- February 11 –June 14, 2020
The collection exhibition from February 11 –June 14, 2020
Kawai Gyokudo, Parting Spring , 1916, left screen (Important Cultural Property)
Welcome to the MOMAT Collection! Once again, the time of year approaches when the cherry blossoms of Chidorigafuchi burst beautifully into bloom. To mark this season, we are pleased to present masterworks depicting cherry blossoms, including Kawai Gyokudo’s Parting Spring, in Room 10 on the third floor.
Also, the area in front of Rooms 9 and 10 on the third floor features a special exhibit on the Bauhaus. This German school of fine and applied arts, which enormously influenced the development of modern design, marked the centenary of its opening last year.
Meanwhile, in Gallery 4 on the second floor we present a small-scale exhibition entitled Kitawaki Noboru: To See the Universe in a Seed. During the tumultuous era of the 1930s and 1940s, he produced a highly unique body of work deriving inspiration from ordinary plant life in his surroundings.
Once again this year, 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
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)
■Yorozu Tetsugoro, Nude Beauty, 1912
■Kishida Ryusei, Road Cut through a Hill, 1915
■Kawai Gyokudo, Parting Spring, 1916
◆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 is currently out of service.
Room 1 Highlights
Kishida Ryusei, Road Cut through a Hill, 1915 (Important Cultural Property)
The MOMAT Collection exhibition, drawn from the museum’s holdings, consists of over 200 works displayed over a 3,000-square meter area. The exhibition starts with the “Highlights” section, consisting of some of the collection’s most essential works.
In the Nihon-ga (modern Japanese-style painting) genre, we present Ogura Yuki’s Bathing Women. This is an epoch-making work in that a female artist painted nude figures, which was highly unusual in Nihon-ga at that time.
Oil paintings on view include Harada Naojiro’s Kannon Bodhisattva Riding the Dragon (an Important Cultural Property), Kishida Ryusei’s Road Cut through a Hill, and other works critical to the development of modern Japanese painting. Other highlights include works by female painters such as Katsura Yuki and Maruki Toshi. Paintings by non-Japanese artists include work by Paul Cézanne, purchased in fiscal 2014 with a special budgetary allocation; Francis Bacon, whose paintings in Japanese public collections number only five; and a landscape by Gerhard Richter recently placed on long-term loan to the museum.
Room 2 Light, Color, and Emotion – Focus on Pointillism
Ota Kijiro, Rice-Planting, 1916
Pointillism is a style in which images are rendered with groups of dots or short brushstrokes, placed side by side or layered. This technique was developed in 19th-century Europe, particularly by Impressionists such as Claude Monet (1840–1926) and Neo-Impressionists such as Georges Seurat (1859–1891) who pursued “divided brushstroke” techniques based on optical theory, as a means of depicting light without losing the true luminosity of colors under sunlight. It was also an effective way for painters to express their emotions through brushwork. Meanwhile, Japanese painters in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were already accustomed to ink painting in which rocks, moss on tree trunks, leaves and so forth are rendered using dots and short strokes of ink. When they encountered the new modern Western styles, they were inspired to focus on pointillistic expression as a means of capturing vivid natural scenery in sunlight and the artist’s subjective impressions. In this room, we present works by painters who employed pointillism and stippling (short brushstrokes) as they sought to convey momentary impressions from, and emotions evoked by, the natural world.
Room 3 Muses Inspiring Artists
Ogiwara Morie, Woman, 1910
Photo: OTANI Ichiro
In one of Henri Rousseau’s paintings, the goddess of liberty blows a bugle, beckoning painters to take part in the Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists. Three years after this painting, Rousseau produced another entitled Muse Inspiring the Poet (1909), with which the title of this section paraphrases. The painting depicts the poet Guillaume Apollinaire and the female painter Marie Laurencin, a source of inspiration for him, standing side by side. Around the same time, in Japan the sculptor Ogiwara Morie was expressing his unprofessed feelings for his patron Soma Kokko, the female proprietor of Shinjuku Nakamuraya, in works such as Priest Mongaku and Woman. There are many other examples, especially during this period, of women who were muses to male artists, as Alma Mahler was to Oskar Kokoschka. Today, we are likely to ask the question: “Well, what about the opposite? Who inspired female artists?” Under the keen gazes of the women depicted in these paintings, viewers may be inspired to rethink aspects of gender roles in art.
Room 4 Artists’ sketched records of travels to India and Asia
Imamura Shiko, The Town of Gaya from "Sketches from the Trip to India", 1914
In this room we present sketches by Japanese-style painters Imamura Shiko (1880–1916) and Kawabata Ryushi (1886–1966) made while traveling abroad.
Imamura boarded a cargo ship to India in 1914. The ship stopped in China, Singapore and elsewhere before berthing in Kolkata for 15 days. Imamura is thought to have obtained information in advance about China, and depicted well-known sights. Meanwhile, from his sketches of India and Southeast Asia, it is evident that the foreign visitor took an interest in the everyday lives of people in other countries.
Kawabata traveled to the South Seas and China to make a series of drawings to be shown at the Seiryusha exhibition. At the time, territories such as Saipan and Palau were controlled by Japan. Also,as it was during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the artist was embedded with the former Japanese Army and Navy.
These sketches show an admiration and passion for other countries. They are visually appealing and serve as historical materials convey the conditions of the time. On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that the creation of these sketches was inseparable from some element of oppression of foreign people.
Room 5 Everything Old Is New Again?
Maeta Kanji, Nude,1925
In the world of Yo-ga (Japanese Western-style painting), both the 1920s and the late 1930s saw crazes for classicism, i.e. fascination with the art of Greco-Roman antiquity. The first time, it was in response to the “return to order” taking place in Europe after World War I. The trend may seem regressive or reactionary from the perspective of the avant-garde, which sought the overthrow of old-fashioned values, but at the time the ideal proportions of classical art were seen as connected to the rational aesthetics of modernism, and reappraised in this light. Such qualities are often noted in the work of Kuroda Jutaro and Togo Seiji. Underlying this development was the recovery from the unthinkable devastation of World War I in Europe, and from the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake in Japan. Later, in the late 1930s, imagery of classical antiquity had overtones of longing for a lost utopia as the stormclouds of World War II gathered. The timing of these classical revivals suggest that people may turn to “classical” ideals when they harbor a sense of crisis.
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 1943 The 2nd Great East Asia War Art Exhibition
Nakamura Ken'ichi, Battle of the Coral Sea, 1943
Military art, also known as war record paintings, was art officially commissioned by the Japanese military to document World War II in the Asia-Pacific region. The military chose themes, painters were dispatched to battle zones to gather material and produce works, and after completion the wartime authorities collected the works and exhibited them in various locations around Japan. Here, we present paintings from the 2nd Great East Asia War Art Exhibition, held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in December 1943 and January 1944. This was one of the largest exhibitions of such art during the war, and also traveled to Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka, Sasebo, and Nagoya over the course of six months. During 1943 Japan’s situation had worsened, with various setbacks including withdrawal from Guadalcanal, the total annihilation of the forces defending Attu, and the departure of students for the front, while at home people’s living conditions were growing increasingly severe. Nonetheless, according to the Tokyo exhibition’s organizers, the number of attendees exceeded 150,000 in one month.
All of the works in this room were originally shown at the 2nd Great East Asia War Art Exhibition. What did people see, what did they think about, when they viewed the works at that time, and how do they appear to us today?
Room 7 Restless Bodies
Yamashita Kikuji, Colonial Factory, 1951
At a time when the aftereffects of the Pacific War were still very pronounced, a variety of artists made works depicting introspective and depressed people as a way of quietly expressing their opposition to the turbulent social conditions.
Kazuki Yasuo was interned in Siberia after the war. After being sent home, he adopted a completely different artistic style, focusing on people who had suffered at the hands of society. These works might also be seen as self-portraits of a grief-stricken artist who fell victim to harsh circumstances.
Oyamada Jiro and Nakano Jun make use of dining tables, the artists fill the canvas with vivid brushstrokes, depicting dark scenes that are far removed from the pleasure of eating and enjoying each other’s company. The gloomy expressions and fragmented lifeless bodies reflect the atmosphere in a society faced with the reality that life is interchangeable.
Room 8 Circles and the Avant-Garde
EI-KYU, Dawn, 1957
Surveying Japanese art of the 1960s and the years immediately before and after, one gets a sense of energy and excitement pervading avant-garde art, like that which propelled movements such as American Abstract Expressionism.
In Japanese abstraction, in terms of motifs, one notices the prevalence of circles. For example, Onosato Toshinobu said that for him, the circle was of vital importance as the “original, primal form of all things.” Meanwhile, both Sugai Kumi and Yoshihara Jiro made not imitating others a personal credo, and it is interesting that both arrived after extensive explorations at the simple geometric figure of the circle. Furthermore, Sugai’s and Yoshihara’s circles are all in primary or other basic colors, and are painted so as to leave a minimum of visible brushstrokes. In this stance we can see a reaction to or backlash against the Art Informel (a French term meaning “non-formal art,” broadly describing a school of gestural abstraction) that arrived on Japanese shores in the 1950s.
Room 9 The Bauhaus and Its Legacy
László Moholy-Nagy, Photogram, 1923-24
Established in Germany in 1919, the Bauhaus was a school of art and design that offered comprehensive arts education focusing on architecture, and exerted an enormous and enduring influence on the development of modern design. László Moholy-Nagy, a Hungarian national who began teaching there in 1923, and added photography to the school curriculum. He defined photography as an “art of light,” and opened up new possibilities in photography as a visual medium, including the camera-less technique of photograms and the photomontage.
In 1937 Moholy-Nagy was invited to Chicago, where he opened the New Bauhaus (incorporated into the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1955). He carried on the Bauhaus legacy while pursuing a new design education model that fused art, science and technology. This school is also known as one of the United States’ most forward-looking institutions of photographic education, and its philosophy and practices were absorbed into the Japanese photography world through the activities of Bauhaus graduate Ishimoto Yasuhiro and the writings of Moholy-Nagy.
This special exhibit is in conjunction with the come to bauhaus! exhibition touring five museums in Japan to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus’s foundation. Related exhibits are also on view in Room 10 and in the Art Library.
Room 10 Spring Festival / Special Bauhaus Exhibit
Paul Klee, Postcard for the Bauhaus Exhibition "The Sublime Aspect" 1923, 1923
Marcel Breuer, Club chair B3 "Wassily", 1927
Photography by Arrow Art Works ©2014
The time has come for our annual “Spring Festival.” In the rear of this room, Kawai Gyokudo’s Parting Spring (an Important Cultural Property) and Kikuchi Hobun’s Fine Rain on Mt. Yoshino are shown together for the first time in two years. Have a seat on one of Kenmochi Isamu’s rattan stools or Seike Kiyoshi’s mobile tatami mats, and savor these lovely visions of spring.
In the space closer at hand is a Special Bauhaus Exhibit. The Bauhaus was a seminal art and design school that first opened in Weimar, Germany in 1919 and later moved to Dessau and then to Berlin, where it was forced to close in 1933 under Nazi repression. In the 14 years of its short existence, the Bauhaus had some of the greatest artists of the day as teachers, maintained a focus on developments in contemporary society, and offered a unique education aimed at building new relationships between society and art. Its innovative philosophy and practices were transmitted both directly and indirectly to Japan through various people and objects. In this room, we showcase points of contact between the Bauhaus and Japan circa 1930, when Japan was looking to the West for examples of “modernity.”
2F (Second floor)
Room 11-12 1970s-2010s
From the End of the Showa Period to the Present
Kitawaki Noboru: To See the Universe in a Seed
Room 11 The Seeing Eye, the Feeling Heart and Nature
Azami Takako, Plum and Maple Trees, 2009
In this room we present work by painters, a printmaker and a sculptor who gaze at the natural world, produce work face-to-face with nature, and in doing so probe into the meaning of creating two- and three-dimensional works of art. Here elements of nature such as trees, leaves, flowers and birds are reinterpreted and emerge as new images through the filter of the artist’s mind. For example, Akioka Miho takes photographs intentionally out of focus, enlarges and prints them, producing spaces with no point of focus and only rays of light intersecting, wavering and shimmering. Nonetheless, they convey the sensation of sitting in a forest where the wind sways the trees and the leaves rustle. In Kodama Yasue’s ambient light – sakura, cherry blossoms appear faintly against brilliant backgrounds glowing with inner luminosity, and by moving their eyes up and down, back and forth over these works, viewers can gain from the subtle discrepancies a sense of blossoms floating in space. Please feel free to view the works dynamically – draw near, step back, look up and down – and experience nature as expressed by the artists.
Room 12 Sculpture or Painting? Figurative or Abstract?
Anthony Caro, Lap, 1969
Courtesy of Barford Sculptures Ltd
Photo: John Riddy
Since the Renaissance, there has been ongoing contention over the relative superiority and inferiority of painting (two-dimensional) and sculpture (three-dimensional). Here sculptures occupy the front half of the room, and paintings the rear half.
The sculptures on view are Western works from the museum’s collection, with Anthony Caro’s Lap as a centerpiece. Lap, assembled from colored steel components, is a vibrant and rewarding work that draws on existing sculptural traditions and connects to various paths along which sculpture subsequently developed.
In conjunction with the exhibition Peter Doig, the paintings presented have figurative leanings, they are primarily by Japanese artists and date from the late 1960s through the 1990s. Like painting and sculpture, figurative and abstract have often been viewed as a dichotomy and their merits compared, especially since the 20th century. Today, it seems unproductive to debate whether figurative art is superior to abstract art or vice versa, but viewing these works in terms of interpretations of figurative/abstract, which vary depending on the artist and the era, may open up intriguing new perspectives.
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)
*Due to concerns over coronavirus infection, “Let’s Talk Art!” from on February 28 will be cancelled. We ask for your kind understanding and cooperation.
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
- February 11 –June 14, 2020
- 10:00 – 17:00
*Last admission is 30 minutes before closing.
- ※Closed on Mondays (except February 24, March 30, May 4), February 25, May 7, 2020 →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.
- 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