the States from east to west. With Hiroko in the passenger seat.

After circling the I MET square a few times, On and Hiroko pass through to where the postcards shine through their transparent plastic setting.

Reproduced with the forbearance of Kasper König, I hope.

On's addresses… On's contacts addresses…The pictures on the postcards… The days brought to life at the time…The days brought back to life in retrospect… What a tourist On was and always would be…Postcards to Konrad Fischer. On smiling every time he placed a postcard to Dusseldorf in a postbox in red-neck country… No postcards to Hiroko. That's because he was with her every day…

Good. All good. On smiles.

"What a friend we have in Kasper," he says to Hiroko.

"I was just thinking that myself."


The Kawaras stayed on in Bern until the middle of the month, and On made Date Paintings on the 13th, 15th and 17th.

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

It's probable that they travelled back to Geneva - where they'd stopped off on the way to Bern - on the 19th, as a Date Painting was produced there on the 20th.

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

The Kawaras then flew back to New York. The surprising thing is that On Kawara went straight into more Date Painting. He made paintings on October 24, 25, 29 and 31. Why did he not take it easy for a few days, to get over the jet lag and get used to being back in the Big Apple? I suspect it was because he knew Heinz Nigg was coming to stay with them, and that it might be awkward to do any Date Painting for the length of his stay, which was set to be until the middle of November.

Here is the autobiography of Heinz Nigg. He is the tall, young, laughing figure in the cover photo, though he is now about the age of the small, droll-seeming guy.

Reproduced thanks to the forbearance of Heinz Nigg, I hope.

As you can see, the book is in German.

Reproduced thanks to the forbearance of Heinz Nigg, I hope.

An English edition will be available next year, but I can't wait that long. Fortunately, it is September 28, 2021, and all I have to do is point the camera of my iPhone at the page and the text bursts into English.

The top section of the chapter's opening page explains that Heinz Nigg had been enthusiastic about On Kawara's exhibition in Bern and had been invited to New York by the Kawaras. His boss, Johann Gachnang had travelled to New York as well, in order to discuss with Carl Andre the distinct prospect of a show at Bern, and with the aim of discussing the possibility of shows with Donald Judd and Clyfford Still.

As Heinz uses a diary format throughout this chapter, I will do the same. Returning from my camera to paraphrase his words for this essay…

3 November, 1974

Heinz Nigg travels to New York with Johannes Gachnang (know as Johnny). At Kennedy Airport they are met by the Kawaras who drive the pair to the New York flat of the Königs, who live on the 19th floor of a block in a smart neighbourhood. The children are described as 'still small'. The flat is minimally furnished, though there is a red Date Painting on the wall of the dining room. Kasper König translates the English spoken by the Kawaras into German, for the benefit of Johnny.

At 9.30pm the Kawaras, bidding farewell to the König family and Johnny, take Heinz to their flat on 23rd street. (I suspect the author means 22nd Street, since that's the address suggested by several other sources of information.) It is in a rundown area and the Kawaras seem tense while parking the car, with good reason as it happens, given the behaviour of an odd individual. A lift, for which a key is needed, takes them to the seventh floor. Heinz is told that the Kawaras know nobody else in the building.

They arrive at a large room, 25 metres by 10 metres. There is also a smaller room where the Kawaras sleep, which is also where the bathroom is situated. Heinz’s bed is in the large studio separated by a screen. They have made it comfortable for him, with a radio, and with access to the bathroom, kitchen (which is inset into the large room), a refrigerator and a table for his own use.

On Kawara's workroom is a small area in the main room. He has a book case there with articles on his work and books about Conceptual Art. There is also a collection of art objects that have come from artist friends.

There are recent Date Paintings on at least one of the walls. And there is a ping-pong table in the middle of the large room. (This makes me think that the photo I placed in the first 1974 essay, suggesting it was of the new Greene Street flat, was actually taken on the 7th floor of the 22nd Street flat.)


Heinz and the Kawaras drink cola and smoke, while talking about the origins of Conceptual Art in New York ten years before. Then they retire to bed.

4 November, 1974

Heinz wakes up at 6am and listens to the radio, about a protest that is going on in front of the United Nations building. Over breakfast in the flat, Heinz talks with the Kawaras about their origins in Japan. The Second World War, Japanese nationalism, that nation's isolation and the fact that you cannot become Japanese just by going there.

Heinz goes to Central Park where he meets the Königs. He then wanders New York, sight-seeing, before getting back to the flat. More conversation with the Kawaras,. Ping-pong. Then bed.

5 November, 1974

Heinz, Johnny and Kasper visit Donald Judd in his studio and Heinz is duly impressed by the set-up, and by Judd. Later they meet Carl Andre (less physically impressive) by chance, and more talking is done. Gallery visits take up the rest of the day, including taking in the very important Leo Castelli Gallery.

Johnny and Heinz buy two bottles of wine for dinner with the Kawaras. They find On working in his small study, marking the Sundays past and the Sundays to come, as dots on his 100-year calendar. On wears a leather cap to keep the light from shining directly into his eyes. He looks like an accountant. And the marks look like musical notation. Heinz wonders if it is deliberate that the flat looks out onto a clock. They enjoy a fine dinner.

I can find no clock in the vicinity of the top flat of East 22nd Street in 2021. But just to remind you, dear reader, where Heinz is enjoying dinner with his colleague and the Kawaras, it's at the top of this building.


After dinner, once Johannes/Johnny has gone back to stay with the Königs, a couple of older artists are discussed at length, Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, and a couple of younger ones, Dan Graham and Joseph Kosuth who was the first Conceptual Artist to have a show at the Leo Castelli Gallery. The day ends with Heinz writing in his diary that On Kawara speaks in riddles. What does he mean by saying that he wants to remain invisible and that he will make no official statements about his work?

6 November, 1974

Heinz gets up late and meets Johnny at 2pm in the Guggenheim. They go uptown to the Leo Castelli Gallery and see huge paintings by Roy Lichtenstein and a Mao Tse Tung by Andy Warhol in Castelli's office. They also go to the Whitney Museum and to a Michael Pistoletto opening.

Heinz is back at the Kawaras by 5pm. He has a long conversation with On about his early life. On nearly died three times while living in Tokyo, he was so poor. His father was rich, but On wanted to be independent of his father's wealth. However, when he was in Mexico, he did accept money from him, when the Mexican state bought out his father's company. The change of mind is not explained, at least not by Heinz in his diary. Ursula Meyer's book on Conceptual Art, published in 1972, comprises Heinz's late night reading.


7 November, 1974

Heinz and Johnny meet Carl Andre at the John Weber Gallery. Carl takes them to an Italian Restaurant in Soho. They come to an agreement about what Bern will do for the artist. A catalogue raissoné, and maybe some poems and installations. The artist talks about coming from a working class background. He reckons that the class system is more permeable in the States than in Europe. He invites the pair to dinner on Sunday where they will meet his girlfriend, the gallerist Angela Westwater. After the meeting Johnny and Heinz walk past Donald Judd's studio in Soho, where the wind blows large pieces pf paper around. At the Kawaras, there is a visitor from Japan, a ballet critic.

8 November, 1974

Heinz meets Johnny and Kasper and they go to the studio of John Chamberlain. (This may have been the studio at 405 East 13th Street, where On Kawara first made Date Paintings, as when On left that in 1967, it was Chamberlain who took it over, as he needed more space for his assemblages of car parts.)

Chamberlain's studio looks like garage according to Heinz. Then Kasper takes them to lunch (sandwiches, with chewing gum for dessert) in a restaurant for truck drivers in the port area. After lunch they go to an art bookshop where Heinz considers a book by Malevich and buys one by Lucy Lippard. Dinner at the Königs is baked shrimp, rice and lettuce with vanilla semolina to follow. Later, Kasper accuses Heinz of reading too much and not looking enough. Back at the Kawaras, the talk goes on until 2am. Heinz finishes the day by reading a Carl Andre catalogue.

9 November, 1974

Conversation with the Kawaras about living in America. Everything happens quickly. Jobs, acquaintances, friends. Hiroko's mother was married under the direction of her parents. On gives Heinz an article to read in
Studio International by René Denizot and another. The text is pretty abstract. The fridge is empty. So Heinz goes out to shop.

On Kawara tells Heinz about his youth. He was a good pupil to begin with. Then doubts came. He would read during class and not answer the teacher's questions. Sometimes he would fall asleep in class because he'd been reading all night. The teachers had to be careful how they dealt with him because his father was an important figure in the town. In the art class, On was taught about modern art, and artists such as Mondrian. He would copy artists that he liked.

So that the virus of modern art was not transferred to his fellow pupils, On was given the key to his own studio. The fact that he didn't go to art school disappointed his art teacher. On Kawara wanted to stand on his own two feet, and moved four hours away to Tokyo. He stayed overnight in subway stations and rummaged in book stores. A friendly bookseller let him sleep in a box under a book table. On learned about three artists, a puppeteer, a painter and a sculptor. They became his friends. Through them he came into contact with people at Tokyo University. One big problem puzzled On and his generation. How could his parents' generation adopt American democratic values so quickly and absolutely. What about their own traditions?

On Kawara started to write. A paper by him on Beauty and Ugliness was published by the Philosophy department. After about six months he could afford his own apartment. He began to draw. First with pencil on the cheapest paper. Then with coloured pencils. He expressed Japan's existential problems induced by the war. The Modern Art Museum in Tokyo owns a series of these drawings. He tries to make it clear to the Japanese that his more recent work, the Conceptual Art made in America, has got nothing to do with Japan, or if it has, on a very abstract level. His work is more about his years of wandering in Mexico, Paris and elsewhere.

At 6pm Heinz goes to visit the Königs. He has a glass of wine and reads an essay about Clyfford Still. They go to a party at René Block Gallery. Ilka, Kasper's wife, looks fantastic, according to Heinz, who describes her in detail. They take a lift to the first floor where the party has already started. It is a birthday party for a grand old lady of politics. Johnny is talking to Claes Oldenburg who says that if the talk gets wild, it doesn't matter. No-one will remember anything about it the next day. Heinz is introduced to a New York original, a postman who collects art. He meets a museum director and
. a fresh-faced young artist Bill Beckley who also works at Konrad Fischer Gallery in Dusseldorf. Heinz goes home tired at 1am.

10 November, 1974

Johnny and the Königs arrive in the afternoon. The on Kawara catalogue for his Brussels show and the 100-Year screen print are discussed. It's decided that 365 should be printed, one original for every day of the year 1974. Half will go to the gallery at Bern. There is pumpkin bread for tea. Then ping-pong.

Reproduced thanks to the forbearance of the copyright holder, I hope.

By 8 o'clock they are at Carl Andre's for dinner. Music by Bach. Pastel-coloured prints by Sol LeWitt on the walls. (John Baldessari also had Sol LeWitt on his walls: the artist's artist.) Carl is not a fan of Marcel Duchamp. For dinner there is sauerkraut, ribs, sausage, potatoes and white wine. The host shows photos of his hometown in Massachusetts. A rather formal evening, Heinz suggests: you sniff around and gradually get to know each other.

11 November, 1974

Heinz writes postcards, plays ping-pong with On, and at 5 o'clock goes for an aperitif in honour of Gerard Malanga at Gotham Bookstore. He buys the Whole Earth Catalogue and a booklet with 22 poems by Patti Smith. At home, On, Hiroko and two guests are playing Mah-Jong. Heinz eats rice, watches TV and reads an article by Lucy Lippard on Sol Le Witt.

12 November, 1974

In the afternoon Heinz goes to a bookshop in the East Village and buys several books for a friend. He meets Carl Andre again at the John Weber Gallery and they go to Carl's favourite Italian cafe. At the Kawaras there is a homely atmosphere and they enjoy stuffed cabbage leaves. Heinz intends to call Sol LeWitt and arrange a meeting. Heinz then makes notes about Sol LeWitt's philosophy of art based on an article of his he's read from a 1967 copy of Art Forum.

13 November, 1974

Heinz decides to try and let the impressions of what he's seen and heard in New York settle down in his mind. In the afternoon he reads more about Sol le Witt, then meets Carl Andre at 5pm. Carl suggests that there is too much chatter about art and not enough looking. Heinz has a walk through Greenwich Village. Back home, the Kawaras have another Japanese guest, an artist who is also an art teacher and a journalist.

14 November, 1974

Up early and already with Kasper the king at 10am. Many telephone calls. Heinz phones Sol LeWitt to rearrange their meeting. Back at the Königs for an evening meal of spaghetti carbonara. Kasper wonders if Carl Andre's minimal poems are art works or poetry. Back at the Kawaras, Heinz listens to Patti Smith's single 'Hey Joe'. Heinz writes up his diary and realises his New York trip is in full swing.

15 November, 1974

The return flight to Switzerland is booked. Then it's off to see the king! Kasper König is talking to Angela Westwater on the phone and Carl Andre is more interested than ever in the prospect of a show at Bern. They go on to meet Richard Serra at his studio in the port area. Serra talks big and works big. After lunch in an Italian restaurant, Kasper drives Johnny and Heinz to the well-guarded building. On Kawara's room has shelving on all four walls. This is where he stores his Date Paintings, each in a cardboard box with a newspaper cutting. Heinz is overwhelmed. On Kawara must surely talk about this work into which he puts so much effort. Not just painting the pictures, but packing them, storing them and managing them so that they can be exhibited anywhere in the world. Heinz finishes his diary entry by quoting Sol LeWitt, who he clearly has become enamoured with: 'If the artist carries through his idea and makes it into visible form, then all the steps in the process are of importance.'

Back in the car, they go to Gallery Friedrich, the gallery which represents Carl Andre in Europe. Johnny has to agree that the catalogue has photos included. Johnny agrees this and the deal is toasted with cognac. Back to the Kawaras where there is paella to eat. (Where does all this food at the Kawaras magically appear from? Does Hiroko produce it?) Dan Graham is there and Heinz suggests he is highly thought of by the younger generation. Dan stands for the autonomy of art and brings popular culture on board. He talks quietly, but evidently with an air of authority. Internationalism is dead and there will be an opportunity for local artists, according to Dan. Kasper König drops in and an exciting table tennis tournament takes place.


So who would have been in the tournament? On and Hiroko. Heinz and Johannes. Kasper and Dan. What about the glamorous Ilka? And an eighth person? Surely any ping-pong tournament needs a minimum of eight people! I'm going to suggest, subtly evoke (I hope), Sol LeWitt.


16 November, 1974

Penultimate day. Johnny and Heinz take a taxi to 117 Hester Street to meet Sol LeWitt. A poor area on the Lower West side. To Heinz he is the sensitive scholar amongst artists. Sol shows them his latest artist's book, which Heinz describes as copper-plate engraving and wonderful. Clearly this is an important experience for Heinz, listening to the views of such an enlightened, practising artist. He quotes lines from a text piece, 'Sentences on Conceptual Art', quoted in Conceptual Art by Ursula Meyer. 'Conceptual Artists are mystics rather than rationalists…Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution…When an artist learns his craft too well he makes slick art…' The books that Kasper König published at the Nova Scotia Press, for instance a title by Claes Oldenburg, are mentioned as being of importance. Though Heinz does not make it clear whether this is said in the meeting with Sol or not. Or at least the translation that I am dependent on doesn't make it clear.

Last visit to the John Weber Gallery in Soho. At 2.15pm, on to the Freidrich Gallery. Then to Donald Judd's place. They take the elevator to the 3rd floor where there is a huge metal box that was made by the artist. Then to the 5th floor where there is work by Dan Flavin and John Chamberlain. 'Judd the collector!' writes Heinz. Judd shows Heinz an article he has written on Malevich. It is agreed that Judd's show at Bern will be in the spring of 1975. The deal is sealed with the knocking back of a single malt.

To an opening at a gallery on Broadway. Hanna Darboven is the artist. Her drawings are delicate and she is praised on all sides for them. Heinz reflects on all the hard work that has gone on unseen. He reflects too on how until a few years ago it was unheard of for a European artist to be successful in New York. Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt are both at the opening. Later, Johnny and Heinz walk through Greenwich Village. Johnny buys toys for the König children, a mouse and an owl. Then they eat T-bone steak and talk for a long time together.

17 November, 1974

Tired and excited, Heinz and Johnny fly home. The latter has achieved a lot. Heinz wonders what will linger in his own memory from the two weeks in New York, immersed in art. He muses that art lives through argument.

As for On Kawara, free from the benign presence of his Swiss guest, his Date Painting could be resumed:

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

And, for a while, games of ping-pong may have been exclusively with Hiroko and perhaps the Königs. But by the beginning of December, On was Date Painting every day up until the 8th of the month.

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

This doesn't mean that there was no table-tennis going on. Ping-pong was the ideal complementary activity to Date Painting, especially when On was waiting for his acrylic to dry.

But with both On's birthday (on the 24th of December) and Christmas fast-approaching, the Kawaras decided to go on another road trip. The first Date Painting stop would be Atlanta on December the 27th. But the story of the road trip to the South must be told on the
next page.


1) The online archive at Kunsthalle Bern is a developing resource. 'Working with the material in the Archive, researchers and invited guests continuously contribute to the growing set of digitally available documents'. So, dear reader, do the whole world a favour and visit Bern. It would be great to see more of the dots in the On Kawara space blown up into circles.

2) This page owes a great deal to the work of Kasper König. Thanks also to Heinz Nigg for writing his memoirs.