Tokyo Art Scene: European Art in Marunouchi
Western Art in the Heart of Tokyo
Among other things Marunouchi is famous for, art excursions should be on top of that list. To accompany your walks through the sleek shopping district, stop by these art exhibits.
Marunouchi is perhaps Tokyo’s most luxurious business and shopping district. Several art institutions and galleries are also located in the area, making art excursions a popular leisure activity for visitors.
The area is home to numerous historical buildings including the red-brick Tokyo Station and Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum.
This month, we want to honor Marunouchi and its influences by introducing three ongoing exhibitions focusing on European art, all within walking distance of Tokyo Station.
The era of modern European art brought many changes to values and practices surrounding the physical medium. Among the many art groups that emerged in the late 19th century is the Nabis. To prioritize emotion over realism in their art, the collective nurtured a handful of Paris-based artists including Félix Vallotton.
The Swiss-born artist, although produced many paintings, is most known for his woodblock prints. Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum is currently presenting a vast collection of Vallotton’s prints as part of their special exhibition.
Many modern European artists used to look towards Japan for inspiration, including Vallotton and the Nabis, whose use of woodblock printing was inspired by the Japanese ukiyo-e (woodblock prints).
What sets Vallotton apart from his peers is his use of black ink against white paper. The printmaker seldom uses color in his work and instead uses negative space to form depth and detail, which is most evident in his early prints of people and scenery.
His later works illustrate domestic relationships between men and women. Through his series “Intimités”—an exhibition highlight—Vallotton expresses feelings of isolation, affection and discord in a marriage.
- Now through Sun, Jan. 29, 2023
- Daily except Mon. from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. (9 P.M. on Fri)
- Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, 2-6-2 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo - Map
- ¥1,900 for adults, ¥1,000 for students
- 3-minute walk from Nijubashimae station, 5-minute walk from Tokyo station and Yurakucho station
Like many of the hallmark buildings of Marunouchi, the Neo-Baroque style of architecture is a characteristic of many European empires including France. The Paris Opera House, also called Palais Garnier, is one of the most iconic examples of Neo-Baroque architecture. Artizon Museum, located on the Yaesu side of Tokyo Station, is currently holding a special exhibit celebrating the history and the craftsmen behind the cultural institution.
The exhibit takes the audiences through the development of the opera house from when it was first laid out on paper to present-day usage. Sketches of ceiling paintings and photographs of the building’s construction welcome visitors to the exhibit, followed by an array of drafts for set design, costume as well as music sheets of opera shows.
This collection of behind-the-scenes planning reveals the craftsmanship and the attention to detail that often goes unnoticed by the audience. Displaying these works under the theme of the Paris Opera House allows visitors to peel into the layers of opera culture and the collaborative work of numerous artists that make up a history of performance art.
The two versions of the painting are displayed next to each other for the first time. Both depict gentlemen and courtesans interacting in a masked ball.
Take this opportunity to also look at paintings depicting spectators of the opera. Many artworks illustrate high-class lifestyles often associated with the performing art form. The exhibit’s meticulous look at the history of the Paris Opera provides a visually-interesting educational experience for all.
- Now through Sun, Feb. 5, 2023
- Daily except Mon. from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. (8 P.M. on Fri)
- Artizon Museum, 1-7-2 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo - Map
- ¥1,800 (Online/reserved ticket), ¥2,000 (Remaining unreserved tickets sold at the museum) Same-day ticket), Free for university students and below (Advanced booking required)
- 5-minute walk from Tokyo station, Nihonbashi station and Kyobashi station
Head south from Marunouchi and you might find yourself in Ginza, perhaps Tokyo’s most fanciest destination for department stores and high-end shopping. Although luxury designer brands might not be for everyone, you can find galleries inside these branded stores that are open to the public for free. The Maison Hermès Ginza is currently exhibiting works by artists Christian Hidaka and Takeshi Murata in their art gallery, Le Forum.
Hidaka and Murata’s diasporic background become the core of “Visitors”. Their perspectives and approach to art result from their upbringing in Britain and the United States as Japanese descendants. For Hidaka, this sentiment is reflected in his renaissance-inspired paintings that incorporate elements of both East-Asian and European cultures. Many of his paintings display a figure dressed up in Japanese or European traditional attire in a pastel-colored structure, seemingly a visual representation of the subliminal world created by the diaspora experience.
Murata takes a more futuristic approach to his work using digital media. There is a sense of realism resulting from CGI, but Murata adds surreal elements by incorporating glitches and exaggerated lighting. His multi-media work featuring a dog playing basketball plays on a loop with music that screeches through the exhibition halls.
- Now through Tue, Jan. 31, 2023
- Daily from 11 A.M. to 7 P.M.
- Maison Hermès Ginza 8-9th Floor, 5-4-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo - Map
- 2-minute walk from Ginza station and Yurakucho station
After taking in the art, take this opportunity to enjoy what Marunouchi has to offer. Go for a walk in the Kokyo Gaien National Garden or see tree illumination at Naka-dori Avenue. The wintertime makes Marunouchi a great leisure spot for families and couples alike.