Hats off

Surrounded by 4 000 hats in an exhibition space, one might be forgiven for feeling mad as a hatter.

For the first major Japanese retrospective of the work of internationally known milliner Hirato Akio, Nendo created an exhibition where the hats are the headlining act.

“Akio Hirata’s Exhibition of Hats” considers Hirata's work over a seventy-year period. Nendo describe their creative process for the exhibition: “The mass-produced, non-woven fabric hats we created for the space are the antithesis of Hirata’s carefully handmade hats, and bring them into sharp relief through dramatic contrast.”

Some 4 000 hats float and stream through the exhibition space, becoming the imagined “ghosts or shells” of the real hats. Some hats are exhibition stands while others work together to create a wall or ceiling. Hats are also used to scatter light through the venue.

Nendo explains: “As though shrouded in a cloud, the exhibition space softly invites visitors inside. There, they find not clear-cut paths to follow but an environment in which they can wander and discover Hirata’s creations as they like, as a way of physically experiencing the creative freedom that underlies Hirata’s work.”

The exhibition can be seen at the Spiral Garden in Tokyo until 3 July 2011.