Isaac Julien Selected Works from the Collection

November 17th, 2022 – February 26th, 2023

Isaac Julien, Green Screen Goddess (Ten Thousand Waves) (2010)
© Isaac Julien. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro

For its fifth show, the Espace Louis Vuitton Osaka dedicates its whole exhibition space to a monumental installation by British artist Isaac Julien, Ten Thousand Waves (2010). This presentation lives within the framework of the “Hors-les-murs” programme of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, showcasing holdings of the Collection at the Espaces Louis Vuitton in Tokyo, Munich, Venice, Beijing, Seoul and Osaka, thus following the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s mission to mount international projects and reach a broader global audience.

Isaac Julien, originally from the Caribbean Island of Saint Lucia and a graduate of Saint Martin’s School of Art in London, United Kingdom, was one of the leaders of a movement of English filmmakers in the mid-1980s that used video as an activist medium, a counter-discourse tool in Margaret Thatcher’s England. The Sankofa Film and Video Collective was co-founded by Julien in 1983 and was the exact contemporary of the Black Audio Film Collective, notably comprising artist John Akomfrah. Introducing the perspectives of the Black and Asian diasporas into the cultural debate in England, these artists featured themes explored in cultural studies by social theorists like Stuart Hall. Julien’s 1984 documentary Territories explored the Notting Hill Carnival as a place of experiences related to race, class, and sexuality. In addition to these themes, which would appear regularly in his work, the director became known for his use of various filmed and musical sources that he recycled and remixed to create multifaceted discourse. Music is a key catalyst for reflection in Julien’s creations, like in his 1991 feature film Young Soul Rebels, awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, which examined issues of gender and race through the lens of late-1970s underground music culture.

In the early 1990s, Julien worked mainly in television and music video: he produced a documentary series on the history of the gay and lesbian movement in the United States, and a docufiction about influential anticolonial thinker Frantz Fanon. More recently, he released a documentary on blaxploitation in 2002, and a portrait of Derek Jarman in 2008, a filmmaker under whom he served as assistant. At the same time, Julien adapted several of his works to an exhibition format and, using multiple screens and novel sound processing, created a new expressive space, giving way to aesthetically crafted visual and sound forms. Nevertheless, Julien’s themes remain present, like figures of migration and the diaspora represented by shifting sound and imagery.

Ten Thousand Waves (2010) is one of Isaac Julien’s most ambitious installation projects. Displayed across nine screens, the work was created in collaboration with key figures from the Chinese arts world, including award-winning actress Maggie Cheung and videographer Yang Fudong, London musician Jah Wobble, the Chinese Dub Orchestra and composer Maria de Alvear. A veritable polyphony of actors, places and periods, the work is a tribute to Chinese culture, a crossroads of calligraphy, cinema and various mythologies, where the issues of displacement and immigration are central. The artist began this project following the Morecambe Bay cockling disaster: in 2004, 23 undocumented Chinese workers being paid a pittance to harvest cockles on the North coast of England were swept away by a tide. In the film, this drama echoes a 16th-century Chinese legend telling of sailors being rescued by the goddess Mazu. This story, coexisting with nods to 1930s Chinese cinema, is to be understood according to the artist in a much broader metaphorical sense: the tragic fate of the film’s protagonists also evokes the memory of African slaves crossing the Atlantic.

About the Fondation Louis Vuitton
The Fondation Louis Vuitton serves the public interest and is exclusively dedicated to contemporary art and artists, as well as 20th-century works to which their inspirations can be traced. The Collection and the exhibitions it organizes seek to engage a broad public. The magnificent building created by the Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, and already recognized as an emblematic example of the 21st-century architecture, constitutes the Fondation’s seminal artistic statement. Since its opening in October 2014, the Fondation has welcomed more than ten million visitors from France and around the world.
The Fondation Louis Vuitton commits to engage in international initiatives, both at the Fondation and in partnership with public and private institutions, including other foundations and museums such as the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg (Icons of Modern Art. The Shchukin Collection in 2016 and The Morozov Collection in 2021), the MoMA in New York (Being Modern: MoMA in Paris), and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London (The Courtauld Collection. A Vision for Impressionism) among others. The artistic direction also developed a specific “Hors-les-murs” programme taking place within the Espaces Louis Vuitton in Tokyo, Munich, Venice, Beijing, Seoul and Osaka, which are exclusively devoted to exhibitions of works from the Collection. These exhibitions are open to the public free of charge and promoted through specific cultural communication.


Photography by Thierry Bal


Sir Isaac Julien is a British artist, born in 1960 in London, United Kingdom, and whose parents migrated to Britain from Saint Lucia in the West Indies. He graduated from the Saint Martin’s School of Art in 1984, receiving a BA in Fine-Art film. He lives and works between London and Santa Cruz, California, USA.

In 1983, he co-founded the Sankofa Film and Video Collective with Martina Attille, Maureen Blackwood, Nadine Marsh-Edwards and Robert Crusz as a response to the social unrest in Britain in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher’s administration. He also created his own production company, Normal Films, in 1991. The same year, his feature film Young Soul Rebels, won the Semaine de la Critique Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Among other distinctions, Julien was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2001, and won the Grand Jury Prize at the Kunstfilm Biennale in Cologne (Germany) in 2003. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2017 and was knighted in 2022.

His work was presented in numerous exhibitions, screenings and film festivals, at the MoMA, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; the Tate Britain, London, United Kingdom; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; the Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain; Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany, among others.


Ten Thousand Waves


Nine-screen installation, 35mm film transferred to digital, colour, 9.2 sound

Courtesy of the artist and Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris

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