Tokyo Art Scene: Summoning Our Inner Child
Keeping the Childhood Spirits Alive
From beloved childhood characters to vibrant contemporary art, these Tokyo exhibitions will encourage you to take a plunge back into your youth.
Artistic skills can be acquired through enough practice and theoretical study, but learning how to detach from creative conventions makes art such a challenge. This notion is reflected in the words of Pablo Picasso: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” This month we introduce ongoing art exhibitions in Tokyo that embrace child-like spontaneity and freedom.
Commonly depicted as a young girl in a blue dress with equally blue eyes, Alice has been a cultural icon since her debut as the main character in Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Decades’ worth of stage and screen adaptations as well as traces of the character in modern art and fashion solidifies Alice as a pop culture symbol. Originally exhibited in Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Mori Arts Center Gallery is bringing the wicked world of Alice’s wonderland to Tokyo. With theatrical installations and over 300 artworks on display, the exhibit showcases Alice’s depiction throughout popular media, from early conceptualizations on paper to references in 21st century high fashion.
The exhibit takes its audience through the different adaptations of Alice. Starting off with early developments of the character, visitors walk through a series of initial sketches and drafts. The following sections introduce on-screen and on-stage interpretations of the story. Clips and posters from cinematic adaptations, followed by costumes from stage plays and musicals line up the exhibition halls.
The interior design of this exhibition—which emulates a storybook format—plays a notable part in the audience’s immersion. Visitors will be guided by rabbit footprints etched on the ground, an imitation of Alice following the white rabbit to Wonderland. Stage props and victorian-style decorations can be found scattered throughout the exhibit, along with projector installations that bring movement and a touch of magic to the viewers.
- Now through Oct. 10, 2022
- Daily from 10 A.M. to 8 P.M. (Until 6 P.M. on Mon-Wed)
- 52F Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo - Map
- ¥2,100 (weekday), ¥2,300 (weekend)
- Roppongi Station exit 1C on Tokyo Metro Hibiya line; Exit 3 on Toei Subway Oedo line
Amid the high-rise buildings of Shinagawa ward stands Terrada Art Complex—a pair of concrete buildings dedicated to art showcases and studios. This September, occupying one of the gallery spaces is a small exhibition displaying works by Japanese contemporary painter Ayako Rokkaku. Organized by T&Y Projects, the gallery features some of Rokkaku’s paintings and sculptures.
Accompanied by an array of colorful paint, the Chiba-born artist sets into painting using her choice of creative tools—her hands. Being self-taught, Rokkaku adores the feeling of her fingers touching the canvas, which reminds her of the time she would doodle as a child.
Upon close look, Rokkaku’s painting seems like a random mashup of bright pink and baby blue, with textures that can only be achieved through the pressures of the fingertips. Once viewers take a step back, the smears of vibrant colors emerge together to form cloud shapes and the seemingly rough appearance of acrylic paint provides more dynamic depth to the two-dimensional painting. A figure of a young girl becomes a signature of Rokkaku’s art, expressing the inner child spirit and values of child-like creativity.
Take this opportunity to also stroll through the art complex which currently houses several exhibitions ranging from works by Japanese sculptor Osamu Kojima to the Maki Collection which features many domestic and international contemporary artists.
- Now through Sep. 17, 2022
- 11 A.M. to 4 P.M. (Closed on Sun, Mon and Holidays)
- 1-32-8 Terrada Art Complex II 4F Higashi-Shinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo - Map
- Access: Tennozu Isle station; Shimbamba station
When we speak of child-like art, it is impossible to exclude Japanese children’s book illustrator Ryoji Arai from the conversation. Arai’s work has not only won prestigious awards but the hearts of children as well. With bright colors, harsh lines and textures, his illustrations are fun visual experiences for young ones. Now through November 20, Setagaya Art Museum is presenting its permanent collection through the eyes of the Yamagata-born artist.
The exhibition, curated by Ryoji Arai himself, features works from various corners of the world and different time periods, tied together by a common theme—fun. Museum walls are colored by the imagery of children and vibrant colors, with works by maestros such as Johann Hauser and Jean-Michel Basquiat gracing the exhibit halls. Each work of art is accompanied by comments from Arai, often describing what he felt while looking at the piece.
The exhibition also showcases works from the Edo period and post-impressionist era, a reminder that even children’s spirits prevail over time. Visitors can gaze upon Unkoku Toeki’s (1591-1644) painted byobu (Japanese folding screens) depicting young kids playing, as well as Arai’s own take on using the byobu as a canvas.
- Now through Nov. 20, 2022
- Daily except Mon from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M.
- 1-2 Kinuta-koen, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo - Map
- 17 min. walk or take the Setagaya Bijutsukan bus from Yoga station
Take your friends and family to come and see these exhibits both adults and children can enjoy. Surrounding yourself with art that exudes the feel of sunny days might just be the perfect refuge for the chilly and rainy Tokyo weather.