Past Exhibition Special Exhibition

Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s-1990s



Art Museum Special Exhibition Gallery

Avant-garde art from Asian countries are brought together in Tokyo!

 This exhibition focuses, on an unprecedented scale, on the period from the 1960s to the 1990s, the dawning of contemporary art in Asian countries. It gathers together 140 provocative, experimental works produced in the turbulent period from more than ten regions and countries, and examines the similarities and differences between them. As the culmination of a five-year joint project by three national museums in Japan, Korea and Singapore and the Japan Foundation Asia Center, the show opens in Japan, and then travels to Korea and Singapore.

Exhibition at a Glance

■ This is the first exhibition focusing on the period from the 1960s to the 1990s, the transitional period from modern art to contemporary art in the broad area including East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia.

■ As the culmination of a five-year joint project by the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, National Gallery Singapore and the Japan Foundation Asia Center that reconsidered postwar Asian art, the show opens in Japan, and then travels to Korea and Singapore in 2018 and 2019.

■ 140 works by more than ninety artists and groups are brought together in Tokyo from more than ten areas including Japan, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and India. The show introduces, all at once, diverse avant-garde art including paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, videos, performances and installations.

■ The years saw major events in Asian societies because of independence from colonial rule, rapid modernization, the ideological confrontation during the Cold War, the Vietnam War, racial conflicts, and the surge of the pro-democracy movements. This exhibition presents provocative, experimental works produced in the period by artists who asked what was “art” in the local realities surrounding them, and explored innovative ways of artistic expression beyond existing genres.

■ The objective of this exhibition is to discover unexpected resonances by transcending national frameworks and comparing arts in different times and places. In recent years, the rapid increase of Asian tourists to Japan is bringing cultural exchange between Japan and other Asian countries to a new level. Under the circumstances, experiences gained at this exhibition will change the way we view art and the world, and offer hints on building new relationships with other Asian nations.

Organization of the exhibition

The exhibition comprises three chapters structured thematically rather than chronologically or geographically. Chapter 1 considers the phases where ways of artistic expression extended to various media. Chapter 2 examines the stage called “city” where new artistic trends developed. Chapter 3 focuses on the power of art to form “collectives” that led to social reforms. The show employs a number of viewpoints that connect Asia’s historical diversity with changes in art.


To help see the overall picture of the exhibition, the introduction illustrates the areas covered by the show and their complex social background with maps and chronological records as well as works that symbolize their times.

 1. Questioning “Art”: Development of New Ways of Artistic Expression

The global spread of campus activism after 1968 triggered in Asia criticisms against modernization, and a question was posed about “art,” a concept of western origin. Rather than adhering to the existing forms such as paintings and sculpture, young artists developed new ways of artistic expression aligned with regionality by utilizing their own bodies or everyday materials.
This chapter presents attempts to criticize the system called “art,” such as a Dadaistic performance where paintings are burnt and an experience-based event where a temporary bar is installed in a gallery, along with works that encourage new interactions with things like stones, cushions, glass, straw and dry ice.

2. Artists and “City”: Places Where New Arts Developed

In and after the 1960s, rapid modernization in major Asian cities drastically changed peoples’ lives. At the same time, contradictions lurking in urban life—such as the collapse of communities due to consumer society, the problems of poverty, and ethnic conflicts—became strongly felt. Against the backdrop, there emerged videos that freshly highlighted the image of cities with positive and negative aspects, and paintings that appropriated advertisement images to satirize consumer society. In addition, some artists ran away from art museums and galleries to give performances in public spaces, that is to say, the street. In this way, cities provided nurturing environment for artistic experiments.

3. In Pursuit of New “Solidarities”: The Formation of Artist Collectives

In quest of freedom, young artists tried to break open spaces for innovative experiments without being intimidated by the oppressive regimes and social taboos.
This period is characterized also by the emergence of many artist groups including ones that advocated “solidarity” with the populace and ones that pursued cross-genre activities. In particular, during the processes of democratic movements there emerged attempts to share realities with many people using murals, banners, billboards or videos. Having been awakened to realities in Asia, artists found a means of expression in the communicative power of art.

Hours & Admissions


Art Museum Special Exhibition Gallery


October 10 – December 24, 2018


10:00-17:00 ( Fridays and Saturdays open until 20:00 )
*Last admission : 30 minutes before closing.


Mondays ( except December 24, 2018 )


Adults: ¥1,200( 900 )
College / University students: ¥800( 500 )
*Including the admission fee for MOMAT collection. Offer valid only on the same day.
*The price in brackets is for the group of 20 persons or more.
*All prices include tax.
*High school students and under 18 are free of charge.
*Persons with disability and one person accompanying them are admitted free of charge.


Repeat Discount
Adults ¥500
College / university students ¥250
* Not valid in combination with other discount. Repeat Discount requires a used ticket.

Free Admission Days

November 3, 2018


The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
The Japan Foundation Asia Center
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea
National Gallery Singapore

Page Top