Tokyo Art Scene: 5 Exhibitions To Visit This Summer
A Few Of The Hottest International Art Events In The Capital
Whether on the hunt for old master paintings or looking to learn more about Japan's unique architecture, here's our selection of Tokyo's best cultural excursions to keep you busy over the summer months.
Summer in the city can be a stressful affair. The combination of heat, tourists and rain means Tokyo’s sightseeing hotspots become instantly crowded, and you may be tempted to hunker down in a park or pool until September. But Tokyo is host to a range of interesting, unusual exhibitions this summer — and if you’re savvy about your visit, you might just have the whole gallery to yourself. With no shortage of fantastic artwork to peruse, and with subjects as wide as architecture, twentieth-century sculpture or Indian photography, it’s the perfect way to wile away a summer’s day.
Explore the pioneering work of Indian photographer Dayanita Singh. First working as a photojournalist, Singh grew tired of the frequently exoticised representations of her homeland, and moved to art photography in the late 1990s. Now, she is renowned for her striking, honest work, which forms the subject of her first solo exhibition in Japan, Museum Bhavan. The exhibition focuses on the ‘portable museum’: a traveling family of movable wooden structures where monochrome prints are displayed and rearranged from gallery to gallery. Here, documentary and fiction collide, providing the visitor with multiple viewing experiences and asking larger questions about the ethos of the museum industry. It’s a thought-provoking and beautiful show, which stresses the possibilities of the photographic medium while considering issues such as class, gender and prejudice.
When: Until Mon, July 17, 2017
Open: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Where: Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, Ebisu Garden Place, 1-13-3 Mita, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
How much: ¥800 (Adults), ¥700 (College students), ¥600 (High school students/Over 65 years old)
Don’t miss this retrospective from the sculptural heavyweight, Alberto Giacometti, one of the first of its kind on Japanese soil. An admirer of African sculpture, Cubism and Surrealist art, Giacometti developed a style entirely his own in the 1930s. Peruse his captivating, elongated sculptures, strongly influenced with philosophical ideas such as existentialism and phenomenology. The exhibition boasts 132 selected works, from his recognizable sculptures to lesser known sketches and prints, giving a well rounded picture of the Swiss artist’s fascinating work.
The National Art Centre is a great spot to explore, with great facilities, shops and places to eat. While there, you can check out one of its many other exhibitions, such as Sunshower: Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia 1980s to Now, which starts on July 5th.
When: Wed, June 14 – Mon, September 4, 2017
Open: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.
Where: The National Art Center, Tokyo (Kokuritsu-Shin-Bijutsukan), 7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
How much: ¥1,600 (Adults), ¥1,200 (College students), ¥800 (High school students)
Fresh from a successful tour of Europe and organized by a group of French architects, this unusual exhibition offers a compelling evaluation of Japanese domestic architecture, carefully documenting the evolution of the Japanese home. Split into three parts, each section charts the architectural developments from traditional to modern structures through detailed examples, nodding to the interplay between Japanese and Western influences, and focusing on the key philosophies that imbue the Japanese aesthetic. Each section features striking photographs and videos, as well as blueprints and interviews with architects and homeowners. A must for architecture fans and those keen to learn more about the buildings we walk by everyday.
When: Until Sun, June 25, 2017
Open: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed Wednesdays.
Where: Shiodome Museum Rouault Gallery, 1-5-1 Higashi-shimbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
How much: ¥800 (Adults), ¥600 (College students), ¥200 yen (High School Students)
Italian artist Luigi Ghirri’s enigmatic prints are the focus of this brilliant, compact solo show — “Works from the 1970s.” Influenced by the conceptual art of the sixties, Ghirri’s work proves delightfully playful, through his collaborations with other artists and experiments with crops and frames. His color photographs consider the subtle balance between the real and the imaginary, asking questions about the place of the image within society. With a wide range of subject matter, from women looking at work in a gallery space to posters in public spaces, these works are pervaded with a sense of mystery and the unknown, which makes viewing them all the more intriguing.
The Taka Ishii Gallery is a perfect pitstop after a stroll around Roppongi’s many galleries, shops and restaurants; be sure to pop downstairs to see what the Tomio Koyama Gallery has on display, which is also free entry.
When: Until Sat, Jun 24, 2017
Open: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
Where: Taka Ishii Gallery, 6-5-24 3F Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
How much: Free
Head to the Tokyo Met to see Bruegel the Elder’s painstakingly detailed oil painting, the “Tower of Babel.” An incredible 1,400 figures populate this work, on loan from Rotterdam’s Museum Boijmans and in Japan for the first time. It’s not just Bruegel on show here; the display comprises of close to one hundred paintings from sixteenth century Netherlandish painting, set against the leafy backdrop of Ueno park. The highlight for many visitors is the chance to get up close to the unsettling and often frightening work of Hieronymus Bosch, Bruegel’s predecessor who provides a fascinating starting point to not only the detail, but the macabre subject matter that was often popular in early Renaissance culture. Marrying intense realism with hellish subject matter, you really need to see these works in the flesh to appreciate them.
When: Until Sun, July 2, 2017
Open: 9.30 a.m.-5.30 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Where: Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 8-36 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo
How much: ¥1,400 (Adults), ¥1,100 (College students), ¥600 yen (High School Students)
Visiting any of these exhibitions? Share your unique photos via Instagram at @savvytokyo. Enjoy!