Issue 72: Drachen Archives: A Collection of National Treasures

It is a bit humorous to talk about “humans” being artifacts and treasures, but such is the case with Dr. Paul Eubel , Nobuhiko Yoshizumi (Yoshi) and the infamous collection of kites, known for almost 20 years as ART KITES.

The history is simple:  The vision of Dr. Paul Eubel as the director of the Goethe Institute of Germany, stationed in Japan.  His brilliance, energy and just down wonderful tenaciousness, made the impossible happen.  Contacting some of the best of international contemporary artists, (Rauchsenberg, Nikki St. Phail, Tom Wesselmann,  Friedensreich Hundertwasser,  Kitayama, just to name a few) they created images and built kites with Yoshizumi and a group of Japanese kite makers for over a year. Yoshi recalls the dedication in a very innocent manner, “I was salary man, I would get off work on Friday, change my clothes, take train outside of Kyoto (near Nara) and work all weekend in the gym of a Japanese school weekend after weekend until the kites were done.”

From Eubels selection of artists and Yoshi’s work, these two created over 100 stunning (some no less than 10 feet by 10 feet) kites (now known as ART KITES) which toured the world, and paid homage to that of so many:  the tradition of Japanese kites, the makers, the contemporary artists, the materials (washi and bamboo) and best of all, the celebration of kites.

But the best part of this story is still to come….  To the horror of the kite world, we learned that Eubel was dealt the worst of life’s playing cards, when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the early 2000s.  I personally flew to Germany to hold court and possibly say good bye.  It was a very sad moment for the entire kiting world, and the fate of Eubel and his lovely family was at a very grim time.  No one wanted to even talk about the ART KITES, but as a collection management professional, I knew that was part of my responsibility.    We started a plan to move them to a safe place, but never say never.  Eubel got BETTER and BETTER, and has been with the collection since that day, traveling it with his family and his professional life.  Over the past 4 years, the collection has been stored on the island of Sicily.  Yoshi is the dedicated caretaker, always finding the time to return to the family of kites to care for them.    There seems to be a ribbon of life that runs through the three, Eubel, Yoshi and the ART KITES.

At the time that we are going to press with this article, I am more than happy to announce all three will be opening possibly one of the greatest of ART KITE exhibitions of all in CUBA, July of this year.  It will feature new kites by contemporary Cuban artists, bringing the number of ART KITES to close to 150.
The lesson here is simple.  No one can take kites and kiters out of the skies.

Ali Fujino
Drachen Foundation