Nicolas Buffe, The Dream of Polifilo

Dates : April 19 (Saturday) - June 29 (Sunday), 2014

The Hara Museum is proud to present the first solo exhibition at a museum by the rising French artist Nicolas Buffe. Born in Paris and currently based in Tokyo, Buffe creates art that is grand and yet lighthearted, whose influences range from Renaissance grotesques and Baroque ornament to American and Japanese sub-cultures such as manga, anime and video games. His fusion of Eastern and Western traditions both classical and modern has been garnering attention not only within art circles, but also in areas as diverse as opera and fashion.

This exhibition pays homage to the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili1, a book published in Venice in 1499. During his first encounter with the book, Buffe was struck by the structural similarity between the story of Polifilo and the initiation quests that he experienced in video games such as Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros and Final Fantasy. Like the book, this exhibition comprises an allegorical dream in which the hero (the visitor) must make it through several stages of an adventure during which he encounters magical objects and images, makes discoveries, plays games and even engages in interactive play through the magic of Augmented Reality (AR)2. Buffe plays on the architectural characteristics of the museum to transform all of its spaces into a wonderland.

1. Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: Translated into English as Poliphilo’s Strife of Love in a Dream, this book is the story of Poliphilo who pursues his true love Polia through a dreamlike landscape. The title Hypnerotomachia comes from the Greek hýpnos for ″dream,″ éros for ″love,″ and máchē for ″battle.″
2. AR: Augmented Reality. An enhanced version of reality produced by the overlaying of digital information onto image data from a camera.

Who Is Nicolas Buffe?
Born in Paris in 1978, Nicolas Buffe grew up watching Space Sheriff Gavan 1 and other live-action special-effects programs, not knowing at the time that they were originally made in Japan. This fact would later spark an intense interest in the country that led him to study the language and culture, and to subsequently move to Tokyo where he is currently based. For Buffe, love and aspiration, struggle and victory, life and death are universal themes that lie at heart not only of classical European art, but of Japanese anime, manga and live-action superhero programs as well. About his work, Buffe has called it ″a navigation within an anachronical network of cultural and historical references drawn from both classical culture and pop culture, especially those that influenced me during my childhood.″ In his recent doctoral thesis2, he identifies diversity, cultural wandering and connections as the three main themes of his work, characteristics that distinguish art of the Altermodern era3 as defined by Nicolas Bourriaud, curator and director of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. His work has appeared at several venues within Japan, including a solo exhibition at the Ginza Maison Hermès in Tokyo (Little Red Riding Hood ″Carré″, 2010), a triumphal arch at the entrance to the previous French Embassy, Tokyo (No Man’s Land, 2009), and a group exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (Okujô Teien – Roof Gardens, 2009). In Europe, Buffe referenced American and Japanese sub-cultures and classical European aesthetics in his costume and stage design for the opera Orlando Paladino staged at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in 2012, for which he became an overnight sensation and won the award for Best Scenic Design from the French Critics Association.

1. Space Sheriff Gavan (Uchū Keiji Gyaban): a Toei series that was broadcast on TV Asahi from March 5, 1982 through February 25, 1983.
2. Thesis title: Orutamodan jidai no naka de jibun no maniera wo tsukurukoto no shiko (the making of a personal maniera in the age of the altermodern)
3. Altermodern: A word coined by Nicolas Bourriaud to describe the era following the end of post-modernism in the first decade of the 21st century.

Featured artist

Nicolas Buffe

Organized by

Hara Museum of Contemporary Art

Supported by

Embassy of France/Institut français du Japon, Institut français Paris, Centre National de la Cinématographie et de l’image animée-DICRéAM, Fondation Nationale des Arts Graphiques et Plastiques, Fondation Franco-Japonaise Sasakawa

Special sponsorship by


Sponsored by

Societe Generale, Vranken Pommery Japan, LM3LABS

Cooperation provided by