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Picks :
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Picks is a monthly sampling of Japan's art scene, offering commentary by a variety of reviewers about exhibitions at museums and galleries in recent weeks, with an emphasis on contemporary art by young artists.

Note: Most of Japan's museums and galleries have reopened, but conditions and anti-coronavirus precautions vary. If you are planning a visit, please check the venue's website beforehand.

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100 Years of Bunriha: Can Architecture Be Art?
10 October - 15 December 2020
Panasonic Shiodome Museum of Art
(Tokyo)
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Is architecture art? One century ago, in 1920, six architecture students at Tokyo Imperial University got together and responded with an emphatic "yes." This exhibition covers the history of the seminal group they formed, Bunriha Kenchiku Kai (literally, the Secessionist Architectural Group). On offer are the precocious graduation projects members presented at their first show, models reflecting the influence of Rodin and other European sculptors, novel designs for rural housing, the role of Bunriha architects in Tokyo's recovery from the Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and their encounters with modernist thought. This is robust yet beautiful architecture, imbued with a distinctive aesthetic and unbridled energy.
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King & Queen from the National Portrait Gallery, London
10 October 2020 - 11 January 2021
The Ueno Royal Museum
(Tokyo)
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Some 90 painted and photographic portraits chronicle five-plus centuries of rule by the British monarchy. England's royals enjoy a more intimate relationship with their subjects than do members of the less approachable Japanese imperial household, and this extends to frequent appearances in cartoons, paparazzi snapshots, and other visual media. The show, which is visiting Tokyo from the UK, is divided into five sections -- one each for the Houses of Tudor, Stuart, Hanover and Windsor, and one devoted to the long reign of Queen Victoria.
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Architecture as a Story: Shigeru Wakayama and Disciples Exhibition
19 September - 23 November 2020
Kiyosu City Haruhi Art Museum
(Aichi)
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Architect Wakayama (b. 1947) taught for many years at the Nagoya Institute of Technology, where he nurtured numerous disciples. This show introduces works by his students as well as his own. Wakayama was also a prolific writer on topics ranging from construction methods to the environment to pop culture. Proteges like Keisuke Kitagawa and Tetsuo Kondo were actively involved in producing the exhibition, augmenting it with presentations beyond the scope of typical panel discussions. It was clearly a labor of love by the Wakayama Lab.
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Ishimoto Yasuhiro Centennial: The City Brought to Life
29 September - 23 November 2020
Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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San Francisco-born, Japan-raised Ishimoto (1921-2012) studied photography after World War II at the Chicago (later IIT) lnstitute of Design, known as "The New Bauhaus." After returning to Japan in 1953 he made his base in Tokyo. This retrospective focuses on his urban images of Chicago and Tokyo, as well as such diverse series as Katsura Imperial Villa, Color and Form, and Moment. What shines through all of them is Ishimoto's unflagging drive to explore new territory at every point in his career.
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Röntgen and the Discovery of the X-ray

24 June - 23 November 2020
JP Tower Museum Intermediatheque
(Tokyo)
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Part of a series on natural history organized by the University Museum of the University of Tokyo, this show is all about Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845-1923), the German physicist who discovered X-rays and earned the first Nobel Prize in Physics for his achievement. In Japan his name is universally known because it is used synonymously with "X-ray." Besides copious materials related to Röntgen, the exhibits included some of his earliest X-ray images of subjects ranging from a frog and a lobster to his wife's hand, with her wedding ring clearly visible.
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Poems of Eternal Life: The World of Kazumasa Nagai's Images and Words
9 October - 21 November 2020
Ginza Graphic Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Pictures of animals -- charming, yet somehow a bit melancholy -- filled the darkened gallery. Interspersed among the forest of images were atmospherically spotlit verses of poetry, their messages simple but poignant. The presentation was based on graphic designer Nagai's book Poems of Eternal Life, featuring graphics selected from his inspirational LIFE series celebrating the life of the world's creatures.
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Philippe Weisbecker Inside Japan: Carpentry Tools, Architectures, Daily Items
2 October - 20 November 2020
GALLERY A4
(Tokyo)
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Paris-based artist and illustrator Weisbecker (b. 1942) was sponsored by the French government as an artist-in-residence in Kyoto for four months in 2004. The objects that caught his eye during that sojourn are the theme of this show. Storehouses, roadwork barriers, wastebaskets, carpenters' tools -- these utterly mundane things come in a rich diversity of shapes that Weisbecker brings to life, extracting beauty from the commonplace. One senses his deep affection for objects of all kinds.
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Saitama Triennale 2020
17 October - 15 November 2020
Saitama City
(Saitama)
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Originally scheduled for March this year, the debut of this new triennial art festival was delayed by the coronavirus lockdown. Though the theme is "flowers," a visit to the site put one more in the mind of "remains." For one thing, the main site was the former Omiya Ward Office and its annex was the former Omiya Library, two facilities that were once alive with the comings and goings of people, but now stand empty. The past loomed large over these settings, posing a challenge that the artworks on display had to somehow coexist with or overcome.
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Fine Prints by Gelatin Silver Session Participants

29 September - 1 November 2020

JCII Photo Salon
(Tokyo)
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Over two decades have passed since the photographer's tools of trade began to go digital. It's been a tough time for those who prefer working with film and in darkrooms, but one that has also spurred efforts to further explore the potential of the analog gelatin-silver print process. One such undertaking is the "Gelatin Silver Session" project launched in 2006, nine of whose members were featured in this exhibition. The 47 monochrome prints on show ran the gamut from landscapes to street snapshots to advertising, providing a rewarding overview of the possibilities of fine-print silver-halide photography.
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Photography in the Ryukyu Islands

29 September - 23 November 2020

Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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Okinawa and its surrounding islands, collectively known as the Ryukyus, occupy a special place in the annals of photographic expression in Japan. Originally an independent kingdom, the archipelago has had a unique and often fraught relationship with the rest of the country; nearly every island became a battle zone at the end of World War II; and for 27 years after the war they remained under U.S. military rule. Shomei Tomatsu's renowned collections of images of Okinawa (he lived there from 1972 to 1998) also had a profound impact on local photographers. This exhibition brought together 206 works by seven key figures in postwar Okinawan photography: Minoru Yamada, Yasuo Higa, Koshichi Taira, Takashi Ishimine, Kenshichi Hekishi, Toyomitsu Higa, and Mao Ishikawa.
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