Joe Brockerhoff Retrospective Tokyo

Love & Peace

This is a blog about an artist whose love for people has uniquely combined in his life and his art. And it's about a man who has not faltered in conveying the culture of Asia to the Eurocentric gaze. Joe Brockerhoff was a Düsseldorf artist, born in Leipzig and based in Japan. In Tokyo, where the OAG has repeatedly organized exhibitions for him since 1988, there is now a posthumous retrospective with a selection of his works. OAG is the German Society for Natural History and Ethnology of East Asia, founded in Tokyo in 1874 by scientists, businessmen and diplomats.

0hiro05, Peace train. Joe Brockerhoff. Hiroschima
0hiro05, Peace train. Joe Brockerhoff. Hiroschima

Exhibition at OAG, Tokyo, June 12-18, 2023

Joe Brockerhoff's way of life and artistic style was extremely influenced by Japanese culture. Characteristic of him were a masterly skill and an exuberant strength to dare something new. He belonged to the small group of avant-garde artists, among them Achim Duchow, Stephan Runge and Helmut Steinhauser, who had found a new home in Japan and its people. He commuted between continents and cultures, was as fascinated by Asia as he was by the fair. Both are reflected in his pictures, sometimes completely hidden or sometimes completely open in brightly colored motifs painted with extreme sophistication. At the OAG, his longtime friend and colleague Renato A. Pirotta curates his exhibition from various loans and the artistic estate. The retrospective features some major original works and photographic images of his lifelong art themes, from daily sketches and digital art to a series entitled "Beautiful Human". If you can't be there in Tokyo, you can get an impression virtually via the OAG's website and take part in the introduction by the curator directly via Zoom.

Joe Brockerhoff - Love fighters - painting
Joe Brockerhoff - Love fighters - painting

Remember: Hiroden Hiroshima Peace Train

His art could be seen in a wide variety of places: in the city of Düsseldorf on the bistro tables of brasseries, in a brothel cultural project or on the cars of red light giants. At the same time, his work is represented in the Stadtmuseum Düsseldorf, the Wirtschaftsmuseum NRW and numerous public and private art collections worldwide. As a student of the legendary Beuys-class, he was a.o. also exhibited in Moyland Castle, Krefeld. He also received special attention in exhibitions and as part of art collections in the National Gallery Kuala Lumpur, in the Ministry of the Osaka Prefecture, in the Dubai Cultural Center and the Artforum collection, the Winter Foundation, etc. His most famous Japanese works include "Hiroden Hiroshima Peace Train* as part of the project "Let's peace gain - Hope and Utopia", 1988, and the painting project "Fuji's Tears". Joe Brockerhoff felt connected to peace projects throughout his life and was involved in numerous art events (e.g. Cyberfax with Achim Duchow, Michael Burger; music performance in the Hiroshima Peace Park). He was able to comprehensively pursue his soft spot for the Asian-inspired image of man with the exhibition "Beautiful Human", also at the OAG, 2016. Brockerhoff countered the design-oriented definition of beauty and the accompanying loss of natural self-portrayal with the fascination of Japanese physiognomy. Here, as in principle in his entire work, the aesthetic influences from Japanese ideals of value are unmistakable.

Brockerhoff, Luxury, painting
Brockerhoff, Luxury, painting

Utopian image worlds

His extensive artistic output also includes digital art, sculpture, photography and cartoons. Joe Brockerhoff was one of the world's leading airbrus artists and worked primarily with this technique. The result is works that elude conventional localization criteria; Art that does not fight against its own limits, but instead enjoys seemingly unlimited possibilities of expression thanks to the spray technique. Whether monochrome, photo-realistic, abstract or in graphic analogies, his real and surreal image worlds are interpersonal communication media, reflecting a purposeless game of thoughts. The discussion about airbrush and art is still reminiscent of the different opinions on the role of photography in art. The more photo-realistic art is and becomes, the more the concept of art is examined. Brockerhoff created an art that, freed from political, aesthetic and moral concepts of value, refuses set social norms and (consumer) demands. In his work, the familiar loses an identity we are used to, appears in his utopian image worlds as an ironic provocation, a deliberate violation of the everyday, as a political statement against what he sees as a too smooth and meaningless consumer world. Personal freedom, personal happiness - these are the goals worth striving for. Brockehroff uses the metaphor of luxury, the antipode to our society's understanding of luxury. - The claim to personal freedom and the search for personal happiness determine his image content and his style, regardless of whether it is about surreal, dreamlike stories or his nudes of pretty women. For Brockerhoff, the airbrush technique is the only painting tool that allows him to live up to this claim in art - free and independent of common style specifications ( Gerhard Engerling, Director of Goethe Institute South-East Asia.)

Joe Brockerhoff - Kurt Masur, trriptychon . painting
Joe Brockerhoff - Kurt Masur, trriptychon . painting

Master of airbrush technique

The airbrush technique often allows the individual handwriting of a special artist to fade into the background. This handwriting of the painter can be clearly recognized in the traditional painting techniques, since every small movement of the brush or drawing pencil is directly visible in the work of art. His art style is characterized by the use of vibrant airbrush colors and bold brush strokes. With airbrush, the works between the artists often hardly differ, since similar templates and stencils are used and subtleties with the airbrush gun often cannot be implemented. Pink, green, blue, red - colors that you hardly dare to think of, Brockerhoff used to simulate an idyll in true perfection, which, however, reveals itself to be very deceptive at second glance. Contrary to what one might assume at first glance, the artist did not want to draw attention to the beauty of this world, but to what it has lost.

Joe Brockerhoff, Exhibition - performance
Joe Brockerhoff, Exhibition - performance

About the artist

The artist died on February 12, 2023. Born in Leipzig in 1952, the artist studied sculpture and painting with Joseph Beuys at the Düsseldorf State Art Academy from 1971. In 1973 he also studied philosophy at the University of Düsseldorf. His other artist friends include Sigmar Polke, Günter Mebusch, Fuji Akai, Heinz Zolper and Michael Jansen. The artist was supported by Artforum Culture Foundation.

Brockerhoff, Joe. Studio,15.04.2007. courtesy Artforum Culture Foundation
Brockerhoff, Joe. Studio,15.04.2007. courtesy Artforum Culture Foundation

Reports on Joe Brockerhoff (selection): "Haus Kultur" series in the art magazine "Apex" - "Media Mafia" - reports in the Japanese art magazine Z-ZAI - reviews in Spiegel, /Stern and in various newspapers. Prizes in airbrush competitions - Participation in the Osaka Triennale 1993 -
TV contributions on (selection): WDR – Kulturmagazin – VOX – Erotic Artshow – Hiroshima TV / NHK / ASAHI and Osaka TV.
Artist books and catalogues (selection) : Fuji's tears; Dawn - Red Sun; media mafia; Beautiful human; Love & Hate; Nihonnojidai; morphoemallogy; Wait a moment; My time, my predator; the last scream.

Brockerhoff, Neuropa - Artforum Culture Foundation
Brockerhoff, Neuropa 

German Society for Natural History and Ethnology of East Asia (OAG)
OAG house
Minato-ku Akasaka 7-5-56
107-0052 Tokyo-to


On June 14, curator Renato A. Pirotta will give a lecture on Brockerhoff's life's work, who designed a total of 10 exhibitions for the OAG
Renato Pirotta was a lecturer at Rikkyo University Tokyo and Senior Architect for Kume Sekkei. From 1985 to 2019, he was responsible for a total of 10 exhibitions by the artist as the OAG’s exhibition representative. Pirotta is a member of the OAG board.

Note: As a Beuys student, Joe Brockerhoff also produced some works of art that will only be shown on the opening day (June 14) in the OAG hall.

Joe Brockerhoff
The Japanese heritage of his artistic creation
Time: 18:30-20:00 (Japan), 11:30-13:00 (CEST)

Zoom link:

Meeting ID: 833 6287 4128
Passcode: 247087
No pre-registration necessary!


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