Hiroshi Sugimoto / Japan/United States b.1948 / Hall of Thirty-Three Bays (nos  1–24) 1995 / Gelatin silver photograph, ed. 8/25 / 24 sheets: 42 x 54cm (each) / The Kenneth and Yasuko Myer Collection of Contemporary Asian Art. Purchased 1999 with funds from The Myer Foundation, a project of the Sidney Myer Centenary Celebration 1899–1999, through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Hiroshi Sugimoto

Hiroshi Sugimoto
Hall of Thirty-Three Bays (nos 1–24) 1995

Not Currently on Display

This photograph shows a small number of the 1000 sculptures of the goddess Kannon, a bodhisattva (a being on the path to awakening) housed in the Sanjūsangen dō Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. At dawn, the sun strikes the Kannon and the sculptures are lit by natural light. Hiroshi Sugimoto’s series of photographs shows the variations in the appearance of these figures — all 1000 figures are slightly different.

Alexandra Munro writes:

Sugimoto seeks with ‘The Hall of Thirty-Three Bays’ to invite contemplation on infinity. . . Dismissing the conventions of modern photography and the politicised antics of much contemporary art, his photographs are not meant as objects to be regarded, but rather as images of ritual reality to be experienced.1


1. Alexandra Munro. ‘Hiroshi Sugimoto: Ritual reality’, in Beyond the future: The Third Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art [exhibition catalogue], Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane, 1999, p.24.

Hiroshi Sugimoto was born in Tokyo, where he completed his first degree at Rikkyo University. In 1970, he moved to Los Angeles to complete his Master of Fine Arts. In the United States, Sugimoto began working in photography, developing a serial, minimalist style.

In 1974 he moved to New York, where he currently lives. Sugimoto is interested in how photographic images convey a sense of ritual. Although they look identical, the images in Hall of Thirty-Three Bays (nos 1–24) 1995 are distinctly different. Their tiny variations invite the viewer to contemplate the concept of infinity.

Discussion Questions

1. Consider the different ways repetition can be used to convey infinity.

2. Can an artwork expresses the idea of ‘unlimited compassion’?


Experiment with pattern-making by using reflective objects (mirrors and cutlery) and textures (aluminium foil). Following your experiment work on producing an installation in a space that can get dark enough for you to manipulate light. Take at least 20 photographs of the installation, altering lighting and camera angles.