This Used to Be My Playground


November 24, 2023 – December 23, 2023
*Exhibition period has been extended.
Opening hours:11:00〜19:00
Closed: Sunday, Monday

Gallery Talk by MADSAKI and Takashi Murakami
December 23th, 2023 (Sat)
5:00 pm〜
Free entry, no reservation required
(Entry may be restricted for safety reasons)

※This exhibition is now concluded.
Thank you to everyone who stopped by.

©2023 MADSAKI/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


Kaikai Kiki Gallery is pleased to present ”This Used to Be My Playground”, a solo exhibition of MADSAKI’s works, starting November 24, 2023.

With the closing of his solo exhibition “Island Love” at Kaikai Kiki Gallery at the end of last year, MADSAKI felt that one chapter of his life had come to an end. On New Year’s Day, he locked himself in his studio and began painting just for himself, driven by something instinctive as well as a sense of mission. The completely new body of work that resulted is the series of paintings that will be showcased in this exhibition.

The paintings in this series depict the MILD BUNCH crew, including the artist’s dear friend and confidant, Kunichi Nomura. MADSAKI encapsulates in these works his special view from inside the DJ booth at the MILD BUNCH parties he frequented: the DJs at the turntables, his best friends relaxing in the booth, the crowd going wild below, the city of Tokyo that contains the spaces they consider their playground, and even a scene in which Virgil hands MADSAKI a bottle of tequila from the DJ booth.

MADSAKI lived in the U.S. from the age of 6 to 30. He has lived in Tokyo ever since returning to Japan, but he says that he has never found a sense of belonging here with anyone but his own family, and Tokyo was never a place he could call his hometown. After encountering MILD BUNCH several years ago, however, he found for the first time a place and friends that accepted him; he finally found a place where he can feel a sense of belonging in Tokyo.

The time he spent with them at the club became very important for MADSAKI, as it was the first place in Tokyo where he could truly relax and let himself go. There, MADSAKI would take photos of himself and his friends from inside the DJ booth as a form of private record.

This place of comfort for the artist was also where he last met his friend Virgil Abloh.

Furthermore, the club “CONTACT” in Shibuya, where the MILD BUNCH parties often took place, was demolished for urban development in 2022, six years after its opening.

Along with the sense of sadness and the fleeting background story, the series depicts the precious memories of a lonely artist who found solace in spending time with his friends at an irreplaceable place, symbolized by the city lights at night.

This is the artist’s first series of works depicting the city of Tokyo.

This exhibition will be held in Motoazabu, Tokyo, as Kaikai Kiki Gallery’s closing exhibition of the year 2023. We look forward to seeing you at the gallery.

©2023 MADSAKI/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Message from the Artist

The paintings of MILD BUNCH were not meant to be shown at a gallery when I first started painting them.
It had nothing to do with a gallery at all.
I knew galleries weren’t interested in those kinds of paintings.
So I just started painting them privately for myself, and for the record, hoping it would survive after I pass away.

Mr. Takashi Murakami came to my studio at the end of May this year to talk about something important. Afterwards, he asked me what I’ve been doing. I showed him my MILD BUNCH paintings one by one, explaining the context of each piece. To my surprise, he was moved by this series and explained to me in details why I must show them in Tokyo. I was overwhelmed with joy.

This series started from a conversation. One day, a very good ol’ friend of mine, Kun, suggested me to paint the night city lights of Tokyo/Shibuya.

“Masaki, the nature of Hawaii that you painted in your last exhibition was of course beautiful, but the city lights are just as beautiful.”
He smiled.

I was like “???”

He continued.
“Remember our playground CONTACT? It was like a park for all kinds of people to hang out at night. You were always there when we threw our MILD BUNCH parties. What were you doing?”

Within a few seconds, my mind started connecting all the scattered dots. Instantly I found what I’ve been looking for to paint.

From all the MILD BUNCH parties I went to, I mainly chose “THE LAST DANCE AT CONTACT” and the 2018 Year-end party “VIRGIL ABLOH.”
The story behind the painting I drew of Virgil is particularly heartrending.

I was dancing in the packed floor when Virgil found me in the crowd while he was DJing. He gave me that Virgil smile and grabbed his favorite PATRON tequila bottle. He took a sip and reached his arm into the crowd to pass the bottle to me. The crowd tried to snatch it many times but he kindly told them to pass it on to me. I gulped it down the throat and passed it right back to Virgil. That was the very last time I saw him. And that was the very last time I drank with him…

It’s been 19 years since I moved to this city. No matter how many years had passed, I had never been able to fit in. It felt like my heart wasn’t here in Tokyo, but more like I was in an opponents’ ground-AWAY. So I never thought of painting this city before.

When I met MILD BUNCH a few years ago, I felt rejuvenated. Never met anyone around my age who partied harder than them. They were all old, mild and free. I started going out at night again all by myself. Just to go hang out with them. They made me feel at home. Made new friends through them in the playground. They made me remember that this city was my hometown.

They were the night city lights.

©2023 MADSAKI/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Message from Kunichi Nomura

The reason we party.
Let’s see… I always remember having a good time,
but at dawn, my head is a clunker with liquor left in it, and in no time at all, the memories disappear.
What was that all about? I’d say.
So I go through the same thing all over again the next day.
All I know is that the bass was growling,
the drums were pushing my body forward,
and the guitars were cutting through my heart;
vocals that sounded like incantations and the liquid horns.
One thing is for sure, there was music, whether disco, techno, or dance music.
The sound of cheers and drunks wobbling about,
loud talking voices and more hugs than necessary going around everywhere.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of being at a nightclub, but it reminds me of when I was a kid in the park,
when I would run around and play with the kids from the next town over, who I just met in the sandbox.
I remember the melodious chime that would go off at 5pm, and being told to go home.
That reminds me that the club would also ended at 5, but in the morning.
The lively night would fade away like a dream, and we would look up at the brightening sky.
Left behind, we would walk shoulder to shoulder down Dogenzaka, where crows were flocking.

Shibuya’s Dogenzaka, where we spent many such nights, has changed drastically in the past year.
Every time we pass by our former playground surrounded by temporary construction site fencing,
I feel sadness. Was that even real?
Our nighttime playground has disappeared without a trace.
MADSAKI has captured such nights at our club that no longer exists.
Moments that I had forgotten glimmered brightly at the tip of the paint sprayed from his spray can.
I gazed at them with nostalgia, but it wasn’t just because I remembered the parties that once took place in the past.

We had discovered nightlife in our teens.
In our 20s, we traveled the world in search of the latest sounds.
In our 30s, we started partying with the people we met.
We weren’t wild and reckless anymore,
and we laughed and said hi instead of acting cool,
so we named the party “Mild Bunch”.

All the DJs at that party were a mild bunch.
Whenever friends from wherever in the world came to Tokyo, we spent the night together.
I wanted to pass down the party that brought us up to the younger generation.
That’s what I’ve been doing since I entered my 40s.
Creating a space that is loose, where anyone who wants to come can join, and where you feel like you belong.
A place where you can hear all kinds of music and find the sound you like.
A place where I met not only my friends, but also most of the people I work with, while drinking and dancing.
I met people who had taken off their daytime masks and returned to their true selves at clubs I visited alone, dancing, intoxicated by the ecstasy of being accepted.
I don’t know how many encounters I have had on the shiny dance floor, how many times I was saved.

I think everyone has such a memory or two, of being accepted, of having a place where you belonged, even if only for a moment.
For me, it just happened to be at night, with drinking and dancing.
There is something in MADSAKI’s paintings that reminds me of such a moment.
So even if you don’t know anything about spending late nights in Shibuya, or have never been to a club, I’m sure these paintings will remind you of such a feeling, regardless of your age or nationality.

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