The Emperor’s New Clothes

The Emperor’s New Clothes (2017)

Materials: One thousand Japanese yen notes (approx. one thousand pieces), Imperial shoes and Okanmuri, custom made Sokutai display

Dimensions:282cm (W) x 500cm (D) x 260cm (H)


“Money is at once nothing and everything.”


Inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes, the work features the Sokutai, the Emperor’s ceremonial costume, made from one thousand yen notes.


While Japan is considered to be a prosperous country, in fact its government debt to gross domestic product is the highest in the world. The value of a nation’s currency is dependent on trust, and if that trust starts skating on thin ice, there can in fact come a time when its worth becomes less than the very paper it is printed on. Money influences every aspect of our lives, making the world go around, so to speak. Maybe it is precisely because it is so familiar that we have failed to notice its form changing shape before us. In this work, Ken + Julia Yonetani invited the audience to contemplate the transformation of “money” that is taking place.

Read a review of this work in Art Asia Pacific here.