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These are the Japanese artists in the international league

Two have already broken the $1 million barrier, and auction prices are rising

Nobuyoshi Araki

Born in 1940, Nobuyoshi Araki has become Japan’s best-known photographer and its most controversial cultural export. The artist makes carefully-crafted monochromes, casually-snapped polaroids and large flower studies, but his dark bondage nudes have led to accusations of obscenity. Represented by Yoshiko Isshiki (Tokyo). Highest price at auction: “Untitled”, 1998, £9,600 ($13,927), Sotheby’s, London, 2000 (below)

Yayoi Kusama

One of the most influential and widely collected artists of the 1960s, Kusama, now in her 70s, lives by choice in a Tokyo psychiatric hospital from which she emerges to make her signature polka-dot paintings or phallic objects. She is represented by Robert Miller (New York) and Ota (Tokyo); prices for paintings can vary from $20,000 to $500,000, particularly for the rarer early work, with the highest nearing $1 million. Highest price at auction: “No.G,” 1959 $224,000 (£139,060); Sotheby's, New York, 2002

Tatsuo Miyajima

Born in 1957. Tatsuo Miyajima has received international recognition for his work with Digital Electronic Counters which he uses to explore the theme of time, creating installations composed of dark rooms in which counters flash. He tends to be independent of galleries but is represented by Richard Gray (Chicago) and Masami Shirashi (Tokyo). While his works vary from $15,000 to $50,000, his “Megadeath” shown at the Venice Biennale in 1999 sold for over $1 million. Highest price at auction: “Region No.104154-No.104202,” 1991, £26,450 ($42,600), Sotheby's, London, 1998

Yasumasa Morimura

Born in 1951. Morimura became a superstar about 10 years ago with his "Art history" computer-aided reconstructions of Western paintings featuring the artist’s big-nosed face replacing the faces of the works’ original subjects. Represented by Luhring Augustine (New York), Thadeus Ropac (Paris) and Yoshiko Isshiki (Tokyo). Prices from $15,000 to $60,000. Highest price at auction: “Portrait of a family, wife”, $38,838 (£24,110), Sotheby's, New York 2002 (above)

Mariko Mori

Born in 1967, Mori is the most famous representative of “Tokyo Pop”, although she now lives and works in New York. A member of the mega-rich Mori family (see p.18). She does provocative performances and ambitious installations, creating a dream-like world of virtual realities. Represented by Deitch Projects (New York), Perrotin (Paris) Prices range from $5,000 for drawings but a major piece such as Wave UFO could be over $1 million. Highest price at auction: “Red light”, 1994; $156,500 (£96,685),. Phillips New York, 2003

Takashi Murakami

Born in 1962. Murakami’s kitschy manga world fuses Japanese painting with American pop art. The “king” of the pop artists is on a roll: François Pinault reportedly paid $1.5 million for the 30-foot sculpture “Togari-kun”, currently on show at the Venice Biennale. Murakami also designs for the leading luxury goods company LVMH. Prices vary $1,000 for prints, to over $300,00 for major new sculpture. Represented by Koyama (Tokyo); Blum & Poe and Marianne Boesky (US); Emmanuel Perrotin (Paris). Highest price at auction: “Miss Ko2”, 1966, $567,500 (£305,308), Christie's, New York, 2002 (below left)

Yoshimoto Nara

Born in 1959, Nara describes himself as a pop artist: his deceptively simple, heavily manga-influenced work has trademark subjects of dogs and children. Represented by Stephen Friedman (London), Koyama (Tokyo) Johnen+Schöttle (Cologne), Boesky (New York) and Blum and Poe (Los Angeles). Prices range from $2,000 (drawings) to $80,000 for sculptures. Highest price at auction: “Bunny heads”, 1989, $72,000 (£44,700), Sotheby's, New York, 2003

Hiroshi Sugimoto

Born in 1948. Sugimoto is best known for photographs of seascapes but he also has photographed dummies in wax museums and over-exposed, American movie screens. His “wives of Henry VIII” figure in the Saatchi Gallery in County Hall. Represented by Sonnabend (New York); large-scale photos are priced at $60,000. Highest price at auction: “Henry V”, 1999, £38,400 ($61,855), Sotheby's, London, 2002. (below)

Price information: www.art-sales-index

www.assemblylanguage.com is a useful English-language resource for information about contemporary art in Japan.

The next new thing?

o Ai Yamaguchi, 26, makes portraits of young, willowy women, modern versions of centuries-old ukiyo-e wood block prints. Currently showing at Roberts & Tilton gallery in Los Angeles (until 4 October).

o Zon Ito, 32, makes craft-like, fine embroidery on cloth in various forms and sizes. Represented by the up-and-coming Kodama Gallery in Osaka, his pieces sold out at the Armory Show 2003.

A funky installation piece by o Motohiko Odani, 31, is sharing the Japanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale with Yutaka Sone. SCAI The Bathhouse in Tokyo represents him.

o The New York-based Tam Ochiai, 36, has shown at Arndt & Partner gallery, Berlin, Team Gallery in New York and Tokyo’s Tomio Koyama Gallery, where Yoshitomo Nara exhibits.

o All Jun’ya Yamaide’s, 33, works are called “Project” but greatly differ from one another. In one he hung clothes all over a Japanese rural town. “Project No-28,” a show of new paintings, is on at Julia Friedman Gallery in Chicago until 18 October.