1. 百段雛まつり
    Photo: Kisa Toyoshima「漁樵の間」| Hyakudan Hina Matsuri Exhibition
  2. Keith Haring: Art to the Streets
    Photo: Rinko Yamamoto
  3. Firefly Biosphere (Falling Magma Star), 2023. Studio Olafur Eliasson, Berlin.
    Photo: Jens ZieheFirefly Biosphere (Falling Magma Star), 2023. Studio Olafur Eliasson, Berlin.

14 best art exhibitions in Tokyo right now

What's on right now at Tokyo's most popular museums and galleries, from Impressionist masters to immersive digital art

Written by
Time Out Tokyo Editors
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With an abundance of art shows happening this season, it'll be hard to catch all of the latest installations before they disappear. 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 the city's hottest digital art museum: teamLab Planets Tokyo.

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

RECOMMENDED: Escape the city with the best art day trips from Tokyo

Don't miss these great shows

  • Art
  • Pop art

Keith Haring (1958-1990) is synonymous with the New York street art scene that, from the early 1980s onwards, he played a key role in instigating. Haring’s belief that art should be for everybody inspired him to begin creating now-iconic works in subway stations and other public sites, while a strong sense of social justice saw him imbue his work with direct, easily understood statements. These included criticism of indifference to the HIV-AIDS crisis that was then claiming lives (including, ultimately, Haring’s own), and affirmations of hope for younger generations.

Through around 150 works, including large-scale pieces spanning up to six metres, this retrospective traces Haring’s journey from the underground scene to global celebrity, while demonstrating how his creativity remained a vibrant form of messaging that continues to resonate today.

  • Art
  • Kamiyacho

Olafur Eliasson creates work that's truly of our time. This Icelandic-Danish artist wows audiences with large-scale installations that play with perceptions of light, colour and other natural phenomena, while simultaneously focusing attention on environmental issues that increasingly threaten our planet.

This inaugural exhibition of Azabudai Hills Gallery, located within the towering Azabudai Hills development, explores ideas central to the artwork that Eliasson has created for the lobby of Azabudai Hills Mori JP Tower. This installation (which shares its title with the exhibition) consists of four 3D sculptures made up of a complex series of polyhedra. These sculptures, made with recycled metal and suspended in an atrium, depict the twisting trajectory of a single point while alluding to the connection between all of creation at an atomic level.

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  • Art

Dedicated to legendary painter and woodblock print artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), the Sumida Hokusai Museum presents an exhibition that introduces the artist's approach to depicting the human form, via work featuring samurai. The assembled prints demonstrate that even when portraying this formidable warrior class clad in armour, Hokusai had an ability to gracefully express the movement of his subjects. He also put great care into rendering facial expressions.

The samurai aspect of Hokusai’s work forms part of what is known as musha-e, a late-18th century sub-genre of ukiyo-e that focused on samurai and other warriors from both history and mythology. Hokusai’s depictions of the shogun who ruled over the samurai, including Tokugawa Ieyasu, are also featured in this exhibition. 

  • Art
  • Hatsudai

Ryuichi Sakamoto, who passed away in 2023, was one of Japan’s most globally influential musicians and composers. Following early success as a member of 1980s techno pioneersYellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), Tokyo-born Sakamoto established himself as an ever forward-thinking solo artist with music that ranged from electronic experimentation to soundtracks for major feature films. 

As demonstrated by this tribute exhibition, from the dawn of the 1990s Sakamoto’s impulse to innovate led him to increasingly incorporate multimedia technology into his work. Exhibition co-curator Daito Manabe of art/technology collective Rhizomatiks, a close friend of Sakamoto, has created new work for this event that is based upon performance data left behind by the late artist. 

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  • Art
  • Waseda

Famous worldwide for her polka dot-covered pumpkins and sense-scrambling infinity rooms, Yayoi Kusama has also spent her lengthy career working with colour palettes more advanced than the simple two-tone schemes of her 2D and 3D-rendered fruits. This exhibition, at the artist’s dedicated Tokyo museum, traces in detail the evolution of Kusama’s distinctive colour expression from the late 1940s through to the present decade.

Darkly surreal hues are evident in the earliest work featured here, but following her relocation to the US in 1957, Kusama replaced these with more austere colour schemes as she intently pursued a sense of self-obliteration. This practice in turn evolved by the 1970s – when the artist returned to Japan – into a richly poetic use of colour, as seen in the painting 'Summer Comes to a Hat' (1979) whose hues emit a neon-like glow.

The '80s and '90s then saw Kusama employ colour so intense that it could induce dizziness, aligning in spirit with the disorientation created by her infinity rooms. Some more recent pieces, such as 2021’s poignant 'Every Day I Pray for Love' included here, combine in a single work the above-mentioned extremes of vividness and darkness, in what might be the culmination of a life similarly coloured by both spectacular success and deep despair.

 

  • Art
  • Roppongi

Mori Art Museum marks its 20th anniversary with this highly pertinent exhibition, which explores the response of contemporary art to the ongoing environmental crisis. Around 100 works from 34 Japanese and international artists, including pieces created especially for this event, form four exhibition ‘chapters’: together these urge us to consider environmental issues from a broader perspective that transcends the human-centric.

‘All Is Connected’, the first chapter, touches upon how human activity intertwines with ecosystems, while the subsequent ‘Return to Earth’ explores Japanese art from the 1950s to the ’80s, a period in which the country’s economic boom brought with it industrial pollution. ‘The Great Acceleration’ features works revealing humankind’s exploitation of natural resources, yet also offers a sense of hope.

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  • Art
  • Kiyosumi

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (MOT) has for almost a quarter-of-a-century been holding yearly exhibitions, under the banner of MOT Annual, that showcase diverse aspects of contemporary artistic practice in order to stimulate discussion and inquiry. MOT Annual 2023 takes a timely look at the relationship between the notions of ‘creation’, as manifested through the imaginations and craft of artists, and ‘generation’ brought about by such buzzword technologies as artificial intelligence, NFTS and the metaverse.

Around 50 works, by 11 artists including young ‘digital natives’, encourage visitors to perceive the exciting synergies that can be created between ‘creation’ and ‘generation’, two concepts that like analog vs. digital are usually thought of as opposites.

  • Art
  • Tennozu

Another immersive Van Gogh exhibition has made its way to Tokyo, with floor-to-ceiling projections to simulate the experience of walking into the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter’s greatest masterpieces. Titled ‘Van Gogh Alive’, this immersive digital exhibition is produced by Australian company Grande Experiences and has toured 99 cities worldwide, including Nagoya in 2022 and Kobe in 2023, before it opened in Tokyo in January this year.

On now through March 31 at the Terada Warehouse, the showcase uses up to 40 high-definition projectors and features over 3,000 visuals of Van Gogh’s art. Key pieces like ‘Sunflowers’ (1887) and ‘The Starry Night’ (1889) are vividly brought to life with the accompaniment of classical music, transporting you from Tokyo to Van Gogh’s favourite haunts in cities like Paris, Amsterdam and Arles.

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  • Art
  • Design
  • Roppongi

21_21 Design Sight presents an exhibition exploring the history of modern graphic design, with an emphasis on how, since the 1990s, computer-based desktop publishing (DTP) technology has revolutionised the potential to make arrangements of text and images ‘sing’ on both digital screen and printed page.

Diverse work from around 50 graphic designers, mainly Japanese but with acclaimed international creators also in the mix, forms a total of 13 themed areas. Across these, special focus is also given to how Japan’s distinctive graphic culture (encompassing hiragana, katakana and romanised text in both horizontal and vertical formats, and ample use of images) has come to interact with digital technology, and what future possibilities may emerge from this relationship. 

  • Art
  • Kiyosumi

Yasuko Toyoshima is an artist who questions everything. For over 30 years, she has leveraged personal feelings of alienation to social frameworks and rules that the vast majority of us have simply internalised and accepted as ‘norms’. The raw material with which she works can ultimately be considered as ‘systems’: ranging from tangible objects such as abacus, to concepts including education, economic models and our perception of colour.

As this first major overview of Toyoshima’s career-so-far demonstrates, via nearly 400 works, this uncompromisingly subjective take on the world results in art that is both thought-provoking and, very often, reveals a playful sense of humour. Early pieces entitled 'Open Bank Account' and 'Mini Investment' involve the artist literally opening accounts and buying stocks and shares. 

 

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  • Museums
  • Meguro

If the female offspring of a household are its princesses, then Japanese families celebrate this splendidly with the Hina Matsuri festival. The event, held annual on March 3, involves the setting up in the home of an elaborate set of dolls representing a Heian-era (794-1185) emperor and empress and their subordinates. The event is a time to pray for the happiness and prosperity of a family’s daughter(s), and dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868).

This Hyakudan Hina Matsuri exhibition, held for the first time in four years, is an opportunity to experience the charm of these dolls on a level surely larger and grander than in any home. Each room of Hotel Gajoen Tokyo’s Hyakudan Kaidan (‘The Hundred Stairs’; a designated tangible cultural property) showcases Hina dolls in a variety of stirring scenes. These figures range from creations faithful to the elegance of Heian Imperial Court dress, to new interpretations by contemporary artists.

 

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions

Washoku, as Japanese food is known in its homeland, is globally more popular than ever. Conveyor-belt sushi restaurants are a staple of the world’s cities, while the wider public is discovering the nutritional benefits of many traditional Japanese dishes. The year 2020 saw washoku designated as a Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage, and this recognition is now celebrated (belatedly due to the Covid-19 pandemic) by this fascinating large-scale exhibition.

Across multiple zones featuring interactive installations, replica dishes and much more, the Washoku showcase explores how both nature and culture have over centuries shaped a cuisine that for many visitors is one of Japan’s key attractions.

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  • Art
  • Kichijoji

Marking the release of director Hayao Miyazaki’s new film 'The Boy and the Heron' (also known as 'How do You Live?' in Japanese), the museum dedicated to anime powerhouse Studio Ghibli presents a behind-the-scenes look at the hand-drawn animation that contributes so much to the movie’s charm.

In the production process of 'The Boy and the Heron', virtually all of the drawings used were pencil-drawn onto paper, while backgrounds were hand-painted with poster colours. The result is a production in which the presence of Miyazaki and his team of artists and animators is tangible. 

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