Past Exhibitions

  • October 6, 2018 - January 20, 2019

MOMAT Collection

The collection exhibition from October 6, 2018 - January 20, 2019

Kishida Ryusei, Road Cut through a Hill, 1915, Important Cultural Property

 Welcome to the MOMAT Collection! In this exhibition, we introduce currents in Japanese modern and contemporary art from the beginning of the 20th century to the present along with a variety of works from other countries.

 In the Highlights section (Room 1, 4th floor), viewers can enjoy a host of masterpieces selected from the museum collection. Rooms 2 to 12, arranged in roughly chronological order, have each been assigned a theme, enabling viewers to see the relationship between art and society in each era from a wide range of perspectives. For example, in Room 6 (3rd floor), we present Nihon-ga (Japanese-style paintings) dating from the Pacific War. In Room 9, we focus on the photographer Kitai Kazuo, and in Room 10, we feature postwar Nihon-ga by artists such as Yokoyama Misao. And in Room 12 (2nd floor), we introduce some works by David Smith, one of the most important postwar American sculptors, which were acquired by the museum in fiscal 2017.

 In addition, in Gallery 4 (2nd floor), we present a small exhibit titled I Want to Go Somewhere Far Away featuring works that inspire us think of places other than here. Please take your time and enjoy the large and varied collection of works in this edition of the MOMAT Collection.

translated by Christopher Stephens




MOMAT Collection List

Important Cultural Properties on display

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo Collection (main building) contains 15 items that have been designated by the Japanese government as Important Cultural Properties. These include nine 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 Important Cultural Properties are shown in this period:


■Harada Naojiro , Kannon Bodhisattva Riding the Dragon, 1890, Long term loan (Gokokuji Temple Collection)

■Hishida Shunso, Wong Zhaojun [the Chinese princess], 1902, Long term loan (Zenpoji Temple Collection) (Exhibit Date: October 6 – November 25, 2018)

■Wada Sanzo, South Wind , 1907 

■Kishida Ryusei, Road Cut through a Hill , 1915

■Nakamura Tsune, Portrait of Vasilii Yaroshenko, 1920

■Kaburaki Kiyokata, Portrait of San’yutei Encho, 1930 (Exhibit Date: October 6 – November 25, 2018)

◆Please visit the Important Cultural Property section Masterpieces for more information about the pieces.


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 Highlights * This section presents a consolidation of splendid works from the collection, with a focus on Master Pieces.
Room 2– 5 1900s-1940s
 From the End of the Meiji Period to the Beginning of the Showa Period

A Room With A View
Reference Corner


Room 1 Highlights

Henri Rousseau , Liberty Inviting Artists to Take Part in the 22nd Exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants, 1905-06

 The MOMAT Collection, drawn from the museum’s holdings, consists of over 200 works displayed over a 3,000-square meter area. To start off the exhibition, we present the “Highlights” section, consisting of some of the collection’s most essential works, including Important Cultural Properties. For the walls of this newly established space (part of a 2012 effort to renovate the collection galleries), we have selected navy blue to create a more beautiful contrast with the works. And to eliminate the glare of glass cases, we have chosen mat black for the floor.

 In addition to Hishida Shunso’s Wong Zhaojun (a Important Cultural Property currently deposited in the museum), the Nihon-ga (Japanese-style painting) works on display during the first half of the exhibition (Oct. 6-Nov. 25) include Kawai Gyokudo’s Autumn Rain, depicting exquisite fall scenery. Among the offerings in the second half (Nov. 27-Jan. 20) will be Yamamoto Shunkyo’s magnum opus Snow and Pine Trees.

 The yo-ga (Western-style paintings by Japanese artists) selections include a host of masterpieces from the Meiji and early Showa Period such as Harada Naojiro’s Kannon Bodhisattva Riding the Dragon and Kishida Ryusei’s Road Cut through a Hill, both of which have been designated as Important Cultural Properties. Please enjoy these paintings along with works by European artists such as Paul Cézanne and Henri Rousseau who influenced the Japanese art world.

Room 2 The Start of the Bunten Exhibition

Wada Sanzo, South Wind , 1907, Important Cultural Property

 After the inauguration of the Meiji government in the late 19th century, Japan established a variety of cultural concepts and systems based on Western models. It was during this period that painting also came to be divided into two categories. The term “yo-ga” (Western-style painting) was used to refer to oil painting, which had its roots in the West, while “Nihon-ga” (Japanese-style painting) denoted paintings that made use of time-honored and traditional Japanese techniques. In 1907, this genre division was further reinforced at a government level with the opening of the Bunten exhibition, an annual event sponsored by the Ministry of Education that consisted of three divisions: Western-style painting, Japanese-style painting, and sculpture.

 Yet, Nihon-ga itself is made up of many different schools. There is an old school that adheres to time-honored traditions and a new one that incorporates a Western perspective. And there are also a variety of differences between Tokyo and Kyoto art circles. This makes it extremely difficult to judge the works. A similar situation exists in the Western-style painting and sculpture division. The fact remains, however, that up-and-coming artists often set out to win prizes in the government-sponsored exhibition and that the event hosted many great works. In this section, we have assembled a group of prize-winning works from the Bunten exhibition. The works by Konoshima Okoku, Wada Sanzo, Nakazawa Hiromitsu, Kosugi Hoan, and Kikuchi Keigetsu were all awarded second prize while those by Nakagawa Hachiro, Ogiwara Morie, and Fujishima Takeji won third prize.

Room 3 Before and After

Koide Narashige, Boy with a Toy Trumpet, 1923

Koide Narashige, Nude on White Cloth, 1929

  Studying in Europe provided modern Japanese painters and sculptors with a valuable opportunity to learn many new things. But it was probably nearly as important for them to reexamine their own identities after returning to Japan as it was form them to encounter new works and methods abroad. Take, for example, Yasui Sotaro. Although Yasui made an excellent showing in practically every art-school drawing competition he entered while studying in Paris, once he came back to Japan he was forced to embark on a long and difficult search to establish his own style. Yasui’s efforts eventually resulted in a unique form of Realism in which he added exaggerated elements and vividly drew out the distinctive features of his subjects. Meanwhile, Suda Kunitaro went to Spain to study the strong contrasts between light and darkness in Baroque painting. The works he made after returning to Japan are notable for a shadowy aesthetic associated with Japanese culture. Although Yasui and Suda pursued very different directions, both artists’ paintings bear traces of their efforts to use their encounters with other cultures to forge something new. In this room, we present pairs of works from different eras by six artists who studied in the West. As you compare each pair, see if you can find some similarities and differences between the works.


Room 4 Prints as Art: The Creative Print and New Print Movements

Yamamoto Kanae, Breton Woman, 1920
(Exhibit Date: October 6 - November 25, 2018)

Kawase Hasui, Kude Beach, Wakasa from "Scenes from Travels I", 1920
(Exhibit Date:November 27, 2018 - January 20, 2019)

 During the late Meiji and Taisho Periods, a succession of new artistic ideas were introduced from the West, stimulating Japanese artists, and promoting the Western concept of the self and the individuation of the arts. It was also during this period that prints became established as an art form – something more than a mere reproduction technique with a utilitarian application.

 Sosaku-hanga (creative prints) called for artists to perform the entire production process, from drawing the picture to carving the plate and printing the image. This led to the formation of the Nihon Sosaku Hanga Kyokai (Japan Creative Print Association) in 1918, and the emergence of ground-breaking artists such as Yamamoto Kanae, Ishii Hakutei, Oda Kazuma, and Onchi Koshiro.

 At the same time, a movement emerged in traditional woodblock printing in which painters, carvers, and printers collaborated to create new prints that were suited to the new age and not simply reproductions of hand-painted pictures. The shin-hanga (new prints) movement, led by the publisher Watanabe Shozaburo (1885-1962), included the bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women) printmaker Hashiguchi Goyo, Ito Shinsui, the landscape printmaker Kawase Hasui, Kasamatsu Shiro, the kabuki printmaker Yamamura Toyonari (also known as Koka), and Natori Shunsen.

 While the sosaku-hanga movement placed a strong emphasis on self-expression, the shin-hanga artists strived to create refined works by consolidating various advanced techniques. Both movements were similar in that they were borne out of a passion to make modern prints an art form just as wooden prints of the Meiji era were beginning to decline.

Room 5 Animals and the War Era

AI-MITSU, Lion,1936

 When a society heads into war, people are not the only ones who get caught in the middle. During the Pacific War, animals were mobilized to transport goods and slaughtered in the fear that they would escape in the chaos caused by air raids. This might remind some viewers of the poor elephants depicted in Tsuchiya Yukio’s picture book Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People, and War.

 Most war-record paintings depict soldiers on the front lines or their families on the home front, but many other artists dealt with the theme of animals during this period. For example, images of fierce horses and eagles preparing to take flight were probably intended to increase the fighting spirit. Maple seedpods often appear in Kitawaki Noboru’s work as a metaphor for airplanes or jet fighters. Ai-Mitsu’s small, scrunched up lion seems to suggest people who were unavoidably engulfed in the tumult of the era.

3F (Third floor)

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

Room to Consider the Building


Room 6 The Brush Patriotism of Nihon-ga Painters

Yokoyama Taikan, Spring Sea, 1942
(Exhibit Date:November 27, 2018 - January 20, 2019)

 During World War II, the act of painting to benefit the country was known as “brush patriotism.” This might call to mind war-record paintings depicting various military operations, but the term actually referred to the practice of donating paintings, or the proceeds from them, to the war effort. And since Nihon-ga (Japanese-style paintings) sold better than yo-ga (Western-styles paintings), you might say that the Nihon-ga painters were more patriotic. In this room, we introduce a number of works that illustrate these painters’ wartime activities.

 The displays include war-record paintings and works that were shown in the exhibition designed to raise money for warplanes that were sponsored by the Nihonga Painters Patriot Association. Although the themes of war paintings were determined beforehand, there were relatively few restrictions regarding the works in the exhibition. When the works are all lined up side-by-side, however, it is clear that the artists carefully read between the lines and chose symbolical themes that befit the situation. Incidentally, all 184 of the items on display were purchased by Mitsukoshi Department Store, raising a total of 200,000 yen (roughly equivalent to 500 million yen today) for the military. The works were then gifted to the Tokyo Imperial Household Museum.

 In fiscal 2017, the National Museum of Art, Tokyo embarked on a joint project with the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties to restore ten works from these exhibitions with new materials. Here, we present eight of them (four in the first half of the exhibit, and four more in the second half).

Room 7 2018-50=1968

Nakanishi Natsuyuki, Compact Object: Sinking Scissors, 1968

 This room consists entirely of works made in 1968. Today, the year is associated with the “season of politics,” but needless to say, not everything was political at the time. For example, one thing that attracted a great deal of interest was UFOs. So much so that a hearing on the subject (commonly known as the UFO Symposium) was held in the U.S. House of Representatives. UFOs appeared in manga of the period too. This was also the year of the so-called Anpo Protests (the student movement reached a fever pitch around the same time), designed to block the automatic extension of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in 1970. Under the circumstances, any artist who evoked America in their work might seem to have been supporting the protests, but this was apparently not always the case. 

Room 8 A Matter of Time

Kawaguchi Tatsuo, COSMOS-Cygnus, 1974

 Among the units used to objectively measure time are seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, and centuries. One day is divided into morning, afternoon, and night, and one year is divided into the seasons of spring, summer, fall, and winter. There is also the life of a living thing, which is measured from birth to death. You can also view time with the present as a starting point, and see what came before and after it as the past and future. And although a given event might have only been a second in time, when we think back on it, it sometimes seems very grand. Moreover, while there is a conception of time as something linear that does not allow for any return, it can also be conceived as something circular as in the transmigration of the soul. Time is actually a highly varied thing.

 The works that are displayed in a museum are already finished. In that sense, the things that we see are always in the past. Yet, the past is not uniform. By approaching the works in the present, we can submerge ourselves in each of them and encounter various forms of time there. In this room, we present a group of works concerned with time that were made over an approximately ten-year period, beginning in 1970. During this period, there was quite a lot of interest in the question of time in the art world.

Room 9 Kitai Kazuo: Villages

Kitai Kazuo, Seaside, Ishinomaki-shi, Miyagi from "Villages", 1973

 In this room, we present a special exhibit on Kitai Kazuo’s Villages. The work began to be serialized in Asahi Camera magazine in 1974, and continued for four years and a total of 41 installments. It is also known for having won the 1st Kimura Ihei Photography Award in 1976 during the serialization.

 Kitai had received acclaim for his debut work, Resistance, which depicts a series of protests against the use of Yokosuka Naval Base as a port of call for nuclear submarines, and Sanrizuka, a photo book focusing on a farming village of the same name, which became embroiled in the struggle against the construction of a new airport. But this is not to suggest that Kitai was a typical socially conscious artist. Although he shot Sanrizuka over a three-year period, it was not the actual struggle against the airport that interested him. He set out to capture tranquil everyday scenes in the village which, despite becoming entangled in the situation, continued as usual.

 Villages grew out of a similar interest. In the mid-’70s, Kitai began visiting villages all over the country. These traditional Japanese farming and fishing villages were rapidly changing in the shadows of the country’s high economic growth and urban development. Kitai carefully examined the villagers’ lives, conducted in a matter-of-fact way, and the landscapes in which they unfolded.

Room 10 - 1 150 Years of Tokyo (Exhibit Date: October 6 - November 25, 2018)

Takeuchi Seiho, The Imperial Palace Clad in Verdure, 1931

 This year marks 150 years since Japan’s capital was transferred from Kyoto to Tokyo. To celebrate the occasion, we present a collection of Nihon-ga (Japanese-style paintings) depicting Tokyo over the last century and a half in the glass cases in this room.

 Among the rarer works is a painting of the Izu Islands by Yamamoto Kyujin. Following the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the islands, which had been directly controlled by the Edo Shogunate (the Japanese feudal government), became part of Tokyo Prefecture in 1878. After regular boat service to the Izu area commenced in 1906, artists with an admiration for Gauguin began traveling to the southern Pacific islands.

 Famous Views in Tokyo, edited by a group of artists from the Japan Academy of Fine Arts, and Kono Michisei’s Screen Depicting Customs of New Tokyo depict the capital before and after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. The first work, published after the disaster, was a reproduction of a picture album designed to help people remember scenes of Tokyo that had been lost. For the second work, the Western-style painter Kishida Ryusei was commissioned to make a picture in the style of an Edo-era ukiyo-e print. During post-quake restoration, there was a movement to record images and culture from the Edo and Meiji Period, and these two works were closely connected to this trend.

 In the section in the front of the room, you will find a special exhibit on Yokoyama Misao. Pagoda, for example, depicts the charred embers of a five-story pagoda at Tennoji Temple in the Yanaka neighborhood of Tokyo’s Taito Ward. This is another landscape from the city’s last 150 years.

Room 10-2 Depicting the Mysteries of Reality (Exhibit Date:November 27, 2018 - January 20, 2019)

Hayami Gyoshu, Green Grapes and Tea Bowl, 1920

 In the Taisho Period, it became fashionable to paint highly detailed works both in Nihon-ga (Japanese-style painting) and yo-ga (Western-style painting). The trend began with the yo-ga painter Kishida Ryusei and the Nihon-ga painter Hayami Gyoshu. The use of detailed depiction quickly spread from Kishida to the Sodosha group, and from Hayami to other Nihon-ga painters in his sphere.

 The artists did not simply adopt a realistic approach but set out to thoroughly and minutely observe a subject and depict it in an elaborate manner. This gives their work an air of mystery. Kishida referred to the reality that transcends reality after an extended examination of that state as “the mystery of reality.” Artistic devices, such as twisted compositions, the elimination of backgrounds, and the use of gold grounds, were undoubtedly ways of imbuing with the pictures with a mysterious quality.

  In the glass-case area in the back of the room, we present some examples of detailed depiction in Taisho-era Nihon-ga and related works along with several yo-ga paintings. In the section in the front of the gallery, we present a special exhibit commemorating eight items, including Yokoyama Misao’s Last Work, that were donated to the museum in fiscal 2017.

2F (Second floor)

Room 11-12 1970s-2010s
 From the End of the Showa Period to the Present

Gallery 4

 * A space of about 250 square meters. This gallery offers cutting-edge thematic exhibitions from the Museum Collection, and special exhibitions featuring photographs or design.

I Want To Go Somewhere Far Away
Primarily from the Museum Collection


Room 11 A Half Century of Nippon Theater

Moriyama Daido, fromNippon Theater, 1968

 Nippon Theater, an early work by Moriyama Daido, was published as a photo book in 1968, exactly 50 years ago. It was also in this year that the small-press magazine Provoke was launched by the photographer Nakahira Takuma and the critic Taki Koji in conjunction with a wide-ranging retrospective called One Hundred Years of Photography, which traced the history of Japanese photography. Moriyama’s involvement with the magazine began with the second issue in the spring of 1969. Leveling fundamental criticism not only at existing photographic expressions but also at the underlying framework of modern society, the group made a huge impact on the art world.

 Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s-1990s, an exhibition on view on the first floor of the museum from Oct. 10 to Dec. 24, examines the works of Moriyama, Nakahira, and others by comparing them to art from other Asian countries. Along with other Japanese art works of the period, in this room, we present Japan: A Photo Theater, published half a century ago, in tandem with works by other photographers who, like Moriyama, were born in 1938. Although the works were made in different places at different times, they seem to resonate with each other.

Room 12 Welcome, Mr. Smith

David Smith, Circle IV, 1962
©The Estate of David Smith
Photo courtesy the Estate and Hauser & Wirth

 Last year the museum acquired Circle IV (1962) by David Smith, a prominent postwar sculptor. To commemorate this, we present a collection of paintings and sculptures that are designed to deepen your understanding of the work. These include a work that attempts to fuse painting and sculpture, a work that uses an abstract expression to depict the human body, a work that focuses on the labor required to make sculpture, and a more straightforward work based on a circle motif. The fact that a single work can summon up such a wide variety of expressions shows that even though they might seem indifferent, art works are imbued with any number of concepts.

Collection Gallery, from the fourth to second floors
October 6, 2018 - January 20, 2019

10:00 – 17:00 (10:00 – 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays)
*Last admission is 30 minutes before closing.
※Closed on Mondays (except October 8, December 24, January 14),October 9, December 25, December 28, 2018 – January 1 and January 15, 2019 →See also Monthly Calender
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.
Evening Discount (From 17:00 on Fridays and Saturdays)
Adults ¥300
College and university students ¥150
Free Admission Days:
Collection Gallery and Gallery 4
Free on the first Sunday of each month (October 7, November 4, December 2, 2018, January 6, 2019) November 3, 2018, and January 2, 2019
Organized by:
The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo


Welcome to the MOMAT Collection !

Room 9 Photography and Video*

Room 10 Nihon-ga (Japanese-style Painting)*

A Room With A View*(Fourth floor)

 At present, the museum collection consists of over 13,000 items. In this continually changing exhibition, we select a group of 200 pieces from the collection and display them in the 3,000㎡ gallery space across the three floors of the museum.
 Exhibitions will be renewed every two or three months, with significant changes in the works on display. With a wide range of special displays, you are bound to encounter something new every time you visit the museum. The “Highlight Corner,” where you’ll find a variety of familiar works, and the relaxing “Nihon-ga (Japanese-style Painting) Corner” also promise a rich viewing experience.

 There’s no time to delay!
 Make that trip to the museum today!


*photo: Kioku Keizo

English Audio Guide Available! Helps appreciate and enjoy the collection!

An English Audio Guide to our collection exhibition MOMAT Collection is available. Listening to the guide while touring the collection galleries will help you discover various aspects of the exhibits.

■ Please ask at Reception on the first floor.
■ Please borrow and return the Audio Guide at Reception.
■ Charge: 300 yen(tax included)

Art Museum

3-1 Kitanomaru-koen, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8322


OPEN today

April 21, 2019 (Sun)

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