Let's Talk Art!

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (MOMAT) is trying something new. Let’s Talk Art! is a weekly art program, targeted to foreign visitors. The museum is promoting a cross-cultural experience through the exploration of masterpieces of modern Japanese art. The one-hour tour focuses on three pieces of art, chosen by the museum guide. Rather than having an expert tell the participants about the art, the guide encourages discussion about the artwork through questions. This is an opportunity to learn about Japan, its history and its culture through selected artworks.

Roppongi Galleries

Galleries can be tough -- they’re not always welcoming spaces and sometimes the art can be challenging. But if you want to see newer art, the type of stuff that isn’t always on view in museums, galleries can be a great way to see lots of different types of art. And see it for free.

To-ji Temple: Kukai and the Sculpture Mandala

Even the title in English is a bit confusing to us non-Japanese -- where is the To-ji temple? What/who (it’s a who) is Kukai? Mandalas, they’re normally seen on paper or in powder form but as sculptures? This exhibition is an opportunity to see some of Japan’s most cherished National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties. Almost all of the objects are from the To-ji Temple, which was built almost 1200 years ago in the then newly established capital of Kyoto. The exhibition tells the story of Kukai, the Japanese priest who had recently returned from China and established To-ji as the center of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism. Kukai brought mandalas to Japan and he is believed to have arranged the statues in the sculpture mandala in To-ji’s lecture hall. The exhibition includes many statues, two dimensional mandalas, various ceremonial objects, and papers and ends with the The World of Mandalas, large room filled with incredible Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Wisdom Kings, and Devas.

Weavers of Worlds — A Century of Flux in Japanese Modern / Contemporary Art —

This exhibition commemorates the reopening of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) and uses the occasion to present a survey of Japanese art of the last 100 years. Different elements of life in Japan across the years are “woven” into this exhibition of artwork. Beginning with 1914 through today, the artwork, mostly paintings, are grouped chronologically, using events such as the Great Kanto Earthquake and World War II, and a variety of artistic themes (light, words, universality) to group works by chapter. The exhibition also includes artwork relating to the Kiba district where the museum is located, highlighting the dramatic changes the area has witnessed in the last 100 years.

Sense of Humor

Any exhibition that combines ping pong, Buster Keaton, zen, and surrealism must be aiming for something different. Katsumi Asaba, a graphic artist, calligrapher, and champion ping pong player, among other things, is the exhibition director for Sense of Humor. He presents film, posters, photographs, sculptures, all types of objects and much more with a sense of whimsy and delight. In his words, “humor soothes the spirit; humor stirs the soul….Humor is the heart of communication.” There are lots of colors, shapes and other sights to explore and enjoy.

TOSHIKO OKANOUE, Photo Collage : The Miracle of Silence

Toshiko Okanoue is known for her black and white photo collages, using images from print magazines. Influenced by Max Ernst and Shuzo Takiguchi, a Japanese Surrealist, her collages are truly surreal, often featuring women from fashion magazines placed in a variety of locations with unrealistic proportions. The exhibition also includes dressmaking patterns from her youth, photographs, source magazines and a few paintings. The museum has included several designer dresses (Dior, Balenciaga) from the Kyoto Costume Institute.

Tenshin Memorial Museum of Art, Ibaraki

If you’re interested in learning more about nihonga, Japanese paintings created with traditional materials and techniques, the Tenshin Memorial Museum of Art in Ibaraki is an ideal place to visit. The museum provides historical information about the life of Okakura Tenshin, a founder of the Nihon Bijutsuin (the Art Institute of Japan), which is dedicated to nihonga and promoting the art form through a biennial exhibition called Inten. Tenshin moved from Tokyo to the Izura coast with several Japanese artists, including Yokoyama Taikan, to focus on nihonga. This museum is one of several venues in Japan that exhibits paintings from the Inten exhibition and awards one of its most prestigious prizes. The photo above, Wild Geese Fly North by Yoshinori Tani, is a Tenshin award recipient.

Le Corbusier and the Age of Purism

In a nutshell

To mark its 60th anniversary, the National Museum of Western Art is hosting an exhibition in its main building, which was designed by Le Corbusier himself. While Charles-Édouard Jeanneret (Le Courbusier) is best known for his architecture, this exhibition focuses heavily on purism: its origins, tenets, members and output. There are many paintings by Le Corbusier and his purism co-founder Amédée Ozenfant that demonstrate the movement’s focus on geometric forms that combine art with mechanical engineering, giving the art a machine-like quality. Purism is also discussed in relation to cubism with works by Picasso and Braque on display. There are videos, photographs, drawings and models of Le Corbusier’s architecture as well.

Roppongi Crossing 2019: Connexions

Roppongi Crossing is a contemporary art exhibition held every three years. The work of 25 Japanese artists/groups (collectives), born in the 1970s and 1980s, is on display. There are several large scale works, videos, cats, a simulated ocean, glowing honey jars, and more. Themes of connection and disparity in the age of the internet, artificial intelligence, and the current state of Japan are explored.

Toguri Museum of Art

Do you like Japanese porcelain and want to learn more about it? This museum’s collection highlights Imari ware created in Arita (formerly Hizen province) beginning in the 1600s. Of the museums three gallery spaces, one is dedicated to explaining the different styles/stages of Imari ware. The other two rooms are exhibition spaces, usually focusing on one specific stage or themes that run across stages, such as flower and plant designs.