Past Exhibitions

  • June 4 -October 20, 2019

MOMAT Collection

The collection exhibition from June 4 -October 20, 2019

Wada Sanzo, South Wind, 1907 (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 are treated to 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.

In two rooms, Room 7 and 8 on the 3rd floor, we present design and crafts associated with a widespread passion for ancient artifacts during the 1950s and 1960s. In Room 11, on the 2nd floor, there is a special exhibit related to the exhibition Takahata Isao: A Legend in Japanese Animation, and in Gallery 4 on the 2nd floor, we present a small exhibit entitled Emancipation of Humanity: Focusing on Works by Female Artists.

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo relocated to Takebashi and reopened on June 11, 1969. As we mark the 50th anniversary of relocation during this year’s MOMAT Collection exhibition, we present materials from that time in the exhibit Room to Consider the Building on the 3rd floor. Once again this year, we are pleased to present a wide range of works from the MOMAT Collection, and we hope you enjoy them to the fullest.

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 

■Tsuchida, Bakusen, Serving Girl in a Spa , 1918 (Exhibit Date: June 4 – August 18, 2019)

■Nakamura Tsune, Portrait of Vasilii Yaroshenko, 1920

◆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

AI-MITSU, Landscape with an Eye, 1938

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 matte black for the floor.

This time, during the first term of the collection exhibition (June 4–August 18), we present Nihon-ga (modern Japanese-style painting) including Kikuchi Keigetsu’s Dedicating Lanterns, which depicts a scene from The Tale of the Heike. In the second term (August 20–October 20), the changing seasons will be conveyed by Shimomura Kanzan’s Autumn Among Trees and Kayama Matazo’s The Milky Way.

Yo-ga (Japanese Western-style painting) on view includes Harada Naojiro’s Kannon Bodhisattva Riding the Dragon and Nakamura Tsune’s Portrait of Vasilii Yaroshenko, both Important Cultural Properties, as well as works that have returned to the museum after being on loan to other museums or overseas, such as Five Nudes by Fujita Tsuguharu and Portrait of Kishida Kunio by Hasekawa Toshiyuki. Also, please enjoy the works of European artists who influenced Japanese art, including Henri Rousseau and Paul Klee.

Room 2 Before the Beginning

Wada Sanzo, South Wind, 1907 (Important Cultural Property)

Following the inauguration of the Meiji government in 1868, Japan established a variety of cultural concepts and systems that were based on a Western model. 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 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. Some view the inception of the Bunten exhibition as the dawn of modern art in Japan, but of course painting and sculpture from before that time exist, and are in the museum’s collection. This room presents works that, with the exception of one yo-ga and one Nihon-ga shown in the exhibition, were made before the exhibition was launched. Starting with this glimpse of what came before “the beginning,” we hope you enjoy these works from the MOMAT Collection (incidentally, it was not until 1927 that a Crafts category was added to the Bunten. This MOMAT Collection exhibition features crafts as well, and the relationship between fine art and crafts is something to think about as you view the works.)

Room 3 Shirakaba

Paul Cézanne, Grand Bouquet of Flowers, c.1892-95

Enormously influential in the Japanese art world during the Taisho era (1912–1926), Shirakaba [white birch] was a literary magazine established in 1910 by Mushanokoji Saneatsu, Shiga Naoya, Arishima Ikuma, Yanagi Muneyoshi and others (releasing 160 issues before it ceased publication due to the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923). It dealt not only with literature but also with various fields such as art, music, theater, and philosophy, based on values like individualism and veneration of life that thrived in the environment of “Taisho democracy.” Each issue of Shirakaba included reproductions of works by overseas artists, such as Paul Cézanne, Auguste Rodin and Vincent van Gogh, which had a great impact on young Japanese artists. The group that published the magazine was also active in arranging exhibitions of European art and solo shows of such young artists as Kishida Ryusei and Umehara Ryuzaburo. The group also had the never-realized dream of opening their ideal museum, the Shirakaba Museum, and in pursuit of this ground-breaking effort, actually assembled a collection of works (including Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers, one of his best-known paintings, which was purchased by businessman Yamamoto Koyata for the Shirakaba Museum but tragically destroyed during World War II.)

Room 4 Bokuto Kidan

Kimura Shohachi, Illustration no.8 to the Novel "Bokuto Kidan" by Nagai Kafu, 1937
(Exhibit Date: June 4 - August 18, 2019)

The aging novelist Oe Tadasu has gone to Tamanoi, a red-light district in the suburbs of Tokyo, in search of a good time. Rain begins to fall, and an unlicensed prostitute named Oyuki crashes into Oe’s umbrella. A relationship gradually develops between the two, but then Oe suddenly disappears. This is the basic plot of Nagai Kafu’s novel Bokuto Kidan (A Strange Tale from East of the River). The book was originally serialized in both the Tokyo and Osaka editions of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper from April to June 1937, with the illustrations by Kimura Shohachi exhibited here. It was thanks in part to Kimura’s illustrations that the book became one of Kafu’s most popular.

“Bokuto” refers to the area on the east bank of the Sumida River, today part of Tokyo’s Sumida Ward. Tamanoi (formerly known as Terajima-machi) was a district home to so-called meishuya (sake houses), which were ostensibly drinking establishments serving high-quality sake, but covertly functioned as brothels where unlicensed prostitutes worked. They were originally clustered in Asakusa, but from 1918 through the period following the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, they progressively moved to the vicinity of Tamanoi Station (present-day Higashi-Mukojima Station on the Tobu Isesaki Line). The meishuya of Tamanoi flourished during the years leading up to and during World War II, but they were virtually wiped out by the 1945 air raids on Tokyo, and no trace of them remains today.

Room 5 Art of the 1920 and 1930s: Light and Dark Sides of Modernism and Urbanization

Yo Kanji, Head of a Certain Retired General,1929

In Europe during the period between the two world wars, roughly coinciding with the 1920s and 1930s, there was a flourishing of various artistic styles in which freedom of thought and the artist’s individuality took center stage, transcending the bounds of, and at times dramatically shattering, the traditions of naturalistic and realistic painting and sculpture so as to create something new. Movements of the day such as abstraction, revealing the dismantling and reconstruction of objects reduced to formal elements such as lines and planes, were progressively introduced to Japan and were hugely influential. Also, after the end of World War I in 1918, many Japanese artists have traveled to Europe and had the opportunity to engage with European artistic trends, which encouraged the rapid diversification of Japanese art.

However, this was also a time when urbanization and industrialization were causing widening financial and class inequality, and social disparities between urban and rural areas were expanding. Artists turned a critical gaze on the paradoxes and problems of society, and depicted subjects such as desolate street corners and people living in poverty. The works of Kuniyoshi Yasuo and Noda Hideo, who traveled to the United States in order to make a living, reflect the state of American society around the dawn of the Great Depression (1929).

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


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: The Essence of Japan Unearthed?

Okabe Mineo, Vase, wooven cord pattern, 1956
Photography by Omi Shigeharu ©2007

Art of the 1950s featured many forms reminiscent of archaeological artifacts such as haniwa clay images and dogu figurines. After World War II, direct interactions with the West resumed, including Isamu Noguchi’s visit to Japan in 1950 and a Picasso exhibition the following year. Today’s Focus: On the History of Japanese Art (1954) sought to connect East and West, ancient and modern, drawing hints from morphological similarities between Western modernism and Japanese ancient art. Many artists noted that the bold, simple and concise forms of artifacts excavated in Japan had similarities with abstract art. Isamu Noguchi and Okamoto Taro saw in them “primal beauty,” and around this time artifacts that had been regarded as mere archaeological “materials” came to be discussed in terms of their aesthetic qualities.

This also relates to the state of Japan in defeat, much of its urban landscape having been decimated, and excavation sites appearing everywhere during widespread reconstruction. While the Imperial, mythological view of history described in the nation’s creation myths was censored under Allied occupation, the unearthing of artifacts that told the true story of Japan’s origins drew new attention and acclaim.

Room 8 The 1950s and 1960s: Unearthing the Past, Constructing the Future

Inokuma Gen'ichiro, An Amazing Landscape (B), 1969
©The MIMOCA Foundation

The postwar craze for all things ancient was related to rapid, widespread construction of roads and residential areas. Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, there was massive demand for urban infrastructure development, such as the Shinkansen (bullet train) and the Shuto Expressway in Tokyo, leading to excavation of many archaeological sites throughout Japan. Passion for ancient times and modern economic growth, excavation and destruction: these seemingly contradictory phenomena were inextricably linked.

In the late 1950s and 1960s, people actively sought the essence of Japanese things and traditions, but there were complex motives that cannot be reduced to an innate drive to revitalize national identity. Comprehensive National Land Development Law, enacted in 1950, promoted the use of land and resources to build a self-sustaining economy, and the development of tourist-oriented roads was an important pillar of this strategy. The Japanese economy, which had to support a large population occupying a small land area with few resources, had depleted its reserves over long years of war. Ruins in various parts of Japan were maintained, restored and turned into tourist attractions partly because they were a crucial means of attracting foreign spending.

During these years, when dirt roads all over Japan were being paved with asphalt, artists frequently expressed in their works a simultaneous mourning for the lost Japan of the past and amazement at the new landscape emerging around them.

Room 9 - 1 Temporal Arrays: The Works of Ito Yoshihiko (Exhibit Date: June 4 - August 18, 2019)

Ito Yoshihiko, imagery72 82012 [1], 1982

When film negatives are placed on photo paper and printed at actual size, the result is called a “contact sheet.” When large-format film is used, the contact sheet can be appreciated as a work of art in its own right, but with small 35mm film, contact sheets are generally only used as a reference to decide which frames to enlarge. However, Ito Yoshihiko exhibited contact sheets, each containing a roll of 35mm film frames in the order they were shot, as finished works of art.

When the images, in the order they were shot, are arranged in a grid on a single picture plane, new vertical, horizontal, and diagonal relationships among frames emerge. While moving pictures replicate temporal sequences through continuous playback of continuously shot frames, Ito’s work can be seen as a completely different approach to conveying the passage of time.

What happens when an artist closely observes something happening over the course of time, and arranges the sequence on a single picture plane? In Room 11 on the 2nd floor are exhibited works that also address this issue, using a different approach from that of contact sheets.

Room 9 - 2 Furuya Seiichi Portrait of Christine (Exhibit Date: August 20 - October 20, 2019)

Furuya Seiichi, Suruga Bay 1978 from "Portrait of Christine", 1978

Furuya Seiichi’s Portrait of Christine portrays a woman, the artist’s wife. He began the photo series in 1978, when the two met and married, and continued shooting from time to time. However, the series was cut short when his wife Christine took her own life in East Berlin in 1985.

Perhaps because she had studied theater, Christine’s facial expressions in these photographs are astonishingly varied. However, she began suffering from mental illness around 1982, and this cast a deep shadow over her presence and seems to forecast tragedy to come.

Several years after his wife’s death, Furuya turned to the photographs he had taken, and started work on a series of photo books entitled Memoirs. The first volume was published in 1989. The fifth volume, regarded as the culmination of the series, was published in 2010.Compiling these collections of photos in different forms over the course of two decades was, as the title indicates, a process of remembering. Just as memories are always recalled from the perspective of the present and change accordingly, the meanings of photographs change with the passage of time. Furuya’s work seems to have been both a tracing and retracing of his wife’s memory, and a new encounter with an unknown person with each foray into the past.

Room 10 Nature, the Seasons, and Nihon-ga

Kitano Tsunetomi, For Fun, 1929
(Exhibit Date: June 4 - August 18, 2019)

In this room we present a selection of works that convey the seasons progressing from early summer to autumn, in two parts, the first from June 4 to August 18 and the second from August 20 to October 20.

Yokoyama Taikan, one of Japan’s most widely known Nihon-ga (modern Japanese-style painting) painters, said in 1931: “The subjects of all works of art are the natural world and human life, and there is nothing to depict besides these things––the seasons, natural phenomena, human emotions. This is a truth that will never change.” The seasonal patterns of kimono in paintings of people, and the flowers, trees, or seasonal events in landscapes and genre paintings, give us a sense of the season. In this sense, Taikan perhaps spoke for all Nihon-ga painters with this statement.

However, it is important to note that many works of modern art, not included in this exhibit, do not fit this definition. Taikan himself dealt with various unconventional Nihon-ga subjects in his younger days, and after World War II young painters abandoned traditional values and broadened the scope of Nihon-ga. The seasons are not necessarily a constant presence in Nihon-ga, and these works can be viewed in a different light if we consider that their subject matter reflects individual choices or the prevailing expectations of their era.

Room to Consider the Building June 11, 1969

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo opened in 1952 at a site in Kyobashi, Chuo-ku, where the National Film Archive of Japan stands today. The original building had been the headquarters of Nikkatsu Corporation before the war and was refurbished as a museum, but there was insufficient space for exhibition and storage, and the absence of a gallery for the permanent collection was a particularly significant issue. These challenges were overcome in 1969 when the museum relocated to a building newly constructed in Kitanomaru Park, Takebashi. The new building, designed by Taniguchi Yoshiro, was a gift from Ishibashi Shojiro, then the Chairman of Bridgestone Tire Co., Ltd.

The museum opened at its Takebashi location on June 11, 1969. As we mark its 50th anniversary during this year’s MOMAT Collection exhibition, we are pleased to present materials from that time. The building, completed in 1969, was expanded and its seismic resistance strengthened during two years of construction starting in 1999, but otherwise remains as it was 50 years ago.

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.

Emancipation of Humanity: Focusing on Works by Female Artists


Room 11 Still? Moving?

Hishida Shunso, Landscape of the Four Seasons, 1910
(Exhibit Date: August 20 - October 20, 2019)

Moving pictures are sequences of still pictures projected continuously. With more still images (frames) per second the image moves smoothly, and with fewer it moves jerkily. However, even when there are so few that the subject appears and disappears, the viewer’s mind connects the images and interprets them as movement. Iji dozu (lit. “different time, same image,” a technique of showing multiple images of the same figure on the same page), used in some picture scrolls, utilizes this human cognitive tendency to show action (although it is no longer in the realm of moving pictures.)

In some picture scrolls, the scene itself appears to move. If you view it in the manner originally intended, unrolling it with your left hand and rolling it up with your right, you can enjoy it like a film, and the higher the quality of the picture scroll, the more brilliant the “camerawork” appears to be. Such techniques of making still images appear to move were later developed further in manga.

In this room, we present works that can be viewed in this way. This special exhibit draws its title from the book 12th-Century Animation: Cinematic and Animation Effects in National Treasure Picture Scrolls by the late, great animation director Takahata Isao, whose retrospective exhibition will be held from July 2 to October 6 on the first floor of the museum.

Room 12 What is This?

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

In contemporary art it is important to question conventions and think outside the box, and a similar mentality has been taking root in the business world. However, in Japan there is a deeply entrenched attachment to “the way” (the -do in such traditions as judo and sado, the tea ceremony), and a tendency to encourage the asking of questions like “What is painting?” and “Who am I?” This seems to be one reason so many people in Japan call contemporary art “difficult to understand.” But of course, not all of contemporary art is rigid philosophical exploration. Here, we present works that take open, flexible thinking as a starting point, asking questions like “What happens if I mix painting and sculpture?” or “What if I apply aspects of Nihon-ga(Japanese-style painting) to oil painting?” The results of these explorations may prompt the viewer to ask, “Umm, what is this?” However, because these works are free from the usual constraints of art, they may actually be more accessible, resembling things we see in daily life.


Let’s Talk Art!

Enjoy a cross-cultural conversation in English while exploring modern Japanese art.

Check here → “Let’s Talk Art!”

Every Friday 6:30PM–7:30PM (meeting time 6:15PM)
pre-registration necessary

Fee (including museum admission)
Adult (18–64) 1,500 yen
Discount with ID below (Show your ID)
College student 1,250 yen
Senior (65+) or Minor (11–17) 1,000 yen

Pre-registration ⇒ “Tiqets” website

Tickets on the day
If there are any vacancies, tickets are available at the museum ticket office from 10:00 AM to 6:15 PM on the day.

*This is an English conversation gallery program.
*For international visitors
*For people aged 11 or over
*On time start: Meeting in the museum lobby (1st floor) at 6:15 PM.
*Late comers can neither participate in the session nor get refunds.

Collection Gallery, from the fourth to second floors
June 4 -October 20, 2019

10:00 – 17:00 (10:00 – 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays)
open until 21:00 on Fridays and Saturdays during July 2 – October 6
*Last admission is 30 minutes before closing.
※Closed on Mondays (except July 15, August 12, September 16, September 23, October 14), July 16, August 13, September 17, September 24, October 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
*Admission free for college and university students from 17:00 on Fridays and Saturdays between July 19 and October 6.
Free Admission Days:
Collection Gallery and Gallery 4
Free on the first Sunday of each month (July 7, August 4, September 1, October 6, 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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