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Tale of 1000 Condoms/Geisha and Skeleton

1989 Masami Teraoka Born: Onomichi, Japan 1936 watercolor and sumi-e ink on canvas 133 x 83 in. (337.9 x 210.9 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment © 1989, Masami Teraoka 1996.105 Not currently on view

Gallery Label

Masami Teraoka came to California from Japan when he was twenty-five years old. His works reflect the Japanese ukiyo-e, or floating world, block prints of the nineteenth century and the American appetite for "painting big." He came of age in the free-love culture of the 1960s, but by the 1980s he was creating dark, satirical images of sexuality in the age of AIDS. He began painting these works after a friend's baby contracted the disease, and Teraoka understood for the first time the isolation and fear that govern its victims.

A geisha preparing for a night of love tears open a pack of condoms as a former client—now reduced to a fleshless cadaver—crawls through her door. He complains that he took a subway to get there and says, "I felt bad on the train because everybody was afraid of me." Teraoka makes no judgments about sex and death. Instead, he focuses on the moment when his viewers' disinterestedness gives way to feeling "shock and naked."

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006


Dress - ethnic - Japanese dress

Ethnic - Japanese

Figure female - full length

Figure - fragment - skeleton

Occupation - other - prostitute

State of being - illness - AIDS


paint - watercolor

fabric - canvas

painting processes - sumie

About Masami Teraoka

Born: Onomichi, Japan 1936

More works in the collection by
Masami Teraoka