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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: Due to a recent surge in Covid cases, parts of Japan are currently under a state of quasi-emergency, and some museums have temporarily closed. Others may 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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Five Stories About Art: Always There
29 January - 13 March 2022
Okazaki Mindscape Museum
(Aichi)
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In a society where information is constantly coming and going, change is an inevitable part of our lives and of what we once took for granted as the ordinary and everyday. Sometimes this process of constant change spurs us to unimagined discoveries and unprecedented thoughts. Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the museum's opening, the exhibition is built around five "stories" on the themes of the everyday, the other, chaos, prayer, and landscape, with the hope, say the curators, that these will help visitors gain insights into the new "everyday" in their own lives.
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World Book Design 2020-21
18 December 2021 - 10 April 2022
Printing Museum, Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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Some 130 winners of book design competitions in Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and China are featured, notably those awarded at the 2021 edition of the "Best Book Design from All Over the World" exhibition in Germany. Amid this stunning array of the world's most beautiful book designs, one can find several that defy conventional notions of what a book should look like. Perhaps the quest for an experience that cannot be duplicated by digital media has made the book evolve into a product offering the sheer pleasure of time spent with print on paper.
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Alternative! Kazuko Koike Exhibition: Soft-Power Movement of Art & Design
22 January - 21 March 2022
3331 Arts Chiyoda
(Tokyo)
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As a copywriter, an editor, and an associate curator at the former Seibu and Sezon art museums, Kazuko Koike has long been a quiet mover and shaker of Japan's art and design milieu. Her special talent is the creation of new value by bringing individuals, corporations, and museums together in common cause. This retrospective of her contributions begins with a spread of posters she designed for the likes of Parco, the Seibu Museum, Issey Miyake, and the MUJI brand, as well as magazines and books she has worked on. The second half is devoted to the legacy of Sagacho Exhibit Space, the seminal alternative art gallery she founded.
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Pompeii
14 January - 3 April 2022
Tokyo National Museum
(Tokyo)
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The one-word title reflects the museum's conviction that this is the ultimate exhibition about the titular city. Entering the first gallery, one is greeted by a CG video of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and its burial of Pompeii. As a child hearing about the excavation of works of art and even intact human bodies at the site, I could only imagine what the cataclysm must have been like; now we can see a vivid digital recreation. Another treat, of course, is the exhibit of some of the stunning frescoes and mosaics found under the ash.
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Kazuo Umezz: The Great Art Exhibition

28 January - 25 March 2022
Roppongi Hills Tokyo City View
(Tokyo)
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Renowned manga artist Umezz (or Umezu) (b. 1936) has produced numerous masterpieces of the genre over his long career, but his hallucinatory visions and prophetic worldview make it impossible to treat his work as merely a form of manga. This exhibition aims to present the unparalleled artistry of his oeuvre via a unique approach of enlisting up-and-coming young artists to express their take on the "world of Kazuo Umezz."
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Your Viewpoint, Everyone's Viewpoint
22 January - 13 March 2022
Sapporo Art Museum
(Hokkaido)
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When we first encounter a work of art, we may think there's something about it we like, or that we just don't get it. Perhaps the work will trigger memories of our own experiences. Art can move the human heart in different ways. As a place that collects, preserves, and exhibits a large number of artworks, a museum is also a repository of the myriad thoughts, impressions, and sensations aroused in viewers of those works. For this show the Sapporo Art Museum picked out a selection of particularly heart- and mind-grabbing pieces from its 1,700-item collection.
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Traces of Life
13 November 2021 - 6 March 2022
Arts Maebashi
(Gunma)
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A show conceived as a contemplation of "traces" of all sorts -- signs from the subconscious, memories of actions or movements, and more. The word "traces" contains many meanings: remnants of people and things retained over time; expressions of our inner lives; lines that form images -- or simply lines themselves. Drawings that consist of lines may trace the origins of our thoughts, while circles, which are lines that trace an arc, represent not only abstract or geometric forms, but concepts and relations that extend into the realm of the spiritual.
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Roni Horn: When You See Your Reflection in Water, Do You Recognize the Water in You?
18 September 2021 - 30 March 2022
Pola Museum of Art
(Kanagawa)
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This look at the four-decade practice of the American artist highlights the glass sculptures that have earned her acclaim in recent years, but also features her photography, drawings, and books. Most of her works use extremely simple forms that draw from the world of nature, often with a dollop of humor. Nestled in the beech forest of the Hakone mountains, the Pola Museum provides an ideal backdrop for the first solo exhibition of Horn's work in Japan.
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Genius: The Human Gift for Creating and Living
22 January - 27 March 2022
Shiga Museum of Art
(Shiga)
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An ambitious show that brings examples of Art Brut, one of the museum's primary focuses, together with works of contemporary art in a consideration of the universality of the human creative impulse. Starting with a review of arguments and critiques associated with the Art Brut concept, it introduces Japanese practitioners like Norimitsu Kokubo (drawings of vast imaginary cities) and Yuichiro Ukai (scroll paintings of monsters on parade). Greeting viewers as they leave the venue is a wall inviting them to indulge their own creative urge. (For a detailed review, see the February 2022 Focus.)
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Minimal/Conceptual: Dorothee and Konrad Fischer and the Art Scenes in the 1960s and 1970s
22 January - 13 March 2022
Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art
(Aichi)
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This show boasts an impressive roster of 18 artists, among them Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt, associated with the small but influential gallery founded in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1967 by the Fischers, a couple noted for championing pioneers in the radical new genres of minimal and conceptual art. The reproduction of that space here demonstrates how works based on new concepts were constructed with their exhibit environment in mind. Letters providing instructions on the process by which these works were to be set up on-site remind one of the remote staging strategies necessitated by the corona pandemic.
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