Kumi Sugaï

1919 – 1996

Kumi Sugai was born in 1919 in Kobe to a family of Japanese classical musicians. He painted his first canvas at the age of nine. From 1927 to 1932, he studied at the Osaka Art School. Sugai left school early and started working in commercial advertising for the Hankyudentetsu Electric Railway Company from until 1945.

In parallel during the 1940’s, Sugai gradually becomes acquainted with the work of European artists such as Max Ernst, Paul Klee and Joan Miró. At the end of that decade, he discovers the work of the American artists Alexander Calder and Jackson Pollock through art magazines. He devotes himself to painting in his studio in Kobe before moving to Paris in 1952. He enrolls at the ‘Académie de la Grande Chaumière’ and is introduced by sculptor Tajiri to the members of the Cobra group. He becomes friend with Jacques Doucet and Corneille. Sugai is close to the Art Informel mouvement and is supported by the critics Jean-Clarence Lambert and Roger Van Gindertael. He has his first solo exhibition at the Craven Gallery in 1953. From 1955 onwards, he learns engraving, especially lithography with Jean Pons in Paris, this activity becomes a fully-fledged art form for the artist.

Considered part of the ‘Nouvelle École de Paris’ and ‘Nouveau Réalisme’ movements, he began to move away from the ‘abstraction lyrique’ in 1962. Shifting from calligraphic organic motifs, mainly monochrome, to geometric imagery, his abstract art is described as “hard-edge”. He then creates in large formats and series

Sugai is amongst the first Japanese artists of his generation to become familiar with Western painting techniques. Sugai died in 1996 in Kobe.


– 1953 Galerie Craven, Paris, France
– 1957 Galerie Le Gendre, Paris, France
– 1957 Galerie La Roue, Paris, France
– 1958 Galerie Creuze, Paris, France
– 1960 Retrospective Städtisches Museum, Leverkusen, Germany
– 1961 Galerie La Hune, Paris, France
– Galerie Creuzevault, Paris, France
– 1963 Retrospective at the Kestner-Gesellschaft Museum, Hanover, Germany
– 1968 Monumental painting for the National Museum of Modern Art,
Tokyo, Japan
– 1974 Galerie Esplanade de la Défense, France
– 1983 Retrospective at the Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan
– 1984 Retrospective at the Ohara Museum of Art, Kurashiki, Japan


– 1952 Salon d’Automne, Paris, France
– 1953 “Salon d’Octobre”, Galerie Craven, France
– 1954 Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles, Belgium
– 1954 St Georges Gallery, London, UK
– 1955 Galerie Kléber, France
– 1955 Pittsburgh International Carnegie Exhibition, USA
– 1956 Galerie La Roue, Paris, France
– 1956 Salon Réalités Nouvelles, Paris, France
– 1956 Galerie Arnaud, Paris, France
– 1957 Galerie Le Gendre, Paris, France
– 1957 Salon de Mai, Paris, France
– 1957 Paris Biennale, France
– 1957 Galerie Creuze-Balzac, Paris, France
– 1958 Universal Exhibiton , Bruxelles, Belgium
– 1959 Kootz Gallery, New York, USA
– 1959 Biennale de Santa Paulo, Brazil
– 1960 Leverkusen Museum, Germany
– 1961 Galerie Charpentier, Paris, France
– 1962 Venice Biennale, Italy
– 1962 Tate Gallery, London, UK
– 1963 Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, France
– 1965 Santa Paulo Biennale, first prize, Brazil
– 1967 Universal Exhibition, Montreal, Canada


– Musée d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris, France
– Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris
– Musée National d’Art Moderne – Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
– Musée d’Art Moderne de Troyes, France
– National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan
– The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
– Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA
– Modern Art Museum, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
– National Museum, Copenhague, Danemark

Others artists