Masami Teraoka's visually and intellectually provocative masterpieces are filled with a variety of cultural inspirations and references to current affairs. Teraoka was born in Japan in 1936 and moved to the US in 1961, where he currently resides today. In this work, Hanauma Bay Series/Wikiwiki Tour (Lot 412), Teroaka uses watercolor to replicate the aesthetic effect of Japanese ukiyo-e prints. The composition of Wikiwiki Tour closely mirrors Utagawa Hiroshige II’s Distant view of Enoshima in its backdrop of white-capped waves and panoramic view of the curving shoreline. (Fig. 1) Both works depict beachgoers clad in traditional Japanese attire engaged in a variety of seaside activities, however Teroaka’s work expresses a tension that is distinctly contemporary.
The work comes from a series depicting scenes of Hanauma Bay in the Hawaiian Islands. Hanauma Bay was originally uninhabited due to a lack of fresh water in its vicinity, however after World War II, when dynamite was used to clear portions of the coral reefs to make room for transoceanic phone cables, the area became more accessible for swimmers. In the 1970s, the city cleared more of the reef to provide more space for swimming, also building a parking lot and shipping in white sand from the North Shore. By the 1980s, when this series was conceived, Hanauma Bay had become a major tourist attraction with busloads of up to 13,000 visitors descending upon the beach each day. Uneducated about the fragile ecosystem of the reef, visitors littered the shore with trash and disturbed and trampled the local marine life.
In Teroaka’s composition a couple on the left gathers shells (perhaps to bring home a souvenirs) as a pair of crustaceans scuttle by, one with a piece of litter in its claw; another duo plays in the sand, exchanging glares with one of the two suntanned bikini-clad locals who thunders by on horseback. Yet another group wrangles with overabundant supplies for their day at the beach, accompanied by an additional figure who has already set up his large, anachronistic camera to document the chaos. The figures on horseback serve point of reference for viewers placing the scene in contemporary times despite the work’s traditional aesthetic; the women’s indignant glares directed toward the hapless tourists suddenly make them appear old-fashioned and out-of-place.
Masami Teraoka's paintings are extraordinary their ability to captivate spectators worldwide, tackling global and timeless social issues with lightheartedness and objectivity. His works are included in the collections of institutions such as the Tate Modern, San Francisco Asian Art Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Honolulu Museum of Art and the Singapore Art Museum, a testament to his international reach and appeal.