#2 Masaaki Sato

Masaaki Sato is one of the greatest American Artists. He established his reputation with his “Newsstand series” and “Hole series” where both are inspired by New York City. Newsstand symbolizes diversity. His signature motif of cone-shaped holes pierce the subway and the apple in Hole series. In April 2008, his “Big Apple” outdoor sculpture finally opened to the public at Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art. He told us about his fascinating life in this interview.


Interview with Masaaki Sato

– Before anything else, please tell us about your “Big Apple” project which will be placed at the Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art. (Interviewed by Tokiko Gotoh in February)

Sato :

I go back to my hometown Yamanashi every once a year. It was in summer 10 years ago, I saw an empty grassy hill where there used to be a flower garden in the Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art. At that time, I just thought it would be great if I were to place a shining stainless Big Apple there, so that was the start. Currently, I am working on it at a factory in Tochigi prefecture in Japan. It has a diameter of 3 meters and that has a meaning to it. Because some circular cones on the top of the sculpture have holes for draining water and they look dark, 3 meters of height makes it impossible for people to see them. Also I always finish my sculpture completely at a factory, so I cannot carry it using a truck on the street if it is taller than 3 meters because of the traffic regulations in Japan. These days I have been visiting Japan frequently for the opening. When I am working on this sculpture, I am so concentrated that I even forget to take any break. The factory is pretty cold but it doesn’t bother me at all either.

The Big Apple No.45

–Now we know “Big Apple” is made of stainless steel, but how many holes are there?

Sato :

At the beginning, I thought there would be about 240 holes. But when our staff counted on a life-size model, surprisingly it had 365 holes which is exactly the same number as days in a year. I made this sculpture as a symbol of “modern technology traffic” so 365 holes represents everyday communication, and thanks to computer technology we can send any information anywhere so now in this case from Yamanashi to the world. Two years ago I had a chance to appreciate the greatness of Information Technology myself. I was in Japan and there was my group exhibition in Paris. The French magazine “Beaux” contacted me because they wanted to use my painting as an advertisement for the exhibition. But the digital image of the painting I had was not big enough in size so I emailed my son in San Francisco asking him to send them higher resolution image and it was done just in a day and a half. Nowadays, this kind of thing can be done so easily.

– What made you to start this holed apple sculpture series?

Sato :

My “Hole” series began when I was in London, which is 40 years ago. I didn’t have a lot of money as a student so it was hard for me to make three-dimensional things. Then I used plastic cups and joined them with staples. The “Hole” concept started at that time. After coming to New York, I started making holes in an apple (Big Apple). I started with small ones and they got bigger and bigger and the biggest one made me feel that I wanted to make a