Exhibitions

Now on View Collection Exhibition

MOMAT Collection(2024.4.16–8.25)

Date

Location

Collection Gallery, from the fourth to second floors

Highlights

Yamaguchi Katsuhiro, Vitrine No.47 (Landscape Analyzed by a Perfect Method), 1955

Welcome to the MOMAT Collection!

To introduce some features of the museum’s exhibitions of works from the collection: First, its scale is one of the largest in Japan, displaying approximately 200 works each term from the museum’s holdings of over 13,000 works acquired since its opening in 1952. Also, it is one of the foremost exhibitions in Japan, tracing the arc of Japanese modern and contemporary art from the end of the 19th century to the present day through a series of 12 rooms, each with its own specific theme.
Some highlights of the current term are as follows. “Paris and the Salons” in Room 5, “20 Photographs by Eugène Atget” in Room 9, and “East-West Pairings / Nihon-ga from Three Cities” in Room 10 are exhibits related to the special exhibition Trio: Modern Art Collections from Paris, Tokyo, and Osaka (opening May 21). In Rooms 7 and 8 on the third floor, “Playback: Abstract Art Exhibition: Japan and U.S.A. (1955)” is the second phase of a project that utilizes both VR and archival materials to look back at important exhibitions from the museum’s earliest years. Also, our appreciation program for the “Highlights” in Room 1 and “In the Artists’ Own Words” program in Room 12, both new endeavors, were well-received in the previous term, and will continue this term with a rotation in the lineup of works. Once again this term, we are pleased to offer an extensive selection of works from the MOMAT Collection for you to enjoy at your leisure.

Translated by Christopher Stephens

National Important Cultural Properties on display

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo Collection (main building) contains 18 items that have been designated by the Japanese government as National Important Cultural Properties. These include twelve Nihon-ga (Japanese-style) paintings, five oil paintings, and one sculpture. (One of the Nihon-ga paintings and one of the oil paintings are on long-term loan to the museum.)

The following National Important Cultural Properties are shown in this period:

  • Harada Naojiro, Kannon Bodhisattva Riding the Dragon, 1890, Long term loan (Gokokuji Temple Collection) | Room1
  • Wada Sanzo, South Wind, 1907 | Room1
  • Kishida Ryusei, Road Cut through a Hill, 1915 | Room2
  • Nakamura Tsune, Portrait of Vasilii Eroshenko, | Room3

About the Sections

MOMAT Collection comprises twelve (or thirteen) rooms and two spaces for relaxation on three floors. In addition, sculptures are shown near the terrace on the second floor and in the front yard. The light blue areas in the cross section above make up MOMAT Collection. The space for relaxation “A Room With a View” is on the fourth floor.
The entrance of the collection exhibition MOMAT Collection is on the fourth floor. Please take the elevator or walk up stairs to the fourth floor from the entrance hall on the first floor.

4F (Fourth floor)

Room 1–5 1880s-1940s
From the Middle of the Meiji Period to the Beginning of the Showa Period

Room 1 Highlights

Paul Klee, Abstraction with Reference to a Flowering Tree, 1925
Question sheet for Klee work
Photo: Otani Ichiro

The MOMAT Collection exhibition of works from our permanent holdings features nearly 200 items in a 3,000-square-meter space. The “Highlights” section of this exhibition features highly prized works of modern and contemporary art that showcase the strengths of our collection.
In the Nihon-ga (Japanese-style painting) section, in the first term (April 16 to June 16) we present Kayama Matazo’s A Thousand Cranes, followed in the second term (June 18 to August 25) by Kaburaki Kiyotaka’s Boating – Excursion on the Sumida River. In the glass cases, visitors can view masterpieces from the National Crafts Museum including the newly acquired Folding screen, ferryboat and shelter-from-rain design, Shibayama inlay. Outside the case, Important Cultural Properties (Harada Naojiro’s Kannon Bodhisattva Riding the Dragon and Wada Sanzo’s South Wind) are exhibited alongside popular works of modern Japanese Western-style painting and works by Western artists who significantly impact the Japanese avant-garde.
In addition to the usual commentary on the works, we offer prompts that serve as hints for appreciation. These prompts are chosen based on practices from our appreciation program, in which many people of all ages have participated. Whether this is your first encounter with the MOMAT Collection or you already know it well, please take this opportunity to regard the works from various perspectives and enjoy a relaxed viewing experience at your own pace.

Room 2 The 1910s: Awakening to Individuality and Growing Diversity

Sekine SHoji, Three Stars, 1919

Around 1910, as the Meiji era (1868–1912) drew to a close, artists who had studied in Europe began returning to Japan one after another, and numerous art and literary magazines were established, introducing new European art and ideas. However, these years were also marked by artists who, while inspired by this influx from overseas, also pursued self-expression based on their own perspectives and thoughts.
Artists’ freedom to pursue self-expression unbound by preconceived notions is epitomized by Takamura Kotaro’s 1910 statement: “Even if someone paints a ‘green sun‘, I will not say it is wrong.” This sentiment is well known as heralding the advent of an individualistic spirit in the Taisho era (1912–1926).
In Nihon-ga (Japanese-style) painting, there were explorations of themes and styles that drew on painters’ unique qualities, emerging through reinterpretations of tradition and the art of the past. In this way, the 1910s saw growing diversity of expression encouraged by a heightened awareness of the individual.

Room 3 War Abroad, an Economic Bubble at Home

Fujita Tsuguharu, Street in Paris, 1918

“Could it be that the war we’ve been hearing about is a fabrication?” Ogawa Mimei’s novel War (1918) conveys the mentality of the author, who does not want to believe Japan is involved in a war resulting in countless deaths, and the Japanese populace’s apathy toward events overseas. There are scarcely any Japanese artworks dealing directly with the harsh realities of World War I. In fact, Japan was being buoyed by an economic surge thanks to exports of military supplies, fostering a wave of nouveau-riche entrepreneurs.
The works in this room, produced over the course of about a decade, illuminate various facets of history. Lonely and somber Parisian cityscapes by Fujita Tsuguharu differ starkly from the vibrancy of the Port of Moji, enriched by international commerce, as depicted by Yanase Masamu. Meanwhile, Nintza, an escapee from the Russian Revolution that broke out during World War I, and the Russian poet Vasilii Eroshenko, in dire financial straits amid a war-induced halt in remittances, both sought refuge at Nakamuraya, a bakery in Shinjuku.
This period also witnessed the flourishing of the avant-garde in Japan, as seen in the works of Murayama Tomoyoshi, Koga Harue, and Okamoto Toki, reflecting growing influences from overseas.

Room 4 Hasekawa Toshiyuki: Tokyo Drifter

Hasekawa Toshiyuki, Cafe Paulista, 1928

A reckless and impulsive drifter, a dissolute denizen of drinking dives: the lifestyle of Hasekawa Toshiyuki, who moved to Tokyo from the Kansai region in 1921 as he was nearing his 30s, was as tempestuous as his painting style. He had taught himself oil painting, and produced works distinguished by fierce brushstrokes in vivid color on primarily white backgrounds, executed so swiftly that he could complete even large canvases in mere hours.
After the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, he painted in the Tokyo’s lively entertainment quarters and working-class neighborhoods. Cafe Paulista and Woman of Noa-Noa depict fashionable cafés of the time, while, Road to the Tank, Back of the Ironworks, and Phantom Chimneys are cityscapes of the Koto district where laborers gathered along the Sumida River. Hasekawa’s paintings, produced as he drifted through the city streets and occasionally used tactics to sell his portraits, radiate speed and strength while also making a delicate, poetic impression. We invite you to envision the Tokyo of nearly a century ago while enjoying the mysterious expansiveness that emerges from his seemingly haphazard brushstrokes.

Room 5 Paris and the Salons

Ishi Hakutei, Saint Michel Bridge, 1923

Today there are a wide range of museums and other venues that exhibit art, but approximately a century ago, salons (open-call exhibitions) offered crucial opportunities for artists to present their works. In France, the privatization of the national Salon in 1880 led to the emergence of new salons, which, by the 20th century, served as fertile ground for the development of movements such as Fauvism and Cubism. In particular, numerous artists participated in the Salon des Indépendants (established in 1884), the Salon d’Automne (established in 1903), and the Salon des Tuileries (established in 1923).
These salons welcomed not only French artists but also international participants. In the 1920s, after World War I, Paris became a hub for artists from around the world. Economic prosperity and the opening of the Siberian Railway enabled the arrival of many Japanese artists in Paris, where at one time over 300 Japanese painters were said to reside. These artists invariably submitted works to the Parisian salons. This exhibit sheds light on the works of Japanese painters who took part in the salons, alongside those of their Western counterparts who were salon regulars.

3F (Third floor)

Room 6-8 1940s-1960s From the Beginning to the Middle of the Showa Period
Room 9 Photography and Video
Room 10 Nihon-ga (Japanese-style Painting)

Room to Consider the Building (Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing#769)

Room 6 Visions of Asian Co-Prosperity

Wada Sanzo, Mandara for Rousing Asians, 1940

During World War II, Japan set forth a vision of liberating Asia from the dominion of Western powers, encapsulated in the concept of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and conveyed in works such as Wada Sanzo’s Mandala for Rousing Asians. Japanese forces
advanced southward into countries including Indonesia, the Philippines, and Burma (present-day Myanmar). Underlying this were logistical objectives related to waging war, such as securing resources like oil and steel and establishing air bases. In the occupied territories, “Japanization” policies including Japanese language education were implemented, and the local populace was conscripted as part of Japan’s war effort.
Based on the principle of saikan hokoku (“serving the nation with the paintbrush”), artists produced War Record Paintings. Some were dispatched by the military, while others volunteered to go to the front lines. Depictions of battle scenes and the distinctive customs of Asian regions contributed to the expansionist ambitions of the Japanese populace while boosting morale for the war effort. What do the facial expressions of the people depicted tell us about the artists’ gaze in these ideologically infused paintings?

Room 7 Playback: Abstract Art Exhibition: Japan and U.S.A. (1955) (1)

Installation View of Abstract Art Exhibition: Japan and U.S.A., 1955

Rooms 7 and 8 revisit Abstract Art Exhibition: Japan and U.S.A., held at the National Museum of Modern Art (then located in Kyobashi, Tokyo) from April 29 to June 12, 1955.
This exhibition was set in motion when the group American Abstract Artists (AAA) invited Hasegawa Saburo (1906–1957) to contribute works of Japanese abstract art to their 18th Annual American Abstract Artists exhibition (March 7–28, 1954, Riverside Museum, New York). Hasegawa founded the Japan Abstract Art Club to fulfill this request, and Abstract Art Exhibition: Japan and U.S.A. was a response in kind, presenting abstract works by AAA members in Japan. Around this time, there were quite a few international exhibitions in Japan.
The design of the show at the National Museum of Modern Art, which extended from the first to the third floors, was the work of Tange Kenzo, then an associate professor in the University of Tokyo Faculty of Engineering. The first floor featured Japanese sculpture, the second floor American works, and the third floor Japanese works. Room 7 enables visitors to vicariously experience the exhibition through extant documents and records and a VR reproduction based on these materials.

Room 8 Playback: Abstract Art Exhibition: Japan and U.S.A. (1955) (2)

Shinoda Toko, Arriving Wind, 1972

Room 8 features works from our collection by artists who participated in Abstract Art Exhibition: Japan and U.S.A. Two of these, Vitrine No.47 (Landscape Analyzed by a Perfect Method) (1955) by Yamaguchi Katsuhiro and Orchestration of Color (1923) by Hans Richter, were included in the 1955 exhibition. Rather than juxtaposing Japanese and American abstract art side by side, the show was designed to offer a comparison of the current states of abstract art in both countries by assigning them to separate floor, Japanese works on the third floor and American works on the second. Additionally, a segment of the Japanese section showcased avant-garde calligraphy by such artists as Inoue Yuichi (1916–1985), Ueda Sokyu (1899–1968), Shinoda Toko (1913–2021), and Morita Shiryu (1912–1998), marking the first time calligraphy and painting had been exhibited side by side. The 1950 switnessed not just a global surge in interest in Japanese calligraphy, but also a significant overlap between abstract art and avant-garde calligraphy. Reviews of the exhibition in newspapers and magazines at the time frequently discussed the relative qualities of works from both countries. Visitors are invited to explore these materials as well.

Room 9 20 Photographs by Eugène Atget

Eugène Atget, Men’s Fashions from 20 Photographs by Eugène Atget, 1925

In the period known as the Belle Époque (around the turn of the 20th century), marked by cultural blossoming and rapid modernization and urban renewal in Paris and its environs, the photographs of Eugène Atget captured landscapes whose existence was under threat, city scenes, workers, storefronts, interiors, and gardens.
Here we present a portfolio of 20 prints, derived from Atget’s glass plate negatives, printed by the photographer Berenice Abbott. Abbott, who worked as an assistant for Man Ray in Paris during the 1920s and maintained her own studio, was powerfully influenced by Atget’s work. In his final years she made several visits to his studio, where they discussed photography and fostered a deep connection.
Atget used equipment and printing methods that were already antiquated at the time, in alignment with the nostalgic quality of his subjects. In the darkroom, Abbott meticulously endeavored to retain the tone of his work and to extract as much detail as possible from the negatives. The gold-toned silver gelatin prints, a process that greatly improves the longevity and archival quality of the photographs, enable viewers to appreciate not only the images Atget intended to preserve for future generations but also the essence of the photographs that Abbott held dear. This essence is still evident a century after the photographs were taken and more than six decades since their printing.

Room 10 East-West Pairings / Nihon-ga from Three Cities

Francis Bacon, Sphinx-Portrait of Muriel Belcher, 1979

In the area in front, Japanese and overseas works are juxtaposed, bridging the distance between East and West to illuminate their shared attributes. The museum purchased its first painting by a non-Japanese artist (Composition with Two Female Nudes by Albert Gleizes) in 1977, twenty-five years after it first opened. While the core of the MOMAT collection traces the arc of Japanese modern and contemporary art from the end of the 19th century onwards, the inclusion of works from abroad offers a fresh lens through which to view both the distinctive regionality and the universality of Japanese art. We invite you to explore the interplay between artworks in each of the pairings. In the case in the rear, we present Nihon-ga (Japanese-style painting) representing the three cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, in conjunction with the exhibition Trio: Modern Art Collections from Paris, Tokyo, and Osaka (opening May 21) on the ground floor. These works have been selected to represent artists with deep connections to these cities through birth or residence, with stickers on the captions to distinguish the cities. Visitors are encouraged to try to identify the regional nuances of depicted subjects, customs, and styles in these works.

2F (Second floor)

Room 11 (Don’t) Look the Other Way

Yamashiro Chikako, Woman of the Butcher Shop, 2016

In Yamashiro Chikako’s A Woman of the Butcher Shop, we see a black market within the mokunin kosakuchi of an American military base in Okinawa. Mokunin means “to look the other way” or “to turn a blind eye,” and kosakuchi “farmland.” The phrase denotes areas in Okinawa where, after the ground war ended, the US military permitted the original landowners to resume farming on land that had been seized. This raises questions about how we should face facts and memories that have been neglected or forgotten.
This area features the work of Yamashiro Chikako, who addresses themes of violence and gender from the vantage point of Okinawa, historically subject to oppression by both Japan and the US; Ishiuchi Miyako, who acknowledges her own identity as a woman shaped by historical and social factors while focusing on the acts and scenes that make up individual lives; and Kwak Duck Jun, a Japanese-born ethnic Korean who, having lost his Japanese nationality post-war, continues to interrogate his identity in the zone between Japan and Korea. These artists present us with individuals and spaces to which people have “turned a blind eye.” The artists do not indiscriminately expose their subjects, but strive to share their complex realities in an open-ended fashion through the use of restrained imagery, abstraction, and juxtaposition of diverse elements.

Room 12 In the Artists’ Own Words

Artist Talks No.18 Tatsuno Toeko

It is not necessarily only the artist who has knowledge of their works’ meaning and significance, and art is always open to our interpretations. That being said, there is a powerful persuasiveness to the artist’s own words.
Since 2005, the museum has been intermittently holding artist talks and documenting them. The opportunity to hear directly from artists about their creative processes and ideas is a great advantage unique to contemporary art. Recently, we have added English subtitles to past talks already available in our art library and released them on our website (the first batch is of 21 subtitled talks, to be incrementally followed by others). In conjunction with this project we are exhibiting the works of four artists, Kikuhata Mokuma, Tatsuno Toeko, Domoto Yuumi, and Nakamura Hiroshi, alongside videos of their talks. Also, the video work by Kato Tsubasa shown in a small room is accompanied by information about an interview with the artist. In addition to enjoying these precious recordings, we encourage you to thoroughly revisit each work. Also, we invite you to enjoy these artist talks from the comfort of home via our website.

Hours & Admissions

Location

Collection Gallery, from the fourth to second floors

Date

April 16–August 25, 2024

Time

10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. (Fridays and Saturdays open until 8:00 p.m.)

  • Last admission: 30 minutes before closing.
Closed

Mondays (except April 29, May 6, July 15 and August 12), April 30, May 7, July 16, August 13

Admission

Adults ¥500 (¥400)
College and university students ¥250 (¥200)

  • The price in brackets is for the group of 20 persons or more. All prices include tax.
  • Free for high school students, under 18, seniors (65 and over), Campus Members, MOMAT passport holder.
  • Show your Membership Card of the MOMAT Supporters or the MOMAT Members to get free admission (a MOMAT Members Card admits two persons free).
  • Persons with disability and one person accompanying them are admitted free of charge.
  • Members of the MOMAT Corporate Partners are admitted free with their staff ID.
  • Including the admission fee for New Acquisition & Special Display: Germaine Richier, The Ant (International Works) (Gallery 4).
Discounts

Evening Discount (From 5:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays)
Adults ¥300
College and university students ¥150

Free Admission Day

May 18 (International Museum Day)

Organaized by

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

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