Katsumi Nakai (1927-2013) was a Japanese visual artist. Born in 1927 in Hirakata, Osaka, Japan, he studied painting at the Institute of Fine Arts in Osaka, and from 1953-59 he exhibited at the collective exhibitions Dokuritsu Bijutsu . His first solo exhibition took place in 1956 at Omote Gallery in Osaka. In 1958, he was among the seven founding artists of the avant-garde group of abstract and informal art Tekkeikai , which was active from Kyoto to Osaka until the mid 1960s. In subsequent years, they were awarded the Shell Art Prize and the Prize of the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun for the exhibition Kansai Sogo.

In 1964, Nakai left Japan for a trip planned for Europe and the United States, and his stop in Milan attracted him to the the artistic stimuli of the city, so he temporarily relocated to Italy which further developed his unique point of view. Nakai soon entered the circle of artists that in 1967 writer and art critic Guido Ballo described as the “New Milanese School” (Nuova Scuola di Milano ). Among them were personalities such as Lucio Fontana and Tomonori Toyofuku, as well as: Enrico Baj, Agostino Bonalumi, Paolo Scheggi, Enrico Castellani, and Nanda Vigo. In particular, Lucio Fontana and gallerist Renato Cardazzo played pivotal roles in the shaping of Nakai’s artistic practice in Milan. Nakai was interested in Fontana’s idea of Spatialism , and how it was felt as a breach of artistic conventions, allowing for concepts such as time and space to enter the canvas. And Cardazzo gave Nakai his first solo exhibition at Galleria del Cavallino, Venice in 1965, as well as multiple exhibitions at Galleria del Naviglio, Milan.

Nakai’s multi-colored wooden apertures probe the pictorial surface and its levels of dimensionality, which are delicately raised and projected into the viewer’s space. In this sense, Nakai’s work exceeds the limits of the flat canvas, by staging an interplay between outward projections, form, and volumes. Existing between traditional two-dimensional paintings and three-dimensional sculptures, the final outcome, as described by Guido Ballo, is a “pictorial object.”

Nakai’s unique voice is a synthesis of the progressive ideals of the Nuova Scuola di Milano and the rich history of Japan, specifically its dedicated craftsmanship and its poetic allusiveness. The colourful layers in Nakai’s multi-dimensional pictorial objects multiply and cheerfully transform, as almost an intricate game of origami, spellbinding the viewer and unveiling, before their eyes, metaphysical mysteries.

Nakai has additionally been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Italy, Europe, Japan and the United States throughout his career, and achieved awards such as the Prix Piazzetta, the Ambitions Moderate Award, and the Silver Award in the XV Milan Triennale in 1973.

Nakai returned to live in Japan in 1996 and he died in Hirakata in 2013. In 2004, the Italian Kyoto Institute of Culture organized the seminal exhibition Katsumi Nakai – Open, while Ronchini Gallery gave the artist his first solo exhibition in United Kingdom in February 2018.

Katsumi Nakai
(1927-2013, Hirakata, Osaka, Japan)


1953-59 Institute of Fine Arts, Osaka, Japan


Katsumi Nakai, Ronchini Gallery, London, UK

Katsumi Nakai: Aperture, Italian Cultural Institute – Osaka/Festival DIM at Kuzuha Art Gallery, Hirakata, Japan
Kuzuha Art Gallery, Hirakata, Japan

Hakuho Umeda Gallery, Osaka, Japan

Aperto, Italian Cultural Institute, Kyoto, Japan

Katsumi Nakai’s Works 1996-1999, Hirakata Civic Art Gallery, Osaka, Japan

Katsumi Nakai 1967-1986, Hirakata Civic Art Gallery, Osaka, Japan
Gotenyama Art Center, Osaka, Japan
Gallery Kuro, Osaka, Japan

Galleria del Naviglio, Milan, Italy

Toa Road Gallery, Kobe, Japan

Fuji Television Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Today’s Author Series: Katsumi Nakai 1967-1985, Osaka Prefectural Contemporary Art Center, Osaka, Japan
Hiramatsu Print Gallery, Osaka, Japan
White Gallery, Osaka, Japan

Galleria del Naviglio, Milan, Italy

Mudo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

Kasahara Gallery, Osaka, Japan

Kuro Salon, Osaka, Japan
Bon à Tirer Gallery, Milan, Italy

Giuli Gallery, Lecco, Italy

Galleria del Naviglio, Milan, Italy

Santoro Gallery, Rome, Italy
Galleria Traghetto, Venice, Italy

Galleria D’Arte Il Salotto, Como, Italy

Christian Stein Gallery, Turin, Italy
Galleria del Naviglio, Milan, Italy
Gi3 Gallery, Seregno, Italy
Il Gelso Gallery, Lodi, Italy

Galleria L’Argentario, Trento, Italy

Galleria del Naviglio, Milan, Italy

Galleria L’Argentario, Trento, Italy

Galleria del Cavallino, Venice, Italy

Osaka Forme Gallery, Osaka, Japan

Mudo Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Osaka Forme Gallery, Osaka, Japan

Osaka Forme Gallery, Osaka, Japan

Nakanoshima Gallery, Osaka, Japan

Umeda Gallery, Osaka, Japan

Hakuho Gallery, Osaka, Japan

Omote Gallery, Osaka, Japan

Omote Gallery, Osaka, Japan