Past Exhibitions

  • January 29 - May 26, 2019

MOMAT Collection

The collection exhibition from January 29 - May 26, 2019

Anthony Caro, Lap, 1969
Courtesy of Barford Sculptures Ltd
Photo: John Riddy

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 are treated to a host of masterpieces selected from the museum collection, including outstanding examples of crafts. 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 focus on work that was made during the Pacific War. There are also special exhibits devoted to the print artist Oda Kazuma in Room 4 (4th floor), and the photographers Tsuchida Hiromi (January 29-March 17) and Shiihara Osamu (March 19-May 26) in Room 9 (3rd floor). In Room 12 (2nd floor), we spotlight recent acquisitions by the sculptors David Smith and Anthony Caro. And beginning March 19, we introduce a host of works depicting flowers, including Kawai Gyokudo’s Parting Spring (Important Cultural Property) in Room 10 (3rd floor), as part of MOMAT’s Spring Festival. Also, while you’re here, be sure and take a look at the stunning cherry trees lining the Chidorigafuchi moat surrounding the Imperial Palace across the street from the museum.

As with previous editions, this installment of the MOMAT Collection is filled with a rich and varied selection of works. Take your time and enjoy your visit to the museum.

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)

■Wada Sanzo, South Wind , 1907 

■Kishida Ryusei, Road Cut through a Hill , 1915

■Kawai Gyokudo, Parting Spring , 1916 (Exhibit Date: March 19 – May 26, 2019)

■Nakamura Tsune, Portrait of Vasilii Yaroshenko, 1920

■Yukihiko Yasuda, Camp at Kisegawa, 1930 (Exhibit Date: March 19 – May 26, 2019)

◆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

Paul Klee, Abstraction with Reference to a Flowering Tree, 1925

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.

This edition of “Highlights” newly features crafts, including exceptional masterpieces from the Crafts Gallery about five minutes on foot from here. Yasuda Yukihiko’s Camp at Kisegawa, an Important Cultural Property, will appear in the second half of the exhibition (March 19-May 26). Western-style paintings include works that have frequently appeared in this gallery, such as Harada Naojiro’s Kannon Bodhisattva Riding the Dragon, Kishida Ryusei’s Road Cut through a Hill and Nakamura Tsune’s Portrait of Vasilii Yaroshenko (all three of which are Important Cultural Properties). Also, we invite you to enjoy works by European artists that influenced modern Japanese art, such as Paul Cézanne and Paul Klee.


Room 2 Signs of Spring: Art of the Meiji and Taisho Period

Minami Kunzo, Girl , 1909

Following 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 also during this period that painting 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 any painting that made use of time-honored and traditional Japanese techniques. This genre division was further reinforced at a government level with the opening in 1907 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.

During this period, Japanese artists were either strongly influenced by Western art or clearly distinguished themselves from it by exploring many different approaches. While in some cases their sketches of the human body and ways of expressing light, which were based on Western techniques, have an awkward appearance, it is also exciting to trace their use of trial and error.

For this exhibit in Room 2, we have assembled a collection of pieces that correspond to this time of year, as we move from winter into spring. We hope that you will enjoy these works by Japanese artists who forged new approaches and these spring scenes that express a new breath of life.

Room 3 Focus on the Individual

Takamura Kotaro, Hand, c.1918

As exemplified by the sculptor-cum-poet Takamura Kotaro’s 1910 essay “Green Sun,” the late 19th and early 20th century saw an increasing diversity in the way artists viewed and expressed things.

This development is also evident from a single portrait. Over a three-year period beginning in 1913 (referred to as the artist’s “headhunting” era), Kishida Ryusei painted himself and those close to him in a series of portraits with such intensity that they seem to capture human nature. Staring fixedly out at us, the artist’s sharp eye takes hold of the viewer and refuses to let go. While on the one hand interested in fin-de-siècle art, Hada Teruo also frequently depicted collapsed and broken human figures. Although the work on display here is a pen drawing, it captures the essence of human anguish and sorrow with its dense lines.

It is also interesting to compare Takamura Kotaro’s Hand and Ishigaki Eitaro’s Undefeated Arm, both of which depict a specific body part in closeup.

Room 4 Eye on a Changing Tokyo: Selections from Oda Kazuma’s Views of Tokyo and Ginza Series

Oda Kazuma, A Street in kagurazaka from "Views of Tokyo", 1917
(Exhibit Date: January 29 - March 17, 2019)

As the modern city evolved, the Japanese landscape underwent a series of drastic changes during the Meiji and Showa Periods. This is nowhere more apparent than in the complete transformation that occurred in Tokyo following the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

The printmaker Oda Kazuma (1882-1956) was among the artists who set out to capture these changes during this transitional period. In this exhibit, two of the artist’s series, Views of Tokyo (1916, 20 works) and Ginza Series (1928-1929, two parts made up of a total of 12 works), convey Oda’s mixed emotions as he watched the changing city.

The first series depicts Tokyo as a disorderly place with old and new things standing side by side. The prints express both Oda’s sorrow as he watched sights and scenes from the Edo and Meiji eras disappear and his view of an increasingly modern, urbanized Tokyo.

However, in the second series, dating from the early Showa Period, there are no longer signs of nostalgia for the “good old days.” Instead, we have urban scenes lined with steel-reinforced buildings, the modern culture of cafés and cinemas, and fashionably dressed people. Oda enthusiastically embraced modern, urban Tokyo, and vividly conveyed the spirit of the city from the perspective of its residents.

Room 5 Fantastic Paintings of the 1930s

AI-MITSU, Landscape with an Eye,1938

In conjunction with the Laugh Off This Hopeless World: Fukuzawa Ichiro exhibition, currently underway on the first floor of the museum, we present a collection of works by other avant-garde painters of the 1930s, the era in which Fukuzawa made his name. Many of these artists are clearly indebted to French Surrealism. But as we examine these works, we find that they are not simply copies, and that the artists’ use of associative images and other elements clearly conveys their intention to symbolically express a given message. Take for example, Kitawaki Noboru’s work in which he likens a Maple-seed helicopter to an airplane. This image seems to be related to the Sino-Japanese War, which had recently broken out. Meanwhile, Asahara Kiyotaka’s painting, filled with a sweet lyricism, was clearly shaped by a sense of apprehension as the war drew nearer and a sense of nostalgia for the artist’s childhood.

These euphemistic, symbolic expressions emerged at a time when Proletarian art of the early ’30s faced government suppression and freedom of expression was increasingly restricted. These were the conditions under which Fukuzawa Ichiro worked. Please take this special opportunity to compare Fukuzawa’s works in the exhibition downstairs with those on display in this room.

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 Art / War: 1941-1945

Matsumoto Shunsuke, Bridge in Y-City, 1943

The Sino-Japanese War began in 1937. The National Mobilization Law was enacted the following year, forcing Japanese citizens to cooperate with the war effort. Artists were no exception. Many were sent to the front and made pictures documenting the war. There was also a crackdown on free and avant-garde expression, leading exhibitions to be banned and art groups dissolved.

The works assembled in this room were created between 1941 (the year of the attack on Pearl Harbor) and 1945 (the end of World War II), a period in which war conditions were becoming increasingly severe. The war-record paintings express a direct link between war and art in an easily understandable manner. Other works, which remained firmly grounded in a given style, seem to have largely escaped the influence of the war. Still other works seem to indirectly convey a sense of discomfort regarding the war. It would be inappropriate to divide works of the era into those that represent art and those that represent the war, or those that express support or opposition to the conflict. All of them contain aspects of war and art, and the fact that we are confronted with both of these elements is what makes them so difficult to look at.

Room 7 The 1950s and 1960s: Finding New Directions

Suda Kunitaro, Dog, 1950

The early 1950s saw the signing of a peace treaty between the Japan and the US, officially ending World War II, and an economic resurgence due to demand arising from the Korean War, and the Japanese art world began to evolve. The Yomiuri Independent, a series of exhibitions open to everyone with no screening, was launched, contemporary art galleries and modern art museums opened, and there was increasing artistic exchange with other countries. Amid unprecedented rapid economic growth in Japan, and the Cold War unfolding overseas, in the 1950s and 1960s art diverged and developed in enormously varied directions.

The works in this gallery were produced over two decades, the 1950s and 1960s, and are shown in pairs of works made the same year. They are selected so as to boldly underscore differences such as those between figurative and abstract, inner self and outer reality, local and international. We hope you enjoy viewing this cross-section of art from the 1950s and 1960s and discovering the commonalities and disparities between paired works that were produced the same year but have very different orientations.

Room 8 A Matter of Time

Noda Tetsuya, Diary: April 22nd '70 in New York (c), 1970
(Exhibit Date: January 29 - March 17, 2019)

Noda Tetsuya, Diary: May 8th '70 in New York (a), 1970
(Exhibit Date: March 19 - May 26, 2019)

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 - 1 Tsuchida Hiromi: Autistic Space (Exhibit Date: January 29 - March 17, 2019)

Tsuchida Hiromi, From "An Autistic Space" [1], 1970

In 1971, Tsuchida Hiromi received the 8th Taiyo Award for his work Autistic Space. Born in Fukui Prefecture, Tsuchida found a job at a local cosmetics company after graduating from university. In 1964, he was transferred to Tokyo, where he enrolled in a photography school while continuing to work. This marked the start of his career as a photographer.

In this series, Tsuchida likens Tokyo’s Asakusa neighborhood to a closed (or autistic) space. Despite the dramatic changes that were occurring in Tokyo during this high-growth period, the area remained home to a thriving indigenous old-town culture and lifestyle. By juxtaposing his own struggles as a provincial living in the capital, Tsuchida set out to take a close look at “his own autistic experiences in Asakusa.”

Using a variety of techniques, including a grainy texture, strong contrasts, and reproducing existing images, Tsuchida created a sense of tension and anxiety that befits the work’s title. The photographer Kimura Ihei, one of the judges for the Taiyo Award, commented that the “viewpoint recalls scenes from Gorky’s The Lower Depths.

This exhibit is made up of 30 works, all printed by the photographer, which he submitted as a group to the Taiyo Award competition.

Room 9 - 2 Shiihara Osamu: Light, Form, Speed (Exhibit Date:March 19 - May 26, 2019)

Shiihara Osamu, An Egg, n.d.

The photographer Shiihara Osamu was a member of the Osaka-based Tampei Photography Club before World War II. Having studied oil painting at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (now the Tokyo University of the Arts), Shiihara had clearly defined notions regarding the similarities and differences between the visual expressions of painting and photography. Although he created a variety of what might best be described as “experimental” works of photography, Shiihara adopted an unexpectedly realistic and moderate approach in his paintings.

It would seem that the things that made photography interesting to Shiihara were things that painting lacked. This led him to explore a wide range of creative possibilities manifested by light in the darkroom and rooted in the medium’s inherent ability to shape light. On the other hand, the painterly compositions that are a constant in his photographs suggest the work of a naturalistic painter with the ability to precisely grasp his subjects and give his pictures a strong structure.

How is Shiihara’s intention to establish this structure, which underlies these varied, experimental works, related to basic photographic elements such as light, form, and speed? This is a question that you might consider as you make your way around this exhibit.

Room 10 - 1 A Wide Variety of Lines (Exhibit Date: January 29 - March 17, 2019)

Imamura Shiko, Early Spring, 1916

Nihon-ga (modern Japanese-style painting) is sometimes described as being in the style of nanga (literati painting) or yamato-e (classical Japanese painting). This is because Nihon-ga has various commonalities with these earlier genres in terms of the subjects, shapes, colors, and lines, whether collectively or individually. Focusing on line alone, for simplicity’s sake, Nihon-ga in the nanga (literati painting) tradition is characterized by blurred or indistinct lines, as in the work of Tomioka Tessai or Imamura Shiko. Meanwhile, the yamato-e tradition features softly curved lines reminiscent of hiragana characters (as in the work of Kikkawa Reika), or sharp lines like bent wires (Kobayashi Kokei et al). The latter were sometimes described as “wire-line drawing,” and this technique was a reference for early 20th century artists, as in the wall paintings at the Kondo Hall of Horyu-ji Temple.

In this room, we present works with a wide variety of lines. We invite to look past individual artists’ styles to what unites artists stylistically in understandable and recognizable groups.

The first area ahead presents works that illustrate painters’ aesthetic appreciation of ceramics. This area will be on view until May 26, with rotating content.

Room 10-2 Spring Festival in MOMAT (Exhibit Date:March 19 - May 26, 2019)

Kawai Gyokudo, Parting Spring , 1916, left screen (Important Cultural Property)

For our annual Spring Festival, we have increased the number of works, and here in Room 10 we have brought together a number of works featuring flowers. We hope you relax and enjoy spring while seated on Kenmochi Isamu’s rattan stools and Seike Kiyoshi’s mobile tatami mats.

Kawai Gyokudo’s Parting Spring (Important Cultural Property), a frequent staple of the Spring Festival, is exhibited in this room. It depicts Nagatoro, Saitama in spring, with the cherry blossoms along the waterside swiftly scattering in a scene that recalls Chidorigafuchi (another famous cherry blossom site, walking distance from here). A marvelous variety of cherry blossoms is also on view in Atomi Gyokushi’s Scroll of Cherry Blossoms. Over 40 rare types of cherry trees appear in its 25 panels, including weeping, yellow-hued, and Izu Oshima cherry trees like those that burst into bloom one after another along the Kinokunizaka Slope between the MOMAT main building and the Crafts Gallery. On a spring day, enjoy a harmony of the cherry blossoms in these paintings and the ones outside the museum.

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.

Sugiura Hisui: Image Collector


Room 11 Around 40 in the ’80s

Ikeda Ryoji, Reborn Door, 1988

Here, we focus primarily on Japanese painting of the 1980s. Many of the artists turned 40 during that decade. In 1968, at a particularly sensitive time in their lives, they experienced a turbulent age in which people began to raise serious objections to state power and established values. And just as the bubble economy began in 1986, the artists were around 40.

In Confucianism, 40 (as reckoned in the traditional East Asian system in which people are born at the age of one rather than zero) is said to be the age at which a person no longer wavers in their judgment. In art, however, 40 can be a difficult age, as it runs the risk of mannerism. For example, in a newspaper article Kojima Yuji discussed the dangers of becoming too comfortable with painting in one’s 40s. On the other hand, Arimoto Toshio wrote the following passage in his diary on New Year’s Day of the year he was due to turn 33: “Seven years until I’m 40. What will I be able to do by the time I’m 35?” As it turned out, he received a major prize, the Yasui Award, when he was 35, but he died before he made it to 40.

Room 12 After Caro Met Smith

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

Anthony Caro, Lap, 1969
Courtesy of Barford Sculptures Ltd
Photo: John Riddy

In 2017, the museum purchased the U.S.-born artist David Smith’s Circle IV (1962) followed in 2018 by the U.K.-born artist Anthony Caro’s Lap (1969). Thus, the museum has added to its collection important works by these sculptors, who are an essential part of any discussion about 20th-century art.

As it turns out, the two were closely linked. When Caro visited the U.S. for the first time in 1959, he met Smith and saw his work there. And like Smith, Caro welded steel sheets and frames together, and painted them to create abstract objects (needless to say, he was also influenced by his meetings with other artists and critics). These works were frequently criticized for being pictorial, but Caro’s efforts to create something new by fusing the characteristics of one genre with another might also be seen as an inherent part of art since the 20th century. In this room, we focus primarily on these works.

Collection Gallery, from the fourth to second floors
January 29 - May 26, 2019

10:00 – 17:00 (10:00 – 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays)
*Last admission is 30 minutes before closing.
※Closed on Mondays (except February 11, March 25, April 1, April 29, May 6), February 12, May 7, 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 (February 3, March 3, April 7, May 5) February 24, May 18, 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

February 18, 2020 (Tue)

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