The best ongoing exhibitions in Tokyo
The Feudal Lord's Noh Robes and Masks：From the Collection of Hayashibara Museum of Art
Lovers of noh theatre should make a beeline for this exhibition on the robes and masks used during performances. Noh was established in medieval Japan, became much loved by the later samurai classes, and is nowadays also associated with the more comedic kyogen form. During the exhibition, a selection of Okayama’s Hayashibara Museum of Art’s famed collection of noh artifacts will be on display. The Shoto Museum of Art’s Seiichi Shirai-designed building should provide the perfect backdrop for the exhibits; its aesthetic is also classically Japanese.
Marcel Duchamp and Japanese Art
A collaboration between the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Ueno’s Tokyo National Museum, this exhibition traces the connection between inspirational French-American painter, sculptor and chess player Marcel Duchamp and Japanese art. Here, the works of Duchamp, who is widely credited with utterly changing the course of 20th-century art history, are displayed alongside Japanese art, in order to re-evaluate the latter through his perspective. The exhibition will be split in two parts: the first features over 150 of Duchamp’s works and materials as part of an international tour supervised by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, while the second part is titled ‘Rediscovering Japan through Duchamp’. Here, Japanese artworks will be shown, alongside Duchampian keywords such as ‘ready-made’, for a whole new interpretation.
Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s–1990s
The changes that swept through East, Southeast and South Asia between the ’60s and ’90s are examined in this exhibition. More than 140 works from artists across the regions will be exhibited, with a focus on those that deal with the turbulent times of the era. Rather than grouping the art by geography, the exhibition is separated into three ‘chapters’, including ‘the city’ and ‘the collective’, which function as broad themes that link the works within. With different corners of the region having seen independence from colonial rule, rapid development, the Vietnam War and more in the span of 40 years, there’s more than enough to chew on here, including new visions of what constitutes society in Asia.
Munch: A Retrospective
This retrospective exhibition celebrates the work of iconic Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, most famous for his masterpiece ‘The Scream’. Munch's work was heavily influenced by Impressionists the likes of Claude Monet and Edouard Manet, and he became a part of the Post-Impressionist movement, which was led by Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cezanne. Munch did not receive much appreciation for his art in his time, but he was eventually hailed as a pioneer of Expressionism in the world of fine arts. Nearly 100 pieces of his work will be exhibited, including oil paintings and master prints courtesy of the Munch Museum in Oslo. While there are multiple versions of ‘The Scream’, this is the first time the version created with oil paint and tempera is being shown in Japan. Explore 60-plus years’ worth of paintings depicting deep human emotions such as anxiety and loneliness, as well as stunning natural landscapes of Norway, and works from his final years which feature vibrant, pigmented colours.
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teamLab Planets Tokyo
Tokyo Bay islands could best be termed 'teamLab islands' by now – hot off the heels of the much-hyped teamLab Borderless Museum on Odaiba, this temporary museum right next to Shin-Toyosu Station offers a more intimate interaction with the collective's signature digital art. Back in 2016, teamLab collaborated with e-commerce business DMM.com to create the very popular DMM.Planets exhibition; this museum is in essence an extension of that. There are a mere seven installations, but they are spread out across a full 10,000sqm, giving them lots and lots of space each. All of them offer a more sensorial and immersive experience compared to the teamLab Borderless Museum nearby. We won't spoil all the secrets, but for starters, no shoes are allowed inside the museum, and you'll be wading through knee-deep water in some places. We'd highly recommend wearing something above the knee (although skirts may not be the best idea due to the amount of floor mirrors); the museum offers a wrap-around if needed. Even better, they are open until 1am, one of the few museums in Tokyo to be open that late. Our only caveat remains the price tag: ¥3,200 for adults (and a whopping ¥6,000 for priority access), which is the same price as teamLab Borderless, which has 50-odd pieces to ogle at rather than seven. But hey, if you need more Insta likes... Book your tickets through their official website. Opens July 7, 2018, through autumn 2020
Tokyo National Museum
If you have just one day to devote to museum-going in Tokyo and are interested in Japanese art and artefacts, this is the place to visit. Japan’s oldest and largest museum houses over 110,000 items. Past the ornate gateway, there’s a wide courtyard and pond surrounded by three main buildings. Directly in front is the Honkan, or main gallery, dating from 1938, which displays the permanent collection of Japanese arts and antiquities. The 25 rooms regularly rotate their exhibitions of paintings, ceramics, swords, kimonos, sculptures and the like. The Toyokan building to the right features five floors of artworks from other parts of Asia; the Hyokeikan, the 1909 European-style building to the left, is currently closed to visitors. Behind the Hyokeikan is the Gallery of Horyu-ji Treasures, which houses some of Japanese Buddhism’s most important and ancient artefacts, from the seventh-century Horyu-ji temple in Nara. The Heiseikan, behind the Honkan, holds three to four temporary exhibitions of Japanese and Asian art each year. There are also a couple of restaurants in the complex, and a good gift shop.
The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
This is an alternative-history MoMA, one consisting mostly of Japanese art from the turn of the 20th century onwards. Noteworthy features of the permanent collection are portraits by early Japanese modernist Ryusei Kishida and wartime paintings. The 1969 building, designed by Yoshiro Taniguchi (father of architect Yoshio Taniguchi) was renovated in 2001. Its location next to the moat and walls of the Imperial Palace makes it a prime stop for viewing springtime cherry blossoms and autumn foliage. Nearby is the Crafts Gallery, an impressive 1910 European-style brick building, once the base for the legions of guards who patrolled the Imperial Palace.
Mori Art Museum
The exhibitions are world-class, focused mainly on contemporary culture, but the secrets of the Mori Art Museum’s success are location (part of the phenomenally popular Roppongi Hills), location (on the 52nd and 53rd floors of the Mori Tower, offering spectacular views) and location (within a two-floor ‘experience’ that includes a bar, cafe, shop and panoramic observation deck). One ticket allows access to all areas, and the late opening hours maximise accessibility. Exhibitions are deliberately varied, with past offerings including Bill Viola’s video art, a survey of the Middle Eastern art world and the periodic Roppongi Crossing group shows for Japanese artists. The vista from Tokyo City View isn’t quite 360°, and it’s expensive compared to the free Tokyo Metropolitan Government building observatory, but the views are arguably better, especially at night with a drink in your hand from Mado Lounge. If you don't mind paying an extra ¥500, you take a short elevator ride to the rooftop Sky Deck, and take in an even better – not to mention rather breezier – vista.
The National Art Center
The National Art Center was opened on January 21, 2007, boasting the largest exhibition space of any museum in Japan. Unlike most conventional domestic art galleries, the National Art Center does not have its own permanent collection, instead choosing to hold special exhibitions only. Entry to the Center’s atrium is free, and the space boasts a café, two restaurants and an excellent shop, Souvenir From Tokyo.