10 Of The Best Exhibitions To See In Tokyo In 2019

A Must-See Guide for Lovers of Art and Culture

By Jessica Esa
February 4, 2019
Art & Culture, Upcoming Events

The spotlight is on unique Japanese art.

Tokyo’s wonderful art galleries and museums continue to offer us cultural experiences and places to absorb the greatest artworks in history. Not to be left out of your planning for the year ahead, here are ten of the years’ most significant upcoming exhibits to add to your calendar. From soul exploring immersive installations to some of the greatest names in Japanese art history and our lovable friend Winnie the Pooh – there really is something for every kind of art and culture lover this year.

1. Hokusai Updated

Katsushika Hokusai is one of those artists that needs no introduction and to see this collection of over 480 of his works assembled from Japan and overseas is nothing short of amazing. For many of the exhibits, this will be the first time they’ve been displayed in Japan and many have been recently rediscovered hence the “updated” version of this exhibit. Of course, many visitors will be wanting to see the print of The Great Wave and the Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji in person and the originals are there in all their glory alongside other key works from his seven-decade legacy. This is also a chance to learn more about Hokusai with several areas dedicated to learning more about his life aside from his work.

When: Now through March 24, 2019
Where: Mori Arts Center Gallery (52F), Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Admission: ¥1,600 (General)

2. Fifth Anniversary Exhibition: All-Stars of the Okada Collection

Fukagawa in the Snow, ca. 1802-1806, Kitagawa Utamaro (?–1806); Japan, Edo period, Hanging Scroll, Okada Museum of Art

The Okada Museum of Art houses an impressive collection of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese artworks. This impressive space, which stretches five storeys high, displays famous masterpieces such as the Japanese ukiyo-e piece Fukagawa in the Snow by Kitagawa Utamaro as well as work by celebrated artists Ito Jakuchu,  Ogata Korin, and arguably Japanese history’s most famous artist, Katsushika Hokusai. The range of art on display here is incredibly diverse, with over 450 pieces of jade, glass, metalwork, and Buddhist paintings. Although this is an hour trip outside Tokyo, this collection, massive in scope, will surprise and astound any visitor.

When: Now through March 30, 2019
Where: Okada Museum of Art, 493-1 Kowakudani, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa
Admission: ¥2,800 (Adults, University students)

3. Leiko Ikemura: Our Planet – Earth & Stars

Leiko Ikemura Sinus Spring 2018 Pigment on jute 190x290cm Collection of the artist

Leiko Ikemura cuts an impressive figure, so to speak, as an artist who has worked across such an extensive variety of styles and crafts: drawing, painting, sculpting, photography, and even poetry are all art forms tackled by this ambitious artist. At the Our Planet exhibition, visitors are treated to sixteen different art installations which demonstrate the range of Ikemura’s style and skill. Ikemura’s newest artwork – of expansive landscapes – is the final installation, marking a kind of crescendo to the entire exhibition, allowing for visitors to leave with a real sense of marvel.

When: Now through April 1, 2019
Where: The National Art Center, Tokyo (Kokuritsu-Shin-Bijutsukan), Special Exhibition Gallery 1E, 7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Admission: ¥1,000 (General)

4. Kawanabe Kyosai: Nothing Escaped His Brush

Kyosai was an interesting character. At the age of 40, he was imprisoned for creating a caricature of powerful men, just one of his satirical paintings making fun of the Meiji government — all contributing to Kyosai’s image as a rebellious, defiant spirit. This exhibition commemorates the 130th anniversary of Kyosai’s death and focuses on his work as a “Kano-school painter” along with his explorations of classical paintings during the tumultuous closing years of the Tokugawa shogunate and the launch of the new Meiji government. There’s a lot to see in this fascinating exhibition.

When: February 6-March 31, 2019
Where: Suntory Museum of Art, Tokyo Midtown Galleria 3F, 9-7-4 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Admission: ¥1,300 (General)

5. Lineage of Eccentrics: The Miraculous World of Edo Painting

© Photo by oga Shohaku, Sessen Dōji Offering His Life to an Ogre, Keishō-ji Temple, Mie prefecture

If you’re looking to see a collection of colorful and bizarre paintings from the most imaginative world of Edo works of art, then Tokyo Metropolitan’s Lineage of Eccentrics exhibit has you covered. Based on art historian Nobuo Tsuji’s 1970 book ‘Lineage of Eccentrics’, this exhibition explores the powerfully imaginative world of eight major artists prominent during the Edo period –  Iwasa Matabei, Kano Sansetsu, Ito Jakuchu, Soga Shohaku, Nagasawa Rosetsu, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Hakuin Ekaku, and Suzuki Kiitsu. These work will be grouped together for the first time in one venue and will be complemented by a number of important cultural properties.

When: February 9-April 7, 2019
Where: Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 8-36 Ueno-Park Taito-ku, Tokyo
Admission: ¥1,600 (General)

6. Winnie the Pooh – Exploring a Classic

© Photo by © E H Shepard colouring 1970 and 1973 © Ernest H. Shepard and Egmont UK Limited

A charming exhibition for story lovers and children alike, this exhibition first held in the V & A in London brings to life the playful Winnie-the-Pooh following the buzz of the Christopher Robin film with Ewan McGregor last year. Some serious nostalgia fuel, you can look at toys, original books, sketches, letters, photographs, fashion, ceramics – really anything Pooh-related you can imagine. You can learn the creative origins behind the bear and the partnership between E.H. Shepard and A.A. Milne.

When: February 9-April 14, 2019
Where: Bunkamura The Museum, 2-24-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Admission: ¥1,500 (General)

7. Le Corbusier and the Age of Purism

© Photo by ル・コルビュジエ 国立西洋美術館の模型の前で 1956年頃 ©国立西洋美術館

Architecture lovers take note — this grand exhibition at The National Museum of Western Art is celebrating the building’s 60th birthday and is dedicated to the architect of the museum Charles-Édouard Jeanneret (better known by his pseudonym Le Corbusier). Le Corbusier published a manifesto about modern architecture in 1920, naming his philosophy “purism,” through which he expressed his belief that buildings should have a clean and pure structure. Widely regarded as one of the three greatest masters of modern architecture, along with Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe, this exhibition of Le Corbusier himself, his philosophy, and over 100 pieces of his (and fellow artists) works set within one of this most famous buildings is not to be missed.

When: February 19-May 19, 2019
Where: The National Museum of Western Art, 7-7 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Admission: ¥1,600 (General)

8. Shibuya Station Exhibition

© Photo by EMMA OAKLEY, Yūgen | Sweden

For just a single week, between March 5th and March 11th, 2019, an exhibition of 42 international artists will be displayed around one of Tokyo’s biggest and busiest underground stations. Millions of commuters each day will have the chance to pass by and enjoy a range of fantastic artwork. Likewise, the artists themselves can enjoy their work being observed and admired by people from all walks of life during their daily commutes. The art on display will include photography, paintings, and even sculptures, and will be located at the Fukutoshin Line in Shibuya Station.

When: March 5-March 11, 2019
Where: The exhibits will be located near the ceramic mural “Kira Kira Shibuya” by Koji Kinutani in Shibuya Station
Admission: Free

9. Gustav Klimt: Vienna – Japan 1900

© Photo by Gustav Klimt, The Three Ages, 1905 Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome

Fin-de-siècle Viennese artist Gustav Klimt was known for opulent decorative characters, sensual portraits of women, and landscapes (largely influenced by Japanese style). This exhibition will feature more than 25 of Klimt’s oil paintings and the biggest selection of his works to be shown in Japan and demonstrates how many of his works can be understood as expressions of personal crisis, anxiety, and desire. In addition to the paintings, you can find out more about Klimt via letters and personal objects.

When: April 23– July 10, 2019
Where: Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 8-36 Ueno-Park Taito-ku, Tokyo
Admission: ¥1,600 (General)

10. Shiota Chiharu: The Soul Trembles

© Photo by Shiota Chiharu Uncertain Journey 2016 Metal frame, red wool Installation view: Uncertain Journey, Blain | Southern, Berlin, 2016 Photo: Christian Glaeser

Those who know the Osaka-born Berlin-based artist Shiota Chiharu know her for her influential exhibitions exploring the presence of absence and intangible concepts like anxiety, identity, dreams, and silence and how they affect our journey through life. They’ll also know her passion for using yarn to create powerful imagery. In 2015, she represented Japan at the Venice Biennale with her installation The Key in the Hand and since then she has been exhibiting in various cities around the world. This year the largest-ever solo exhibition of her work will be showing at the Mori Art Museum. Subtitled The Soul Trembles, the exhibit features twenty years of her work in six large installations featuring video footage of performances, drawings, photographs, and performing arts-related material. This is perfect for those who love thought-provoking art that explores the inner workings of what it means to be human.

When: June 20-October 27, 2019
Where: Mori Art Museum, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Admission: ¥1,800 (General)

For weekly events in and around Tokyo, check Savvy Tokyo’s This Weekend, updated every Monday.

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