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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: With the relaxation of the government's emergency measures to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, most museums in Japan have reopened, but many still require reservations. If you are planning a visit, please check the venue's website beforehand.

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Ukiyoe that Challenges: Kuniyoshi, Yoshitoshi... and More!
24 April - 6 June 2021
Koriyama City Museum of Art
(Fukushima)
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Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) is enjoying renewed attention as the "bizarre" ukiyo-e artist whose dynamic warrior portraits and clever caricatures breathed new life into a genre in decline during the last years of the Edo Shogunate. This show highlights Kuniyoshi's qualities of vigor, curiosity, and flexibility as he tackled unusual subjects and drawing techniques. It also illustrates his influence on his greatest disciple, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-92), known as the "last ukiyo-e master" and notoriously fond of gruesome, bloody scenes. Both men lived and worked during a period of extreme upheaval as Japan made the bumpy transition from the Shogunate to the Meiji Restoration.
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Mitsuhiko Imamori: Living with Nature and the World of Paper-Cutting Art
22 May - 9 July 2021
Sakata City Museum of Art
(Yamagata)
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As a young boy, photographer and kirigami (cut-paper) artist Imamori loved collecting bugs and catching fish. Today he still lives the country life, tending rice paddies and woodlands in addition to snapping pictures of Japan's satoyama, the rural environments where people and nature have long coexisted. His cut-paper works, too, vividly depict such motifs as birds, butterflies, and plants. On exhibit here are his kirigami series on satoyama flora and fauna as well as animals encountered during his many travels abroad.
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8 Surprises, 8 Painters
30 April - 20 June 2021
Nerima Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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Citing ihyo (surprise) as its keyword, this show introduces eight artists from its collection, including several with ties to Nerima, the Tokyo neighborhood where the museum is located. The 100 paintings and prints on offer are divided into separate "solo" exhibits by the artists, whose lives span the tumultuous century from the early 1900s to the present; some, like the renowned Yayoi Kusama, are still alive. All of them, the show posits, bring a unique element of surprise to their practice.
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Masterpieces from the Japanese Painting Collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art
14 April - 27 June 2021
Suntory Museum of Art
(Tokyo)
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An impressive lineup of paintings rigorously selected from the MIA's massive (9,500 works!) Japan collection to trace the vicissitudes of Japanese art from the medieval to the modern era, with the Edo period (1603-1867) predominating. All the major schools and genres are represented here: sumi-e ink paintings, the Kano school, Yamato-e, Rinpa, ukiyo-e, the literati painters, the eccentrics, even modernism. Some of these works are returning to their homeland for the first time.
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Kishin Shinoyama: A New Fine Day

18 May - 15 August 2021
Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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Since the 1960s, Shinoyama (b. 1940) has been taking photographs that gauge the temperature of the times. First serialized in the magazine Asahi Graph in 1974, then published in book form, A Fine Day is a distillation of the distinctive characteristics of his work. Declaring that "photography is a medium that has borne the burden of popular appeal since its birth," Shinoyama has fixed his sharp, critical eye on society in all its aspects. This revisitation of his iconic series offers 116 images captured over a span of six decades.
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Isamu Noguchi: Ways of Discovery
24 April - 29 August 2021
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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Born to a Japanese father and American mother, Noguchi (1904-88) constantly wrestled with his identity as a child of both East and West, even as he developed an original philosophy of sculpture that made him one of the great artists of the 20th century. Unflagging in his efforts to create a world of abstract forms grounded in nature, he was also devoted to the theme of peace, spurred by the tragic experience of war between his two homelands. This retrospective is an opportunity to appreciate Noguchi's profound insights into Japanese culture and their significance for the present day.
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Picturesque Japan: Famous Places Depicted from Edo to Showa Eras
22 May - 11 July 2021
Fuchu Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), the ukiyo-e master who produced 100 Famous Views of Edo among other celebrated series, is practically a household name. But the tradition of scenic ukiyo-e prints did not end with him. Kiyochika Kobayashi (1847-1915), the "Hiroshige of the Meiji era," is known for Tokyo nightscapes that chronicle the rapid changes the capital underwent during that period. Hasui Kawase (1883-1957), the "Hiroshige of the Showa era," lyrically depicted picturesque spots he visited in his travels throughout Japan. To this illustrious list, the Fuchu show adds the "Hiroshige of the Taisho era," Hatsusaburo Yoshida (1884-1955), who specialized in bird's-eye-view maps. It's a good occasion to compare the work of these four giants of the genre side by side.
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Kenzo Takada: Dreams -- to be continued
1 - 27 June 2021
Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum
(Tokyo)
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"Face your dreams. Hold on to your dreams. I guess that's always been my theme." So went a message for future creators delivered by the late fashion designer Kenzo Takada, who died of complications from COVID-19 last October. That same year he had celebrated the 50th anniversary of his Paris debut in the spring of 1970. This show reviews Takada's glory years in Paris, the 1970s and '80s, through apparel, accessories, documents, and photos in the possession of Bunka Gakuen, the fashion-school complex of which the designer himself was an alumnus.
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All our stories are incomplete... / Colours of the imagination

17 April - 20 June 2021

Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery
(Tokyo)
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In a novel collaboration, the gallery hosts two exhibitions curated by British artist Ryan Gander (b. 1976) in lieu of a solo show he was to have held in Tokyo that was postponed due to the pandemic. Gander brought his conceptualist sensibilities to the remote planning of a pair of shows formed around the collection of the late Kotaro Terrada, which comprises the core of the gallery's holdings. Colours features the black-and-white postwar works favored by Terrada, while All our stories occupies a dimly lit space in which visitors view the works on display by flashlight.
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Fukutomi Taro Collection: The Passion of the Cabaret Magnate

24 April - 27 June 2021

Tokyo Station Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Best known as Japan's "cabaret king," whose establishments (44 nationwide) flourished during the sixties boom years, Fukutomi (1931-2008) was also an avid and intelligent collector of art. Today he is acclaimed for his talent at sussing out unrecognized artists whose works have stood the test of time. Though his favorite genre was indisputably bijin-ga -- paintings and prints of beautiful women -- this assemblage of some 80 works provides an unprecedented opportunity to appreciate the true scope and depth of his collection.
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