Genpei Akasegawa was an artist, manga creator, illustrator, writer (of both novels and essays), and a photographer. In the early 1960s he was a member of the short-lived avant-garde group Neo-Dada Organisers, alongside amongst others, Shusaku Arakawa (1936-2010) and non-members but Neo-Dada sympathisers Tetsumi Kudo (1935-1990) and Tomio Miki (1937-1978). The group disbanded in 1962, and that same year Akasegawa joined with Jiro Takamatsu (1936-1998) and Natsuyuki Nakanishi (b. 1935) to form Hi Red Centre; a small art group that staged carefully planned actions in the streets of Tokyo.
Akasegawa is possibly most well known for an incident beginning in 1963 when he produced a series of works where he reproduced one-sided prints of thousand-yen notes which he wrapped around everyday objects including a coat-hanger, suitcase and pair of scissors. In 1964 the police authorities accused him of counterfeiting currency and the infamous trials which followed featured the group Hi Red Centre staging works in the courtroom which centred on the question “What is, or is not, art?”, in support of Akasegawa’s case. Akasegawa was found guilty by the court and unsuccessfully appealed several times; in response to his sentence he made a large-size copy of a thousand-yen note titled Morphology of Revenge, and finally he made a group of zero-yen notes printed on the front with large black characters reading hon mono (genuine article) and to the reverse in English “THE REAL THING”.
Another zero-yen note is in the collection of The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto (go to: http:/search.artmuseums.go.jp/search_e/records.php?sakuhin=181687#); and another is in the collection of MOMA, New York (go to: http:/www.moma.org/collection/works/136620?locale=en).