©Photo by RM fotografia. Olivetti Showroom interior designed by Gae Aulenti.

Tokyo Art Scene: Retrospectives

Looking Back At Their Legacy

By Nadila
February 9, 2023
Art & Culture

Three retrospective exhibitions to discover and learn more about a great artist.

A retrospective exhibition is a showcase of an artist’s life work. Often organized chronologically, it delves into the personal lives and social context that influenced the works of great artists. Currently being exhibited throughout the month are three retrospective exhibitions of underground Japanese artist Goda Sawako, Italian architect Gae Aulenti and Austrian expressionist painter Egon Schiele.

Goda Sawako: A Retrospective

© Photo by Nadila
Exhibition poster next to gallery entrance

Goda Sawako was a Japanese mixed-media artist and oil painter. Throughout her time as an artist—from her enrollment to Musashino Art School in 1959 to her passing in 2016—Goda was experimenting with various mediums and subject matter. Most of her work remains niche, with most of them appearing as magazine covers, theater show posters and in art auctions. As a form of a collaborative effort between The Museum of Art, Koichi and Mitaka City Sports and Culture Foundation, a Goda Sawako retrospective exhibition is currently open for the public at Mitaka City Gallery of Art. 

© Photo by @GalleryMitaka on Twitter
Gallery interior

The exhibit follows Goda’s growth chronologically, beginning with her early experimentation with using junk and debris to create sculptures. Small deformed creatures and eyeballs made from egg-shaped bodies, Goda’s early works are colorful yet slightly horrifying. 

The Koichi-born artist discovered her love for oil painting later on. Displayed in the retrospective is an extensive selection of Goda’s paintings. One of Goda’s favorite subjects to paint are Hollywood movie stars. Using dark, monochrome colors and soft brushes, her paintings carry a similar sense of ghostliness as found in her early sculptures. 

© Photo by @GalleryMitaka from Twitter
Gallery interior

Covered as part of the retrospective are Goda’s time in Egypt, her experiments with photography and color pencil sketches. As a single mother of two, Goda took her time in discovering what she liked. The result is an impressive collection of life work that encapsulated popular culture in the late 20th century. Take this opportunity to dive into the life and virtuosity behind a great underground artist.

Now through Mar. 26, 2023
Daily except Mon. from 10 A.M. to 8 P.M.
Mitaka City Gallery of Art, Mitaka Coral 5F, 3-35-1 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka - Map
¥600 (Adults and over 65), ¥300 (Students), Free (Middle-school students and under, those with disability certificates)
3-minute walk from Mitaka Station

Gae Aulenti: A Glance at Japan and the World

© Photo by Lamberto Rubino
Exhibition entrance

Located in Kagurazaka, in proximity to the Nippon Budokan and Imperial Palace is the Italian Cultural Institute Tokyo. The boxy red exterior makes the institution stand out from the rows of buildings that occupy the area. We can thank architect Gae Aulenti for her contribution to creating an important cultural space for the Italian diaspora and locals. Currently held in the same institution is a retrospective exhibition of the late Italian artist, following her life work and enduring legacy.

© Photo by Archivio Gae Aulenti
Drawing of the Italian Cultural Institute Tokyo building by Gae Aulenti, who designed the building.

The Italian architect has had a hand in building art institutions including the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and much more. Aside from buildings, Aulenti expands her creative mind towards furniture and interior design. The retrospective exhibit displays a variety of original sketches and dioramas, as well as photographs that summarizes Aulenti’s contribution to design and architecture. 

© Photo by Lamberto Rubino
Gallery interior
Now through Mar. 12, 2023
Daily except Mon. from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M.
Italian Cultural Institute Tokyo, 2-1-30 Kudanminami, Chiyoda-ku - Map
7-minute walk from Kagurazaka Station

Egon Schiele from the Collection of the Leopold Museum: Young Genius in Vienna 1900

© Photo by Nadila
Exhibition poster displayed at museum entrance

Amongst the leading artists of the Austrian Expressionist movement in the early 1900s is young prodigy Egon Schiele. Despite his early death at 28 years old, Schiele had an early start to drawing and painting as his peers recognized him to have a special talent for the arts. Having continued to learn from some of Europe’s modern art masters and a passion for the pursuit of beauty, Schiele marked his legacy with an array of masterpieces under his belt. With an extensive collection of works borrowed from the Leopold Museum in Vienna, The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum exhibits an Egon Schiele retrospective.

© Photo by Schiele, Egon. Chrysanthemum, 1910. Leopold Museum, Vienna.
Schiele, Egon. Chrysanthemum, 1910. Leopold Museum, Vienna.

The human body becomes a recurring theme in many of Schiele’s paintings; nude self-portraits, women posing provocatively, an embracing couple, Schiele’s figures are characterized by their long limbs, exaggerated poses and pale, bruised white skin. 

In tandem with the rise of impressionism in Europe, painters in Vienna including Schiele followed to look at landscapes as subjects of their artworks. Images of mountains, villages and forests are prominent, ornamented with an expressionist touch with its use of harsh brush strokes. 

© Photo by Schiele, Egon. Krumau on the Vltava (The Small Town IV), 1914. Leopold Museum, Vienna.
Schiele, Egon. Krumau on the Vltava (The Small Town IV), 1914. Leopold Museum, Vienna.

Schiele formed a close relationship with fellow painter Gustav Klimt. Displayed as part of this retrospective is a collection of paintings by Klimt and fellow artists from Vienna including Koloman Moser and Oskar Kokoschka. Showcasing over 100 paintings, the retrospective delves into the influences and trends that are prominent in early 18th century Austria as well as Schiele’s personal life that shaped him to be the great artist that he was.

Now through Apr. 9, 2023
Daily except Mon. from 9.30 A.M. to 5.30 P.M.
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 8-36 Ueno-Park Taito-ku - Map
¥2,200 (Adults), ¥1,300 (University students), ¥1500 (Senior over 65), Free (18 and under with reservation, those with a Physical Disability Certificate, Intellectual Disability Certificate, Rehabilitation Certificate, Mental Disability Certificate or Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Certificate and one accompanying person. Online reservation is recommended.)
7-minute walk from Ueno Station

Within proximity of these museums and galleries are Inokashira Park, Kitanomaru Park and Ueno Park. Enjoy a stroll around the green landscape after your visits to the retrospective. 

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