1. 『浮世絵劇場 from Paris』イメージ画像
    Photo: Dreamed Japan, Images of the Floating World
  2. Mickey Mouse Now and Future
    Photo: Keisuke TanigawaMickey Mouse Now and Future
  3. Sanrio
    Photo: Sanrio 60th Anniversary Sanrio Exhibition the Beginning of Kawaii

Best art exhibitions in Tokyo right now

What's on right now at Tokyo's most popular galleries: from digital ukiyo-e art to Sanrio's largest-ever art exhibition

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen
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With an abundance of art shows happening this winter, it'll be hard to catch all of the latest installations before they dissapear. Nonetheless, we've got a list of the top art exhibitions taking place in some of Tokyo's most popular galleries to help you figure out where to start.

For a full day of art excursions, you should also check out Tokyo's best street art and outdoor sculptures, or fill your Instagram feed at two of the hottest digital art museums: teamLab Borderless and teamLab Planets Tokyo.

Note that some museums and galleries require making reservations in advance to prevent overcrowding at the venues. 

RECOMMENDED: Not in Japan? You can still visit these amazing Japanese museums via virtual tours

Don't miss these great shows

  • Things to do
  • Suehirocho

This blink-and-you'll-miss-it exhibition by master of all things kawaii Sebastian Masuda takes place at Tokyo’s historical Kanda Myojin Shrine. Since 2020, Masuda has been keeping in touch with artists, fashionistas and fans from the kawaii community around the world during the pandemic, and this exhibition explores the current state of the global kawaii movement. Masuda’s artworks focus on what kawaii actually is, why the fascination with the aesthetic has spread beyond borders, generations and gender, and why kawaii communities continue to exist.

Check out his installation ‘Colorful Rebellion – Seventh Nightmare’ on display in the basement hall of the shrine’s festival office. In the same space, you’ll also learn more about kawaii culture through exhibits created by members of Kyoto University of the Arts’s Ultra Factory. Parts of the ‘Kawaii Archival Research’ project are on display, helping you find out where kawaii culture came from and its outlook for the future.

  • Art
  • Yanaka

Kohei Nawa is often known for his three-dimensional sculptures of deer like the one installed in the atrium of Ginza Six. Tornscape, however, is an installation presented through the mediums of video and audio to create a virtual landscape. The piece depicts a sea of fluids in motion that move based on a unique algorithm, meaning the work is constantly changing and never repeats the same patterns in two instances. The moving mural was inspired by the work of Kamo no Chomei (1155-1216), a Japanese author and poet who wrote about the earthquakes, famine and fires that ravaged Kyoto over the course of his life.

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  • Art
  • Shibuya

Shibuya Parco has teamed up with Disney for an exciting new art collaboration at the Parco Museum Tokyo. Revolving around Disney's most iconic character, the exhibit showcases different interpretations of Mickey Mouse by artists around the world. 

Curated by Tokyo’s contemporary art gallery Nanzuka Underground, the exhibition includes pieces by Japanese artists Hajime Sorayama and Tanaami Keiichi as well as works by renowned international names like Javier Calleja, Yoon Hyup, James Jarvis, Oliver Payne and Darren Romanslli.

 

  • Art
  • Tokorozawa

To celebrate its first anniversary, Kadokawa Musashino Museum is hosting a 360-degree immersive digital art exhibition from the Paris-based Danny Rose Studio. Ukiyo-e may be an ancient Japanese art, but these woodblock prints and paintings that flourished during the Edo period (1603-1867) had a significant impact on early Impressionists when first introduced in Europe – particularly France – during the 19th century. The term Japonism was later coined to describe the hold that Japanese art and culture had on European artists, including the likes of Vincent van Gogh.   

As ukiyo-e works continue to enthrall creatives and art lovers around the world, the Danny Rose Studio has devised an exhibition that ties past and present together using projection mapping. There will be 12 different video sequences projected across a 1,100sqm space, with imagery ranging from cherry blossom petals flying in the wind to brilliantly coloured Japanese fans. Other installations to look forward to include digital artworks of women dressed in kimono with a moving backdrop of sliding shoji doors, as well as a room flooded with blue waves, reminiscent of Hokusai's 'The Great Wave off Kanagawa'. 

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  • Art
  • Roppongi

Currently on show at Tokyo City View in Roppongi, the largest exhibition in Sanrio's history explores the 60-year history of more than 400 characters. It also examines the roots of Sanrio as a symbol of Japan's kawaii culture through more than 800 exhibits.

The showcase starts with 'Unforgettable Tower’, a 6-meter-tall symbolic art piece by Sebastian Masuda. Through original drawings and rough sketches, you’ll learn about the birth of Sanrio’s iconic characters including Hello Kitty, My Melody and Pompompurin. Then, delve into Sanrio’s mission and what it wanted to convey to its fanbase by examining the company’s own publication, Ichigo Shimbun (Strawberry Newspaper).

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  • Kiyosumi

This is Japan’s first large-scale exhibition dedicated to Swiss-American artist Christian Marclay. As an artist who spent his early years experimenting with sound and creating avant-garde music, Marclay often incorporates music-related materials in his visual art such as composition paper, vinyls and record album covers. 

This collection displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo will feature everything from conceptual pieces Marclay created in the ‘80s to more recent large-scale installations.

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  • Art
  • Kyobashi

Lifestyle brand Heral Bony manufacturers clothes, accessories and other everyday goods that incorporate art created by people with intellectual disabilities. Rather than promoting a certain kind of art, the company aims to provide equal opportunities for minority artists. The brand works closely with the Runbinii Museum in Iwate, which runs an art programme for individuals with intellectual disabilities. 

The brand’s ‘Starting from Zero’ exhibition is Brillia Art Gallery’s first exhibition since opening and will feature a myriad of vibrant prints and paintings which one would normally have to travel to Iwate to see. In addition to the artworks, visitors can also browse through unique goods produced by Heral Bony which feature the artists’ designs.

  • Art
  • Art

Museum reception counters are usually piled with visitor brochures for seasonal exhibitions, but the hordes of paper currently lining the reception shelves of the National Art Center, Tokyo (NACT) aren’t for visitors to thumb through. These dense stacks of flyers are an installation of their own, commissioned to London-based architectural studio Pan Projects by the NACT.

The installation, titled ‘The Matter of Facts’, towers over the reception desk and is made up of press releases and flyers – we can only guess how many – from agencies and businesses across Tokyo which Pan Projects collaborated with for the mixed media piece.

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  • Art
  • Kyobashi

Is graphic design your passion? Or are you more of a movie buff? Either way, this unique exhibition at the National Film Archive of Japan is worth checking out for anyone who appreciates iconic cult film posters. 

This display of 71 original film posters is from the collection of American company Mondo, famous for producing limited edition movie posters as well as other memorabilia with original graphic designs for film franchises. Featured films include old-school favourites like the ‘Blues Brothers’ (1980) and Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976) as well as more recent productions like the 2014 American remake of ‘Godzilla’. 

  • Art
  • Crafts
  • Takebashi

The term mingei refers to a 20th-century art movement towards well crafted, handmade goods that also served aesthetic purposes. At the time, people wanted to surround themselves with art that was accessible everyone, not just the rich and powerful. This exhibition marks 60 years since the passing of the movement’s founder, Muneyoshi Yanagi. 

The materials span from the 1910s and early 20s to the post-World War II period of the 1950s and 1970s. You can view ceramics, dyed and woven textiles and other daily utensils, as well as folk paintings, magazines, books and photographs that reflect Yanagi’s work. 

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  • Things to do
  • Aomi

This semi-permanent exhibition at Odaiba’s Miraikan is dedicated to the sensational soundtrack of the 1988 anime ‘Akira’. The futuristic film, set in post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo, is regarded as a masterpiece for its captivating plot and mesmerising animations, but it’s the film’s groundbreaking score by artist and biologist Shoji Yamashiro (real name Tsutomu Ohashi) that helped garner its cult following. 

The installation features six speakers which play Yamashiro’s so-called ‘sound modules’, which uses frequencies that had never been used in Japanese filmmaking until that point. There is a 15-minute video experience to accompany the range of sounds that were made by merging recordings of prayer chants and traditional instruments from around the world.

  • Art
  • Roppongi

This exhibition shines a light on 16 female artists from 14 different countries around the world, who began their careers in the turbulent postwar years from the 1950s to 1970s, and who remain active today in 2021. The works offer a multifaceted look at the artists' last five decades of practice, through early and well-known works, as well as new pieces created for the exhibition.

All sixteen artists, whose ages range between 71 and 105, represent an incredible diversity – birthplaces, current locations, modes of expression as well as lifestyles. Showcased artists include Beatriz González, Phyllida Barlow and Arpita Singh. 

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  • Art
  • Ginza

Suspended in the atrium of Ginza Six is the department store’s latest public art installation by Kyoto-based artist Kohei Nawa. The installation features a sculpture of a deer floating above clouds, a creature that has appeared at the centre of many of Nawa’s coveted works for its symbolic ties to Shintoism and ancient Japanese history. 

There is more to the installation than meets the eye, with a corresponding app you can download to see the work come to life through your smartphone. In addition to the ‘Metamorphosis Garden’ installation, a handful of other works by Nawa will be available to experience through the use of AR technology. This includes the artist’s 2013 project ‘Foam’, which was presented at Aichi Triennale 2013 as well as his 2016 collaborative performance art piece with Belgium choreographer Damien Jalet, ‘Vessel’.

More art in the city

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