Hamiltons’ “Lip Bar” installation replicates Bar Kuro, a small bar located in Shinjuku. Moriyama frequented the small bar for many years and was familiar with the style of the venue and its owner “Mama” (a term used in Japan for female owners of this kind of minute bar; male owners are called “Master”). Mama is an eccentric lady who has an unusual way of treating her customers –not politely or as cordially as one might expect from a host. Her personality and unique approach to hospitality became very much a part of the experience at the bar and attracts many visitors, particularly an artistic crowd, including film directors, novelists and critics.
Mama herself is also a contemporary artist, and she organized a local festival in 1999 with other bars in the district called “GAW” (Goldengai Art Waves) for which she invited artists and performers to display their work. This festival became a local success and recurred every few years for nearly two decades.
In September 2005, Mama asked Moriyama to attend and take part and it was on this occasion that he chose to cover her bar with his lip image (he had previously decorated Bar Kuro with his eye image in 1999). Bar Kuro, right at the heart of Shinjuku Goldengai, was the ideal venue for Moriyama’s installation. In 2018, Hamiltons Gallery approached Moriyama with the idea of re-creating his installation in a to-scale pop-up bar, reproducing all of the fixtures of Bar Kuro including its lights and bar stools. Moriyama agreed and the bar was first installed at Photo London, then Paris Photo and, in 2019, was installed at Selfridge’s Department Store in London.