On met Kasper, Leo, Coco and Lili for the first seven days of the year. Indeed, it would seem that the Königs stayed with On and Hiroko at 140 Greene Street, from which On hardly emerged all week. And on January 8, On and Hiroko accompanied their close friends to JFK International Airport. At least that's what I deduce from the 'I WENT' map of that day:

hrigo3egrxivx8ekjqndig_thumb_f243 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I deduce further that Ilka had gone ahead to Munich to organise a place for the family to stay, and this was Kasper and the children flying out to join her in their newly habitable home. They seem to have been accompanied by a Nahas Lahcene as his/her name is on all those early January 'I MET' lists before disappearing with the Königs in a puff of jet engine smoke. I mean a line of red biro.

And Anna Astner? She was also met by On on January 1, and her name was present too on the day of the exodus. I suspect that she didn't go to Munich, though. On met Anna a few weeks later, on January 27, a day in which On did not leave 140 Greene Street (you can just make out the red dot to the left of the 'B' on Broadway in the map below) and met no-one else except Hiroko. Why had Anna dropped by? To hear what the news was of the König family?

bjmzy66jspka6x934yjvpa_thumb_f245.fwylnptwsuorbivneikyaw_thumb_f246 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Perhaps Anna Astner had a separate relationship with On and Hiroko, and the future of the Königs was not even touched on. I've come to think that Anna had separate relationships with Ilka as well as Kasper too. I'd like to know more about it all, but such information may not be forthcoming. That's what it's like in the real world, is it not, dear reader? You have to make what you can of the little bits of data that come your way.

You get up. You go out. You meet. You talk to a few people, disclosing the odd fact while keeping some things to yourself. On Kawara did it. We all do it. On did it his way. And I do it in my way…

Imagine. On and Anna sitting facing each other. They sit there for hours on end, On painting the date while Anna sobs.


Imagine. On and Anna sitting facing each other. They sit there in silence for hours, then Anna's face suddenly lights up. She wants to know who On has been sending postcards to this last year. From January 1, 1977, to December 31, 1977. First and second postcards. Exact views of New York and precise getting up times. She has a sudden thirst for detail.


Imagination not dead yet: imagine. On and Anna sitting facing each other. They sit there in silence for hours, then it's On's face that suddenly lights up:

On: "I'm going to be a father."

Anna: "Oh God, not you as well."


As the year began, Hiroko was nearly six months pregnant. No mid-winter road-trip across the States for On and Hiroko, then. Instead, On went on Date Painting in New York. Was he in an ongoing existentialist crisis re the handing down of consciousness to the next generation? I expect he was eagerly anticipating the happy event.

Back to the beginning of 1978.

otlookakscsg8qzlki0025lka_thumb_dc19 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

On Date Painted January 5, 12, 13, 14 and 19. I've seen two of these, and both are flushed red with excitement.

jvr0025shzbtucwdyvoua6rhq_thumb_dd2f Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

What about 'I READ'? Does anything jump out from a browse through that? Let's be objective about it. Here are the headlines I can make out from January and February's Dates:

JAN. 5, 1978: Not a headline but large photo of President Carter laying a wreath in Normandy to commemorate D-Day.

JAN. 12, 1978 (red): 'Henry Ford Tours His Operations in Land of Apartheid.'

JAN. 13, 1978 (red): 'U.S. and Japan Agree on trade.'

JAN. 14, 1978: 'Did Pimp Kill Pamela?'

JAN. 19: 1978: 'Italy Forms New Government.'

FEB. 9, 1978 (red): 'Canada to Expel 11 Soviet Aides In Spying Case.' Plus: 'Syrian and Lebanese Aides Meet As Fighting Continues for 3rd Day.'

In other words, this is service continuing as normal. I should say in passing that the above unusual headline, which came with a photo of prostitute Pamela, was clipped from the Daily News rather than On's usual NY Times.

One of the postcards at this time was going to Michael Sesteer, the Dutch painter who was alive only from 1935 to 1989.

bi84vmq5tdurb0025bjhw6bdq_thumb_dd12 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

By the time On Kawara and Michele Didier compiled the volumes of 'I GOT UP' in 2008, the cards to Michael Sesteer were unavailable, though the one sent on February 22 was lamely reconstructed for the book, without a picture side or even Sesteer's address. So the card reproduced in the volume for the above Feb 12, 1978 was the following one sent to Werner Lippert. The quality of reproduction is kept deliberately low on Tama Art University's website, but it's still possible to work out that the picture side of the card was not (quite) the same as the other postcard sent that day, the one to Michael Sesteer.


What else can I say about January and February, on the basis of 'I MET'?

January. A lot of meetings with Celia de Torres or members of her family after the first five days of the month. And Aoki was met on eight occasions.

February: Many meetings with members of the de Torres family, but also with neighbours George Lambrou and K B Hwang and his wife, Jean Kim Hwang. It seems that 140 Greene Street was filling up with owner-occupiers. Again, On saw a lot of Aoki, but Soroku was met nine times and Nobu five, so On was meeting his regulars as well as his neighbours.


On painted five Dates in March. I've seen reproductions of three of these, two of which are red and one black:

aobv0luaswgbs4mylkukgq_thumb_db88 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

As it happens, it's the first and last Date of the month that I know to be red. So let's use the space between repros of them to analyse the headlines:

MAR.10, 1978 (red): 'Soviet Space Station'

MAR.14, 1978: 'Dutch Marines Free All Hostages And Capture 3 Asian Terrorists' Plus from a second page: 'SADAT ASSAILS RAID BY P.L.O. IN ISRAEL'

MAR.16, 1978: '73 Killed in Bulgarian Plane Crash'

MAR.17, 1978 (black): 'Israelis Said to Advance in Lebanon And Seize Area Beyond 6-Mile Zone'. Plus from a second page: 'Hanoi Says Its Troops Are Battling Cambodians' Plus from a third page: 'BYRNE SIGNS NEW LAW ON LICENSING CASINOS'

MAR.22, 1978 (red): 'CARTER AND BEGIN FAIL TO RESOLVE PROBLEMS: U.N. TROOPS IN LEBANON Plus from a second page: 'TRUDEAU ASKS ACTION ON WORLD PROBLEMS' Plus from third page: Not a headline but three photos of Karl Wallenda as he fell to his death from a high-wire stunt in high winds.

In other words, I don't think Hiroko's pregnancy was having any influence on On Kawara's reading of the newspapers. But I'm sure it was dictating the colour that was being selected so much more often than ever before.

jhdoplylq0025wldpslk4fwvw_thumb_dd0f Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

What can be achieved in terms of deadpan expressionism by way of the clever yet simple use of a code. By the end of March, Hiroko was eight months pregnant and On was still bumping into his neighbours and having long chats with his old friends, Nobu, Aoki and Soroku.


Kasper Konig must have got talking to Rüdiger Schöttle in Munich, the director of a commercial gallery there. Kasper had already got Konrad Fischer representing On Kawara in Dusseldorf, but it must have seemed like a good idea to have a gallery representing On right on his own doorstep. Anyway, in April, to encourage the gallerist, On began sending Rüdiger Schöttle 'I GOT UP' cards, a few of which I will reproduce shortly.

On and Hiroko would have been focussing on the imminent birth of their own first child. On's contribution was to continue to make red Date Paintings. Well, I can't say that exactly. I don't know what colour the Dates made on April 1 and 4 were. But the ones made on April 12 and 13 were red.

The 'I WENT' maps from April 12 show On going to the hospital on a daily basis, up to and including April 16. Miyuki Fukui, the wife of Nobu, was met each day from April 12, and I would suggest she went along with On to the hospital each day. Either that or she was bringing On food. A semi-official document found online suggests that 'Akito Kawahara' was born on April 12, 1978. On saw Hiroko that day, but he did not see her on April 13, though he again went to the hospital. On Kawara found the time and composure to make a Date Painting on this day, see below. The blurriness is not caused by the artist's distraction, it's just a low quality reproduction.

njkm2ttbrvwgndp002b6aw0gw_mini_dbe7 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

It's possible that was the day of the birth, even though the official birth date was the 12th. The daily visits to the hospital carried on until April 16 when On went to JFK International Airport and returned to Manhattan with Hiroko's mother, Fumiko. Practical assistance had flown in from Japan! After April 13, On took a fortnight's break from Date Painting.

To be honest, On Kawara's work had been taking all this in its stride. The 'I GOT UP' card to Rüdiger Schöttle on April 12 showed a view of a New York Health Authority building, appropriately enough. And subsequent cards focussed on the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of the American dream used in 130-odd postcards to Dan Graham in 1970, and surely used in a very positive context here.

cpjcpadxqz6bkwndl7ukxw_thumb_f2ad.3td7i2m9slyfq9dusjziiq_thumb_f2b0 pyqpcilhqzk00258lm9wca9lq_thumb_f24a.789jbgsvste1ta8g55f0025jq_thumb_f24b ppojewqircwrog87vrdcig_thumb_f24d.rzxlpb1fqrskh002butjvuwkw_thumb_f2af Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The I WENT that ends that sequence is the one where ON goes t the airport on April 16. On the back of the Statue of Liberty card sent 130 times to Dan Graham, the statue itself is quoted, sounding like a metaphorical midwife:

'Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'

Here is 'I MET' for April 15, 1978


Ah, Nobu's back! The lists of names from April 12 to April 15 includes many that were on the 'I MET' lists during the moon landing of 1969. In other words, I say again, it was a close-knit friendship group. Hirotsugu Aoki was a very close friend of On's, and his partner was Teresa O'Connor, the English Professor. Nobumitsu Fukui was (and still is) an artist, and his wife Miyuki was clearly close to the Kawaras as well. Soroku Toyoshima has been regularly appearing on 'I MET" lists throughout this project. Takeshi Kawashima was the man that Ansell Bray told me about re 1973, being the sociable and energetic hub of a group of Japanese-born artists living in New York, who along with his wife hosted mah jongg parties, some of which lasted for days on end. Anna Astner was there as well, her role ambiguous at this stage, though it's clear she was an intimate friend of the family. On Kawara, Date Painter; On Kawara, father of Akito.

So the 'tempest-tost' baby was safely delivered. 'AKITO KAWAHARA' first appears on an I MET list on April 23, about ten days after the birth. Apparently it is a custom in Japan to wait about that long before naming a child. The presence of Akito on 'I MET' is then intermittent until May 21, after which On was able to meet mother and child on a daily basis. Hiroko's mother, Fumiko, was still around at this stage. She didn't go back to Japan until July. As far as I'm aware, the following is the final red date painting that On Kawara made at this time in his life.

dshvs002bjsrm002bbd4jvc3q4fg_thumb_dd2b Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

It says so much and yet so little. To me it says quite clearly: AKITO KAWAHARA

I looked up 'I READ' for April 12, April 13 and April 27. The word AKITO is not to be seen. Nor any pictures of new born babes. Instead just the usual round of politics, politicians, war and peace. The world that Akito Kawara Hara was born into: our world.

While all that personal excitement was happening in New York, a show of Date Paintings had been taking place at the Lisson Gallery in London. As the invitation shows, the exhibition covered the whole period of drama in New York: April 11 to April 29.

3uf75wp6qrggbcxtmoilna_thumb_cfc8-2 Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

Could June 24, 1977 be the date that Akito was conceived? Not far off it.

The installation shot below does not give a true impression of the work, as many of the paintings, including NOV.18,1977 were red. NOV.8, NOV.14, NOV.18, DEC.8, DEC.20 were all red, and the others may also have been. I wonder if there was ever another show of Date Paintings where at least half the paintings were red. I doubt it.

unadjustednonraw_thumb_d2a7 Lisson Gallery, 1978. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.



That's six months in which nothing happened, basically. Or I should say, all eyes were on the baby. But to be fair, On did get through his daily tasks.

After the joy of April (the miracle of life), On Kawara reverted to painting primarily in black. He made 21 Date paintings in the rest of the year. All eight of the ones I've seen reproductions of are black. Having said that, there was a painting made on May 3, 1978, which I haven't seen. But I'm confident that the red phase coincided with six months of Hiroko's pregnancy, and the first few weeks of On's son's life, so it doesn't matter exactly when the cut-off came.

Kasper König appears on the 'I MET' list on May 16, 19 and 20, days when On hardly stepped out of 140 Greene Street. Which means Kasper, having flown to New York from his new home in Munich, got to meet Akito (on May 19). Apart from congratulating On on becoming a father, they would have had much to discuss. Kasper had no doubt been at the opening of On Kawara's show at Lisson Gallery in London. The successful grooming of a British gallery was clearly a priority of Kasper's, something that On was co-operating with, given the number of times he was meeting Nicholas Logsdail either in New York or London. And did Kasper ask On? "And how is Anna Astner?" Had On seen her recently? Yes, On had met her on April 15 and May 13. Enough said? Not really. But I can't say more because I don't know more.
Two Dates were painted in May, two in June, three in July and one in August. Minimal productivity, I would suggest. I have been told by Laurent Mazarguil, Roger Mazarguil's son, that the only Date Painting that Roger ever owned was JULY 5, 1978. Oddly enough (or at least it seemed odd to me, the obsessive researcher), Laurent couldn't remember what the date had been, even though it had been there in his house while he was a student, but he was able to find out the information from somewhere. He told me that his parents visited New York (they had a restaurant in Paris) in the late 1970s, and that this is when the Date was acquired.

By June, one of the postcards was going to Haruo Aoki in Tokyo. Was this any relation of Hirotsugu Aoki? I don't know. But the cards again went out from 140 Greene Street, On and Hiroko's permanent address from 1977 onwards.

I've had a close look through 'I MET' for these six months and can say this. In May, members of the de Torres family were often met. So was Aoki. In June, members of the de Torres family were again often met. As was Aoki. We know about Aoki, but who were the de Torres?


As you can see from the above 'I MET', Hiroko's mother was still around. Indeed, the sheet can be understood as a tribute to motherhood. Cecilia and her two children. Akita's mother, Hiroko, and her mother Fumiko. Three mothers and six children. Six? We are all children and remain so throughout our lives, whatever else we are, mothers, fathers, Date Painters, lift attendants.


The above 'I WENT' shows that On did actually leave 140 Greene Street that same day, perhaps more than once, but didn't go far. The going out of the building and the coming back in again would probably be where he encountered Claudio, Alejandra and Cecilia. Unless On felt the need to walk from the sixth floor to the seventh for some reason.

As I said in the 1977 essay, I wrote to Cecilia de Torres, who still runs a gallery from the top floor at 140 Green Street. Her reply mentioned that, as a single mother, she had been struggling to look after her three children, aged between 10 and 15. She went on: 'On and Hiroko were great and very patient neighbours, because I am sure my children were noisy.' I asked more about this. 'The “sounds” as you put it, were drums! Yes, Claudio and Alejandra are my children. Claudio played the drums and Alejandra occasionally baby-sat Akito.'

So maybe On walked to the top of the building to request a particular extended drum solo on June 8, 1978. Or to inform the de Torres family that they were going away for the day to Roscoe on June 14, and that they might feel free to consider that day an official Drum Extravaganza Opportunity:


A nice day for On Kawara, family man. A trip into the quiet countryside with his wife, his mother-in-law and his son. It had been a fortnight since his last Date Painting and it would be a fortnight til his next one.

Hiroko: "Are you all right, darling?"

On: "Never happier."

Hiroko: "I'm talking to the baby."

In July, the de Torres family clearly went away, perhaps for their summer holiday. Other neighbours were met (via the lift?) more often. Aoki was met frequently and Shu Takahashi, an artist who was based in Rome, stayed with On and Hiroko for a fortnight. In August, the de Torres family was still away (no meetings with any of them) and the Naraharas were in town, staying with On and Hiroko for a fortnight. One just knows that Ikko and Keiko felt honoured to meet Akito, the treasured child. In September, the de Torres family were back in New York. Aoki was seen more often than Soroku who was seen more often than Nobu. In October, I MET tells roughly the same story as September.

Is that all I have to say about the first six months of Akito's life? Perhaps just this one more. Madonna and child?


And the moon rose over an open field.



In late October, things started to get busy again. Maybe it was because Rüdiger Schöttle in Munich was showing One MillIon Years. That is a work which was widely exhibited in 1971 and 1972, but had remained on the circuit, shown at René Block in Berlin in 1975, and in Tokyo in 1977. There is a letter in a Cologne archive from Hiroko to Kasper König written March 1, 1978, mentioning that Rudiger Schöttle wanted to 'take over' On Kawara's exhibition.


The relationship with Rüdiger Schöttle would seem to have been important at this time. Starting with October 29, 1978, On Kawara painted a large triptych, two of whose paintings were shown in Schöttle's Munich gallery in spring, 1979.

qgcxuev0025q2yfx0025ft2oudjw_thumb_dd16 Rüdiger Schöttle, 1979. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

Perhaps it was Rüdiger that persuaded On Kawara to paint a triptych on the same scale as the moon landings from 1969. So I asked him. The gallerist kindly replied:

'I hope to answer your questions as precisely as possible. The selection of the work’s formats for the exhibition at that time was made autonomously by On Kawara. We never explicitly discussed the reasons/ motives for/ behind the selection of those formats. On Kawara was therefore solely responsible for the selection of works and their respective sizes, as was mostly the case with him.'

Which is good to know. And further confirms that Nicholas Logsdail was unlikely to have been behind the colour and size and date of the Date Paintings shown at his Lisson Gallery earlier in the year. The more I think about it, the more I suspect that the painting of size H Dates was a response to not having painted very many Dates at all since the birth of his son. If he wanted to carry on being a Date Painter then he might have to prove that he wanted it and could still do it. That is limp analysis, I will try and do better.

Kasper Konig would also have talked to On about Rüdiger Schöttle's gallery. Perhaps it was Kasper who suggested that On revisit the painting of huge dates as he'd done for the Apollo mission in July 1969. What would have been the justification for this? Perhaps Kasper had become aware that a small number of clients would be interested in very large Dates. Or maybe it was Rüdiger Schöttle himself that Kasper had realised was particularly interested in scale. Perhaps Kasper was aware that making the Apollo days special wasn't exactly the coolest move On had ever made. So to have a few perfectly ordinary days commemorated by enormous canvases would be a sound way of getting back to basics. Which was that consciousness of the day was the main thing: everything else was supplementary. Wasn't that why On was against all publicity photographs or artist's statements? Let the work stand for itself. Let the work speak for its existential self.

On may well have agreed with this analysis. In autumn 1978, he made three huge size 'H' dates. Two of these would be exhibited at Rüdiger Schöttle's gallery in 1979 and the other would end up in Detroit Museum. Perhaps Kasper decided that one of the three should stay in America and be sold to an American client via Angela Westwater. Commercial galleries need regular sales to keep them interested in an artist. Indeed, perhaps it was Angela Westwater herself that suggested the very large Dates. It had been prior to On's first show at Fischer Sperone Westwater at 142 Greene Street in 1975 that On had reverted to painting relatively large size D dates, after a couple of years concentrating on size A and B only. Maybe Angela was always urging On to paint it large. Think of those massive Manhattan lofts and up the ante. One could charge a lot more for a large Date than a little one.

The appearance of the 'I GOT UP', 'I WENT' and 'I MET' information on the Tama Art University website gives me a chance to check that nothing special happened on these days, either in On Kawara's life or in the larger scheme of things. I should say that there was no painting of any other size in between the production of these three size 'H' Dates over fifteen days. 140 Greene Street may have been specially set up for the painting of huge canvases during this period.

OCT. 29, 1978 ('Sunday')

On got up at 10.24 A.M. He executed an 'I GOT UP' postcard addressed to T. Minemura in Japan, the same guy who he'd sent cards to on his return to New York from South America at the beginning of April, 1969. In fact it's possible that T. Minemura was getting the 'second' postcard during the Apollo mission. But I can't be sure. The card that's reproduced in the Michelle Didier edition, on each day from July 16 to July 20, is to Konrad Fischer.

On didn't leave 140 Greene Street all day. A single red dot on the map. Symbolising, in my mind, a ball of fire. He only met Hiroko and Akito. Did I say only?

drhysasmqd2jnho4c37g002bg_thumb_103d1 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I should remind us all that On was still producing 'I READ' at this time. Every time he made a Date Painting he would add pages of mounted cuttings from the next day's newspaper into a file. For October 29 there were three such pages. The first consists of three cuttings. First, a photo showing Iranian troops dealing with unrest. Second, an article on China's negative attitude to Mao's previously popular Little Red Book. Third, an advert for cleaning and/or installing carpets.

Second and third, a double page. The left hand-page consists of 6 news cuttings. The headings, from largest to smallest, read: 'Fake war reports signal Uganda strife'; 'Car bombed last month, now his house is blasted'; 'Afghan guerrillas claim major victories'; 'US Pacific Fleet units rescue seamen'; 'Half million pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia'; and 'Hurricane on move off Florida coast.' One could say that On was keeping his finger on the pulse of life on planet Earth.

The right-hand page consists of a single article. 'Old wine goes for $1500 dollars a sip'. It was taken from the next day's paper but referred to a happening on October 29. The implication was that On Kawara read the whole article, all three columns. One is reminded that On, a non-drinker, was very much a 'watcher from the hills', retaining a curiosity about all aspects of the human condition.

OCT. 31 1978 ('Tuesday')

On got up at 10.26 A.M. He executed another 'I GOT UP' postcard addressed to T. Minemura. On didn't leave 140 Greene Street all day. A single red dot on the map again represents a burning ball of activity.

o8xjfbkeqv002b3k70rai4z4w_thumb_dd11 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

He 'only' met Hiroko and Akito, plus George Lambrou, who I'm pretty sure also lived at 140 Greene Street, on one of the lower floors.

izhhwasnskmoyibhrseyqw_thumb_103d2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I have to say that it's all a bit more low-key that back in July 1969 when the three paintings were done in five days. On's male friends, Nobu, Aoki, Soroku, and the mysteriously disappeared Takashi Hashimoto, would all pop into the studio. And in between, when the rocket was moving between Earth and the moon, there was a mah jong tournament played amongst the New York Japanese art community. Times had moved on. May of the couples had kids by this time and life was little less sociable.

For OCT. 31 there is a double page of 'I READ'. But the articles are mounted in such a way that there is overlap between them, and a few are not legible.

lv002b2x6mrtgqrm9sdqdlyba_thumb_f2b6 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The main headlines are 'Uganda tanks roll against Tanzania' and a story involving President Carter giving support to the Shah of Iran. There is also a piece about the cost of hamburgers in Germany, given that the dollar has been taking a pounding against the mark, perhaps consumed by On with the Königs in mind, who must by now have been feeling settled in their new life in Munich. Perhaps the piece was read with a prospective visit to Europe on the horizon.

NOV. 13, 1978 ('Monday')

On got up at 10.19 A.M., so that sort of time seems to have suited this kind of painting effort. Again the postcard went to T. Minemura. For the third time, On didn't leave the building. This time, he met 'only' Hiroko and Akito, with the addition of Ann Usai.


Ann Usai was coming into the loft to do a job, I would suggest, possibly related to looking after Akito, or cleaning up, or filing papers. By March 1979, there was a pattern of her coming to the house five days a week, but not at the weekend.

As for 'I READ', on this occasion it's just a single page. The features that one can glimpse range from a flying saucer over Kuwait to an article about President Amin of Uganda. And there is a cutting about black holes. On had not lost his interest in outer space and astronomy.

inrebxgprlklrsda65lbwq_thumb_f2b7 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

However, I think this demonstrates that those three size 'H' Dates in autumn 1978 were chosen for no special reason. They do not represent earth-shattering events, but 'normal' days lived on planet Earth. And if there was bit of the extraordinary in every ordinary seeming day, then that would tend to agree with our experience. Or was it all a celebration of Akito? That possibility remains.


Rüdiger Schöttle told me that OCT.31,1978 was definitely not exhibited at his gallery in Munich in 1979. Just the two large paintings: OCT.29,1978 and NOV.13,1978. So maybe On didn't see them as a triptych. He did come to see the three July 1969 size H paintings as a triptych, and he selected those three moon landing paintings for large shows in 2008, 2012 and 2014. Moreover, he helped design the room for their permanent hanging place at Glenstone Museum.

So what happened to OCT.31,1978, if it wasn't shown in Munich? Well, it was bought by the Art Institute of Chicago in 1980. Presumably it was bought directly from the artist or his New York gallery, but I don't know that. If so, this means that On Kawara was kind of playing the market, or playing some private game of his own. He had painted three size H paintings in a couple of weeks. It would have required considerable effort, especially only having one day in between OCT.29 and OCT.31. These paintings were bound to be closely connected in his mind. But he deliberately decided to let two go to Europe and one stay in New York. At least that's how it seems to me.

Perhaps On regretted sending even two size H paintings to Europe, as OCT.29,1978, was damaged in transit and had to be destroyed. However, when On Kawara was putting together the 10 Tableaux and 16,952 Pages show for Dallas Museum of Art in 2008, he requested that OCT.31,1978 (which was still owned by the Art Institute of Chicago) and NOV.13,1978 (by then in the Speck Collection in Cologne) be borrowed for the exhibition. And he placed them facing each other in the middle of the gallery. And nothing was said in the gallery catalogue about the 11th size H painting that had been painted but had later been destroyed. On Kawara was a great respecter of his own process. But he often chose to obscure aspects of this process. In that sense, he didn't care about his audience. He cared about process, but he also cared about privacy. He wanted to record everything, but he also wanted to have secrets. I have to bear all that in mind. I have been bearing it in mind.

This is the place to say that all the size H paintings may have been produced with the aid of templates. That is plastic letters that could be used to help get the correct shape at the pencil drawing stage. As I've already mentioned in the 1967 chapter, Nobu Fukui did tell me that On Kawara used such a technique quite often and that On had templates of different sizes, though he didn't seem to make use of them when recording the Date Painting process in a series of stills during the painting of size B dates in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1994, nor, according to my analysis, at any time from 1970 to 1977.



With this 'triptych' painted, On and Hiroko were free to visit Japan in the middle of December. They would be taking Akito with them, indeed the purpose would seem to have been to introduce the child to the Hiraoka and Kawahara families.

From Dec 1, On sent 'I GOT UP' cards to Lili König in Munich. Why? Well, Coco (christened Hiroko) had been given a Date Painting on her birth, so On would have been wanting to equal things up between the sisters. First, a few cards from New York. Eight-year-old Lili would recognise his address,140 Greene Street, as being the place the König family spent the first week of January, 1978. Though she wouldn't realise that by sending her this card (DEC. 1), On was subtly linking the first-born or Kasper with his own first-born through the image of the Statue of Liberty.

lbt4samtq7wevf8himlypq_thumb_f2ba Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Fifteen cards in all were posted from 140 Greene Street to Lili in Munich. Then cards started to arrive at the König household that came from the Far East. I suppose one can take a six-month old baby in a plane for sixteen hours, if one has good enough reason - as here - but it wouldn't be much fun for all concerned.

First, the cards were sent from Tokyo, then from the same suburb of Tokyo that On had stayed when he had visited his homeland for several weeks in 1970.

qdplluibrwkdniitzfjtwa_thumb_f2be.sf1651mar3uonhu8peua7w_thumb_f2bf Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The pattern of 'I MET' is clear. On stayed with his friends, the Ishibashis, a family of five. On December 16 and 17, On and Hiroko hooked up with Hiroko's extended family. Four of them, including Fumiko, who was already bonded with the baby. And on December 19, they hooked up with On's side of the family. Four Kawaharas, including, I presume, On's parents.

What would have been made of the Tokyo postcards in the König household? Perhaps Ilka or Kasper would have had to explain to Lili and Coco about On's and Hiroko's movements, about why they had gone to Japan.

Here is an I MET from this time:

December 20, 1978

Note that On did not see Hiroko and Akito this day. Which means, presumably, that the latter were staying with the Hiraoka family.

The 'I WENT' maps for Dec.20, 21 and 22 show that On Kawara was staying in the same house he stayed in back in December 1970 when he last visited Japan. I think this was the home of Yukio and Reiko Ishibashi though now they have two more children as well as Tone.


Ikko Narahara, also mentioned on the December 20 list, was, of course, the well-known Japanese photographer. He had lived in New York from 1970 to 1974, introducing On to the idea of the American road-trip, and often featured on 'I MET' lists from those years. On Kawara sent him 'I GOT UP' postcards, to a Tokyo address, in 1974, from the New York address that the Naraharas had once lived in, the occupancy taken over by On and Hiroko. Yes, the foursome's lives were deeply interwoven.

December 22, 1978

And then, on December 22, Akito was no longer 'MET' because Hiroko's mother was going to be looking after him while On and Hiroko did some travelling. Our intrepid pair set off from the home of Reiko and Yukio Ishibashi bound for New Tokyo International Airport. The 'I WENT' for DEC.22 couldn't be clearer.

Below is the Kawaras' itinerary. First, Hong Kong, then Seoul, then back to Japan.


There are two 'I WENT' maps for DEC.22,1978, one in Setagaya, Japan, and the other Hong Kong. Then on December 23, there is this:

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

On and Hiroko stuck close to the hotel on day one of their visit. The Mandarin Oriental is described by the Google map as 'posh hotel with upscale', something I always insist on when I'm travelling. For the next day, On's 46th birthday, I have 'I GOT UP,' and 'I MET' at my disposal. Oh, and a Date Painting. But let's lay them out in an order that makes sense:

oaqfuqmvtzmvoyx2p1pifq_thumb_dcfd Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

What age would Lili Konig have been? Her sister, Coco (christened Hiroko, remember), was born in 1972. When Heinz Nigg visited New York in November, 1974, he described the children as 'still small', and at the end of his visit they were given Punch and Judy figures of a mouse and an owl. So Lilli was the older and was born in 1970, give or take a year. Which would make her about eight when she got a series of postcards from Uncle On. She may have been too young to realise that the postcards were an even more thoughtful gift than the owl or the mouse.

Back to the hotel for the main event of the day…

bjo3brhytkivtgvkiierhq_thumb_dce9 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The 'I READ' for the day, is in Chinese, like the page lining the box. But Hong Kong was a British colony and on the previous day, the Date was accompanied by an 'I READ' containing cuttings from an English-language newspaper, the Hong-Kong Standard.


Christmas morning, and On Kawara had a gift for his wife. It was a postcard showing an Asian woman carrying a baby in a bag strapped to her back. "Oh, Akito," she cried, and pressed the card to her bosom. On took an identical postcard and stamped it for eight-year-old Lili König's benefit, chuckling as he did so.

yssu6cwcrok5ulf7tmpm9g_thumb_dcec Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Lili: "Gosh, Uncle On is an early riser."

Of course, I have no idea whether or not On was given the title of 'uncle' by Kasper König's children. If so, it would have been to mark out that this older person, who they knew well, was a valued member of the family's inner circle, and should be treated with all due reverence.

On December 26, the Kawaras were still in Hong Kong, as I've seen the postcard to Lili. But by the 27th they were in the capital of South Korea:

nq6jdktlqj6ycwtnywiqua_thumb_dcff Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Hiroko: "Why are you not sending postcards to Coco?"

On: "She got a Date Painting, remember?"

Hiroko: "Why are you not sending postcards to Akito?"

On: "You know why."

And they laughed together. At least they do in my mind's eye. When On settled down, he finished his allotted task for the day.

hvbdntsktdg9qiqmfnvyba_thumb_dce8 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Esperanto is used for the title: "Merkredo". And please note that in South Korea the days precede the month, not vice versa as in British-ruled Hong Kong. 27 DEC.1978, not DEC.27,1978.

However, 'I READ' consists of extracts from two newspapers, one in English and one Korean. So that's all a bit confusing. Though I dare say On, master of so many languages, knew what he was doing


Next day:

hppoy8rotyismdxzdy1rzg_thumb_dced Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

How come I've got access to so many high-quality reproductions of these postcards to Lili König? Partly because of On Kawara: horizontality/verticality, and partly because a sequence of five consecutive cards were printed in On Kawara: continuity/discontinuity 1963-1979, the book that primarily distinguishes itself by printing the journal for 1966-1979, and in so doing lists all the Date Paintings for the 13-year period.

It was Bjorn Springfedt who edited the volume for publication in 1980, and he writes in its preface: 'One person who learned early on the broader significance of On Kawara's art was Kasper Koenig, whose advice and assistance have been instrumental in bringing about this first demonstration of the whole range of the artist's activity…'

This conjures up the image of Kasper entering the room of his, by then, 10-year-old daughter, and asking if he could borrow five 'I GOT UP AT' postcards to include in the continuity/discontinuity catalogue.

Lili: "They're my postcards."

Kasper: "Of course they're your postcards. And, if you allow me to take them today, you will get them back as soon as they have been photographed."

Lili: "I might want to look at them later today or early tomorrow."

Kasper: "If you allow me to take them today, you will be able to see them again the day after tomorrow. Would you not like the pictures, and Uncle On's words, to be known and admired by other people all around the world?"

Lili (with exasperation): "It's just his getting up time."

Kasper: "I think of it as On's good news. He is still alive!"

Lili: "Well, all right then, if it's that important. I expect you'll be wanting to take away Coco's painting as well."

Kasper: "One, two, three, four, five wonderful cards. Thank-you for your unselfishness, Lili."

Lili: "OK, Dad."

Where did On and Hiroko wander this day?

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First. Let's enlarge the map:

zbtn31v7shwfgcxvwzdicg_thumb_dcf8 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

They started off from the Plaza Hotel, a high-rise. They did some walking around the hotel. But I expect they took a taxi when they went north for a walk in the park. It made sense that On and Hiroko, such intrepid travellers, had taken the opportunity to do a little sight-seeing in Hong Kong and South Korea. But I think the real reason for their ambitious trip across the world was still to be taken care of back in Tokyo. They would have been having discussions about what role Japanese society might play in Akito's upbringing. And that might still depend on Hiroko establishing an understanding with On's parents.

No, I don't think I can say that. All I can say is that it looks like On and Hiroko were involving their own parents in the life of their new born child with a view to increasing the chance of that child living a long, healthy, rewarding, productive life.

Last chapter.