- November 3, 2020–February 23, 2021
Special feature: What Is Like the Present?
The collection exhibition from November 3, 2020–February 23, 2021
Makino Torao, Sunny Room , 1931
This edition of the MOMAT Collection centers on a special feature titled “What Is Like the Present?”, which unfolds over nine rooms. To consider “the present,” an era defined by the maelstrom of the coronavirus crisis, we have chosen a riddle-like approach with nine solutions in order to consider a century of art history from a variety of perspectives.
A riddle consists of a solution followed by a punch line. As we search for a common punch line to the solutions, which deal with subjects such as personal expressions and isms, art and the state, the subjective and the objective, and works and museums, we might come to the conclusion that distance is important. An artist’s distinctive way of observing the current state of a given phenomenon while maintaining their distance from it promises to provide us with some helpful hints for creatively passing our time in the present. In Room 12, we present new works by Okazaki Kenjiro, which was made during the coronavirus pandemic.
Viewers will also enjoying seeing some old favorites in “Highlights” (Room 1, 4th floor) as well as Soul and Soul, a work by the photographer Suzuki Kiyoshi, which is being shown to commemorate the 20th-anniversary of Suzuki’s death (Room 9, 3rd floor). In Room 10 (3rd floor), you will also a find selection of Nihon-ga (Japanese-style paintings) presented in two terms (the first running from Nov. 3 to Dec. 20, and the second from Dec. 22-Feb. 23). And a small exhibit devoted to sculptures of the male form can be found in Gallery 4 (2nd floor). Please relax and enjoy your visit to the museum.
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
■Nakamura Tsune, Portrait of Vasilii Yaroshenko, 1920
■Wada Sanzo, South Wind, 1907 (on display at Gallery 4)
◆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
Saeki Yuzo, Gas Lamp and Advertisements, 1927
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, during the first term of the exhibition (November 3 – December 20) Yamamoto Shunkyo’s Snow and Pine Trees will be on view, and during the second term (December 22 – February 23) we present the hanging scroll Divine Light of Love: Morning, Evening by Kawabata Ryushi, who had transitioned from Western-style painting to Nihon-ga, as well as Kosugi Hoan(Misei)’s folding screen and other works. Outside the display cases, some of the most important works in the MOMAT collection will be exhibited, including Harada Naojiro’s Kannon Bodhisattva Riding the Dragon and Kishida Ryusei’s Road Cut through a Hill (both Important Cultural Properties of Japan), Koga Harue’s Sea, Henri Rousseau’s Liberty Inviting Artists to Take Part in the 22nd Exhibition of the Société des Artistes, and Takamura Kotaro’s Hand, as well as Cats by Fujita Tsuguharu, on which restoration work has recently been completed.
Room 2 #MuseumBouquet
Paul Cézanne, Grand Bouquet of Flowers, c.1892-95
This spring, when many museums were forced to close as a countermeasure against the spread of COVID-19, the hashtag #MuseumBouquet was spreading on social media. Many museums around the world selected images of flowers from their collections and uploaded them to content-sharing platforms, with the goal of bringing some small measure of hope and comfort to people stuck at home. At the time we were among the museums posting images, such as Cézanne’s Grand Bouquet of Flowers. In this exhibit, we are pleased to present flower paintings from Japan, dating from the 1910s through the 1940s, along with the work of Cézanne.
However, we are not simply trying to soothe viewers with flower paintings. As is widely known, Cézanne had an enormous influence on Japanese painters in the early 20th century, in terms of his approach to apprehending the natural world and his principles of composition. At the same time, Japan has a tradition of bird and flower painting going back to ancient times. Even when depicting the same subject (flowers), painters focus on a widely varying range of aspects. As you enjoy these paintings, please note the similarities and differences in their depictions.
Room 3 Art and Life
Sekine Shoji, Three Stars, 1919
The sculptor and poet Takamura Kotaro wrote in a review of the 1913 Bunten (official exhibition sponsored by the Ministry of Education): “I can look at a work, see whether it has ‘life,’ and by extension know directly whether the artist has la vie [French for ‘life’]. At the same time, when I see an artist and whether or not he has la vie, I can immediately imagine whether or not his work has value.” When Takamura speaks of a work having “life,” he does not mean that the rendered or sculpted object looks alive, but rather that some invisible aspect of the artist’s inner life is expressed.
Art movements in the Taisho Era (1912-1926) revolved around the expression of “life.” Examples include the work of Yorozu Tetsugoro, which seemingly states that the artist’s touch connects directly to life’s essence, and that of Sekine Shoji, which expresses powerful emotion even at the cost of leaving the work looking unfinished. Meanwhile, Kishida Ryusei said that when precise, detailed rendering produced realistic beauty, it was because the painter’s “inner beauty” was aligned with the tangible phenomena of nature.
During these years when “life” was central to art, in real life artists were afflicted with all manner of illnesses. All of the works presented in this room are by artists who died younger than we might imagine.
Room 4 Sunny Homes
Makino Torao, Sunny Room, 1931
Throughout the modern era, tuberculosis was the most common life-threatening disease. The only effective treatment was nourishment, rest, sunlight, and fresh air to breathe. For this reason, sanatoriums for recuperating patients needed to enable them to sunbathe and be exposed to outdoor air. It has been pointed out that Le Corbusier (1887-1965) and Alvar Aalto (1898-1976), who later became titans of modernist architecture, drew on their experience designing sanatoriums to create a new architectural vocabulary with elements such as flat roofs, balconies, and large windows.
In Japan, houses with large windows blending Japanese and Western architectural styles become popular among middle- and upper-class families in the 1920s. This was in part a reflection the promotion of “sunny homes” on a national scale, as a preventive measure against various diseases including tuberculosis. Works such as Makino Torao’s Sunny Room and Kobayashi Tokusaburo’s Reading convey the new lifestyles of those times. In this room, we present artworks and historical materials related to the theme of “sunny homes.”
Room 5 Art and the State: The Federal Art Project
Ishigaki Eitaro, The Noose, 1931
In the 1930s, United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted a group of programs known as the New Deal, aimed at rebuilding the nation’s economy after the onset of the Great Depression in 1929. Part of it was the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which implemented Federal Project Number One to support people in creative fields, in part through the Federal Art Project (1935-43) for visual artists. The WPA commissioned murals and sculptures in public buildings such as train stations, government offices, and libraries, and launched an art education program and art survey and documentation program, hiring many artists for important positions. Leading figures in postwar art such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning (November 3 – December 20), as well as Japanese artists working and exhibiting in the US such as Kuniyoshi Yasuo and Ishigaki Eitaro, participated in the program, which not only enabled artists to continue their careers but also resulted in many precious documents of American life and culture at the time.
In this room, we are pleased to present art that grew out of the Federal Art Project of the 1930s, which offers opportunities to consider the nature of relationships between art (artists) and the state.
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 and the State: War
Shimizu Toshi, Engineering Corps Constructing a Bridge in Malaya, c.1944
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, and the national government imposed increasingly draconian controls, leading exhibitions to be banned and art groups dissolved.
Federal Project Number One, implemented by the American WPA (Works Progress Administration), introduced in the previous room, was certainly a federal economic initiative to support artists, but the murals, public sculptures, and photographs produced through the program were also a testimony to the success of the New Deal and in a way played the role of national propaganda.
Whether in Japan or the United States, it is valid to say that the relationship between art and the state is not monolithic, and perhaps there is always an inherent danger of “support” for the arts metamorphosing into “control.”
In this room, we present artists’ works produced during World War II and those produced before (or after) this time. We invite you to view the effects war had on artists, and consider in greater depth the nature of relationships between art and the state.
Room 7 Wounds Healing
Maruki Toshi (Akamatsu Toshiko), Emancipation of Humanity, 1947
In this room, during the previous term we presented images of people that conveyed prevailing feelings of unease and anxiety when memories of World War II were still fresh, under the title “Restless Bodies.” By contrast, the current exhibit focuses on works that communicate a sense of hope, the will to move forward even while faced with adversity due to the war and societal changes.
From 1945 to 1952, Japan was occupied by the Allied Powers, and among the restrictions imposed were those applying to creative activities. Half of the works on display in this room were produced during this period. Nothing here directly conveys a critical message, but the works are imbued with a sense of artists’ drive to move forward, expressed in various ways.
In terms of art from after the Occupation, we present works by artists such as Nambata Tatsuoki and Ei-Kyu that evoke anticipation of new beginnings. Another highlight is Yanagihara Yoshitatsu’s statue of a woman standing determinedly with her fist firmly clenched.
Room 8 Distance
Wakabayashi Isamu, Dog 2.5 Meters Wide, 1968
Photography by Otani Ichiro
Currently, we are strongly advised to maintain distance from others to halt the spread of the coronavirus. “Social distancing” means staying about far enough apart that we cannot touch one another even if we reach out our arms. We have become more aware than ever before of spaces between us and alienation from society, which is exacerbated by advisories to “Stay Home.”
In this room, we present works produced in the 1960s and 70s with the theme of “distance.” In an era when society was evolving at a rapid pace, with lifestyles changing drastically due to rapid economic growth, conflict over the 1960 US-Japan Security Treaty, student protests, and the spectacle of Expo ’70 Osaka, artists sought through their work to gauge “distance” from the world and others.
When we form relationships with people and things around us, some distance is a prerequisite––otherwise “I” will become “you.” It is only possible for “me” to be myself when there is a degree of separation from society and others. Vito Acconci’s work creates, through the action of pointing, an inescapable relationship between the artist and the viewer in front of the screen, and at the same time reminds us that there remains a gap there that can never be bridged.
Room 9 Suzuki Kiyoshi, Soul and Soul
Suzuki Kiyoshi, A Woman, Kawasaki from Soul to Soul, 1971 (Long term loan)
Suzuki Kiyoshi is known for a series of unique photo books. Soul and Soul, self-published by Suzuki in 1972, was the first of eight photo books, which he also structured and designed himself. Raised in a coal-mining town in Fukushima Prefecture, Suzuki developed an interest in photography after coming across Domon Ken’s The Children of Chikuho, a photo book dealing with coal mining in Chikuho, Fukuoka Prefecture. While attending a photography school, Suzuki began taking pictures of the Joban Coal Mine in his hometown. This debut work, which was serialized in a photography magazine as part of a series on coal mining, later formed the first half of Soul and Soul.
In light of this background, Suzuki’s photo book might be seen as having an autobiographical quality. Moreover, his utterly personal approach to the social theme of coal mining is consistent with the kompora (short for “contemporary”) trend that was championed by young photographers of the era.
The most notable point, however, is the multilayered world expressed in the work, which is interwoven out of a chain of images. This aspect reflects the young photographer’s ambitious attempt to explore the potential of the photo-book medium.
Room 10 (First half: November 3–December 20) Depicting History
Kawai Gyokudo, Taira Shigemori, Komatsu-no-naifu, 1899
Many Nihon-ga (modern Japanese-style) paintings depict figures and scenes from the mythology and history of Japan and East Asia. Because such works served to make people aware of the nation’s history or to convey various teachings, they were particularly prevalent during the Meiji Era (1868-1912) and the early years of the Showa Era (1926-1945) when Japan was approaching the brink of war.
Of course, to depict myth and history requires knowledge of the customs of the past. For this reason Yasuda Yukihiko’s bookshelf was full of archaeological materials, and Kikkawa Reika and Matsuoka Eikyu actually put on historical costumes and armor, which they then sketched or photographed. Their enthusiasm for studying past customs certainly seems to have far exceeded the call of national duty or reverence for their country.
Here we present Nihon-ga works related to myth and history. We hope you will enjoy these varied perspectives on history, starting with works from the Meiji Era and ranging from the work of Kataoka Tamako, who was interested in the physiognomy of people of old times, to that of Hirayama Ikuo, who focused on regions with deeply layered history and rendered them in a fantastical style.
Room 10 (Second half: December 22, 2020–February 23, 2021) Waiting for Spring
Kobayashi Kokei, Elysian Well, 1912
In this room we present a selection of works that convey the seasons progressing from winter to early spring.
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.
2F (Second floor)
Room 11-12 1970s-2010s
From the End of the Showa Period to the Present
Male Sculpture (November 25, 2020-February 23, 2021)
Room 11 Now Is the Time for Small Art
Takayanagi Eri, Pocket-gauze, 1998
Photography by Otani Ichiro
When we were being told to “Stay Home” to curb the spread of the pandemic, many of us decided it would be a good time to make something. Museums tend to exhibit large-scale works that would be hard to produce in a typical house, but for this section of the collection exhibition, we have deliberately brought together small-scale works from the 1970s and later. Of course, artists do not make only large pieces, and it is not true that larger is simply better. A large work requires a particular sort of compositional sense, but that does not mean small works are any easier to create. When art is to be shown in a spacious venue, like a museum, it may actually be more difficult to make small works that manage to hold their own in a large space. One might describe an art museum’s role as exhibiting what can only be seen here, in a museum. Moving forward, however, museums may need to more actively present small but superb works, which can give a direct idea of how the creative process plays out at home.
Room 12 On Contemporaneity and Time Lag: Art From the 1980s to Today
Thomas Ruff Interior, 1979
©Thomas Ruff / Courtesy of Gallery Koyanagi
Okazaki Kenjiro, Pittura Sanza Disegno／風景のなかの聖母子／Altarpiece, 2020
Collection of the artist ©Kenjiro Okazaki
The works in this room were selected based on several themes loosely connected to the present situation. From our current vantage point in the midst of this situation, we are unable to step back and see the challenges we face from a distance. As a result, viewers may feel there is something arbitrary or ambiguous in the selection of themes and works.
Getting distance from things leads to seeing the big picture, viewing things objectively and in historical context. It has been said that for museums to select works, conserve them, and pass them on to posterity, this distance is a crucial factor. Unfortunately, this inevitably results in a time lag. It will be a little while before we are able to add to our collection (and show in collection exhibitions) various works of art created in 2020 in reaction to the present situation (the challenges we currently face are severe, potentially affecting our future possibilities and museums’ very reasons for being.)
At the same time, we must not overlook the actuality of artists who are highly sensitively attuned to the world and continue producing art even now. In the current exhibition, we are pleased to present the latest work by Okazaki Kenjiro, one of our leading contemporary artists, who has been staying in his studio and working intensively since March 2020.
Sol LeWitt | Wall Drawing #769 On view from December 22, 2020 at the “Room to Consider the Building” on the 3rd floor
Wall Drawing#769: A 36-inch (90cm) grid covering the black wall. All two-part combinations using arcs from corners and sides,and straight and not straight lines, systematically. 1994, water soluble wax pastel, water based paint and pencil on wall.
Courtesy the Estate of Sol LeWitt, Massimo De Carlo and TARO NASU
Copyright the Estate of Sol LeWitt. Photography by Kioku Keizo
About Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #769
In fiscal 2018, the museum acquired one of Sol LeWitt’s (1928–2007) wall drawings. The work has now (December 2020) been completed in the “Room to Consider the Building,” located on the third floor next to the Collection Gallery.
LeWitt, a key figure in Minimalist and Conceptual art who began working in New York in the 1960s, created over 1,200 wall drawings over the course of his career. But that does not necessarily mean that LeWitt drew all of the works himself. As the artist explained, “The artist conceives and plans the wall drawing. It is realized by draftsmen (the artist can act as his own draftsman); the plan is interpreted by the draftsman. There are decisions that the draftsman makes, within the plan, as part of the plan. Each individual, being unique, if given the same instructions would understand them differently and would carry them out differently.” (Art Now, June 1971)
As the text suggests, LeWitt’s wall drawings are executed by a draftsman as specified by the artist (or his estate). In other words, the works are the product of a relationship, recalling that of a composer and a performer. Moreover, the use of this type of system presents the viewer with questions regarding the foundations of art, such as the role of the creator, and the relationship between the concept and the physical entity.
As the title of the wall drawing, which adorns the museum wall, explains, the work is a grid measuring approximately 90 by 90 centimeters. Each square is made up of a two-part combination, containing 16 types of arcs, and straight and non-straight lines, with a total of 120 patterns. The rhythm, arising from the repeated and divergent figures, presents the eye with a comfortable stimulating experience akin to a visualization of minimal music.
In the past, the work was made for exhibitions of LeWitt’s work that were held in Paris in 1994 and Madrid in 1996 (both were erased after the exhibitions).This version was created by the following:
Drawn by Cho Sachiko
With assistance from Ishimura Masami and Hirakawa Toshiko
Installation of the wall drawing From October to December 2020
Photography by Kioku Keizo
We will let you know our plans for future events via this website as soon as schedules are set.
- Collection Gallery, from the fourth to second floors
- November 3, 2020–February 23, 2021
- 10:00 – 17:00
*Last admission is 30 minutes before closing.
- Closed on Mondays (except November 23 and January 11, 2021), November 24, December 28, 2020-January 1, 2021 and January 12, 2021 →See also Monthly Calender
- Advance ticket is recommended to avoid lines forming at the entrance.
Online purchase: 【Tiqets】 【e-tix】
Tickets can be purchased on site at the ticket counters, subject to their availability.
- 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)
College and university students ¥150
- 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!
*Photography by Kioku Keizo