Kenzo Okada

Kenzo Okada (b. 1902 - 1982) born in Yokohama, Japan to a wealthy family, Okada’s dreams of becoming an artist were not supported by his father who hoped he would follow in business. Following his father’s death, Okada enrolled at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, now called the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. In 1924 he left the university for France to study and became friends with fellow Japanese expatriate Tsugouharu Foujita where his work focused on paintings that depicted urban subjects. In 1927, Okada’s early success was marked by exhibiting work in the Paris Salon d’Automne and with his first solo exhibition at the Mitsukoshi Department Store in Tokyo. In 1936 Okada was awarded a prize from the Nikakai Group, the largest association of Japanese contemporary artists, which inducted him as a life-long member the following year. After returning to Japan, between 1940 and 1947 Okada taught at the School of Fine Arts, Nippon University and the Musashino Art Institute.


In 1950 Okada and his wife moved to New York City and his worked moved away from urban realist subjects towards abstraction. In 1953 the artist began showing his abstract paintings with the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York City where he continued to show for the rest of his career. 


Okada received numerous awards including the annual Campana Memorial Prize of the Art Institute of Chicago (1954), the Carnegie Institute International Prize (1955), and he represented the United States at the Sao Paulo Bienal (1955) and then represented Japan at the Venice Biennale in 1958. The artist’s work can be found in collections throughout the United States and abroad including The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy.