The Art of Ben Kimura
Born in 1947, Ben Kimura (木村べん) was a Japanese artist known for his gay erotic artwork. As noted by historian and artist Gengoroh Tagame, he and Sadeo Hasogawa were among the central figures in Japan’s resurgence of gay artwork in the 1970s.
Ben Kimura began his career in 1978 as an illustrator and cover artist for “Barazoku”, Japan’s first commercially circulated gay men’s magazine. The monthly magazine, edited by Bungaku Itō, began publication in July of 1971 and published four-hundred issues, the last being in 2008. Kimura was a regular art contributor until his departure in 1989. During this time, he was also a major contributor for cover and story illustrations for “Sabu”magazine.
Kimura also contributed illustrations to the early yaoi magazines “June” and “Allan”, both male to male romance-fiction magazines for a female audience. His work for these magazines placed him among the first gay artists to achieve crossover success with a female audience.
Ben Kimura’s artwork was highly sought after by the Japanese gay publications throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Unique among contemporary Japanese homoerotic artists, his work typically depicted masculine, handsome men rendered in a style that was romantic and sensual rather than explicitly pornographic. Kimura’s fit and stylish young men evoked both familiarity and a sense of nostalgia for life’s past encounters .
In addition to work done for periodicals, Kimura self-published two collections of his homoerotic illustrations. The first collection was the 1997 “Tan-Pan Body (画集)” which was primarily a collection of cover art done for Sabu magazine prior to 1997. Kimura’s second collection “Go-One Boy (作品集)” was published in 1998.
Ben Kimura died from a pulmonary embolism at the age of fifty-six on the eighteenth of February in 2003. As a tribute, a second printing of his “Tan-Pan Body” was reissued shortly after his death. Kimura’s collected works are managed by his partner and artistic executor Kihira Kai.