Designer Noritaka Tatehana Debuts His First Solo Show at the Portland Japanese Garden

The Japanese creator of Lady Gaga's heel-less platforms chooses Portland for his first solo exhibition in the US.

By Eden Dawn October 3, 2019

A pair of Noritaka Tatehana's heelless shoes.

The Japanese Garden is a spectacular spot that we as a city sometimes take for granted. Created in 1963 to increase cultural understanding between the two countries post-war, it’s often labeled the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. This week, the garden will debut designer Noritaka Tatehana’s first solo exhibit, Refashioning Beauty, in the United States.

Tatehana and his team installing the oversized hairpin pieces in the Pavilion.

You’ve probably seen Tatehana’s work... even if you didn’t know it. The Tokyo-born artist created the fantasy heelless platforms worn by fashion icons Lady Gaga and Daphne Guinness. His works have shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, but this is his first solo show in North America. Co-curated by the Garden’s Curator of Art, Laura Mueller and Christina Cacouris, an NYC-based curator formerly from here, the two zeroed in on Portland as the right fit. And Tatehana agreed.

“I found it extremely authentic and attractive," he wrote in an email to Portland Monthly through a translator. "The 'Japanese garden' looks renewed in a different climate and environment outside of Japan. It is not simply just a copy of an original, it is a fresh rendition. It is a work of art. It is a way of re-envisioning Japanese culture. It is a reflection of Japan, providing a new stage for a long-held cultural tradition.” 

The exhibit takes place in two buildings on site of the gardens, the first in the Tanabe Gallery devoted to the bejeweled, heelless shoes fashion lovers and engineers can equally appreciate. In the Pavilion gallery, with the sliding wooden doors left open and Mount Hood looming in the background, see his wooden platform clogs inspired by the Oiran (Japanese courtesans) during Japan’s Edo period (1615-1868), his “Void Sculpture” sword pieces, and his massively enlarged kanzashi, or traditional hairpin sculptural series.

The exhibit runs from October 5 to December 1 during regular garden hours and is included in regular admission price, but for the opening weekend Tatehana will be onsite for the VIP members-only party (yes, the rumors of Gaga attending are swirling hard), and for a lecture on his work. Whether you’re able to see the artist speak or not, seeing such stunning and glamorous pieces in the serene setting of the garden will be one for the books.

Noritaka Tatehana: Refashioning Beauty

Oct 5–Dec 1, Portland Japanese Garden, 611 SW Kingston Ave, $17

Portland Japanese Garden from the hillside.


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