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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 current or recent exhibitions at museums and galleries around the country.

Note: As of 1 October, Japan is no longer under a state of emergency. Most museums and galleries are open, but some may still require reservations or have other anti-Covid measures in place. If you are planning a visit, please check the venue's website beforehand.

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image image 1 November 2021
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Yasuo Kazuki: A Retrospective
18 September - 14 November 2021
The Museum of Modern Art, Hayama
(Kanagawa)
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According to the museum, Kazuki (1911-74) "established an unshakeable reputation for himself in the world of post-war yoga (western-style) painting with his Siberia Series, depicting his experiences in the Pacific War and his internment in a Siberian POW camp. Including all 57 pieces from that series, this exhibition displays around 150 of Kazuki's works in chronological order [. . . ] Presenting his works from the Siberia Series, often interpreted as an epic poem, alongside other works of his from the same time, provides a chance to see them in a new light; in introducing the artist's oeuvre as a whole, we reveal a multifaceted charm that has previously been hidden behind the image of 'the Siberian painter'."
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Kaoru Ueda and the World of Realistic Paintings
26 October - 12 December 2021
The Museum of Modern Art, Ibaraki
(Ibaraki)
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Now in his nineties, Ueda (b. 1928) is known as one of Japan's foremost exponents of photorealist painting, earning accolades for works that capture, camera-like, the form taken by familiar objects in a single moment of flux. Beginning with his iconic 1970s Raw Egg series, he went on to depict still lifes of ice cream dripping from a spoon, soap bubbles, flowing water and other fluid forms in motion. His hyper-high-res close-ups of such phenomena give them a reality that the naked eye is incapable of grasping on its own, challenging us to rethink our own powers of cognition.
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Beautiful Men
23 September - 3 November 2021
The Museum of Modern Art, Saitama
(Saitama)
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This gathering of portrayals of attractive boys and men in Japanese paintings and other visual media seeks to elucidate how notions of the ideal male image have evolved over time. Little attention has been paid by art historians to depictions of male beauty and how they have been viewed and discussed. What does the concept of the "handsome man" in painting mean today, when tastes and lifestyles have become more diverse than in the past?
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Noboru Kunimatsu: A Retrospective
9 October - 5 December 2021
Hakodate Museum of Art, Hokkaido
(Hokkaido)
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Hakodate-born Kunimatsu (1907-94) is a painter strongly associated with southern Hokkaido, whose winter vistas of snowy fields and icy seas were a perennial theme for him. Series like Fish without Eyes and Couple on the Ice evince a dreamlike, tranquil mood. This show provides a solid overview of Kunimatsu's life and work through an assemblage of his best-known pieces.
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Yamashita Kiyoshi Retrospective

18 September - 23 November 2021
Hokkaido Asahikawa Museum of Art
(Hokkaido)
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Known variously as "Japan's Van Gogh" and "The Naked General," Yamashita (1922-71) was a wandering eccentric who became famous for both his peripatetic lifestyle and the unique chigiri-e landscapes he made from torn bits of paper. Through his art, this show attempts to shed light on what he thought and felt during his short life. The 130 works on display -- not only chigiri-e but pen drawings, oils, and watercolors as well -- extend from art he produced while still a young boy, through his period of wandering during and after World War II, and into his later years. Also featured is the "Wandering Diary" he kept during his travels throughout Japan.
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François Pompon Exhibition
18 September - 14 November 2021
Nagoya City Art Museum
(Nagoya)
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With their simple, rounded contours, Pompon's animal sculptures are, in a word, adorable. When the French sculptor (1855-1933) began exhibiting these delightful figures a century ago, he quickly won acclaim for distilling the essence, in his streamlined style, of the animals' postures and movements -- the result of years of careful observation. This, the first retrospective of his work to appear in Japan, offers a generous sampling of his oeuvre, including such masterpieces as White Bear and Black Panther.
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Michio Hoshino: The Eternal Journey
28 September - 7 November 2021
Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art
(Okayama)
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Hoshino (1952-96) is revered for his photographs of animals in the wild. He lived for a time in Alaska, and met a premature end when attacked by a bear on Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. His keen sensibilities yielded imagery that not only captures the vitality of living creatures, but also scrutinizes the relationship between nature and humanity. Twenty-five years after his death, his pictures and words still resonate, gently prodding us to rethink our perspectives on issues we confront today. This exhibition poignantly draws attention to the incompleteness of Hoshino's journey by introducing series that he left unfinished.
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Modern Architecture in Kyoto
25 September - 26 December 2021
Kyoto City Kyocera Museum of Art
(Kyoto)
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Kyoto is at the vanguard of cities that actively preserve structures of historical value, to the extent that it is often hailed as a "living architectural museum." This show places the focus on modern architecture in Kyoto, of which the museum itself is a classic example. The venue's first major architectural exhibition, it boasts everything from rare original plans and models to photos and films showing how the city has looked in different decades. If combined with some actual strolls around town and explorations of still-standing buildings, this is an excellent opportunity to appreciate Kyoto for other treasures besides its celebrated temples, shrines, and gardens.
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Contemporary Japanese Crafts: Reinterpretation, Exquisite Craftsmanship, and Aesthetic Exploration
18 September - 5 December 2021
Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art
(Kyoto)
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Say the curators: "This exhibition features 12 craft artists who were born in the 1970s or later, the generation that now attracts the most attention of art audiences. [. . .] The subtitle of the exhibition represents three trends observed in contemporary Japanese crafts: the 'reinterpretation' of the Japanese sense of beauty and traditional Japanese culture, 'exquisite craftsmanship,' and 'aesthetic exploration' of materials. We hope that the exhibition [. . .] will provide you with an opportunity to consider emerging possibilities for long-preserved Japanese craftsmanship."
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Tomoya Masuda's Architectural World: The Path of Thinking Found in His Archive
27 October - 12 December 2021
The Kyoto University Museum
(Kyoto)
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Masuda (1914-81) was a prolific designer of modernist architecture in postwar Japan. Kyoto University, where he taught, has recently opened a website on which it displays selected items from its archive of Masuda's drawings, sketches, photographs, research notes, and manuscripts. This endeavor supplies the occasion for the current exhibition, which includes not only plans and models but also notes and sketches that articulate his philosophy of architecture.
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