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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: Although Japan's state of quasi-emergency has been lifted, many museums and galleries 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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Mitsuaki Iwago: Pantanal
4 June - 10 July 2022
Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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Wildlife photographer Iwago (b. 1950) has traveled all over the world, but seems to have a special place in his heart for the Pantanal, a vast tropical wetland that extends from Brazil into Bolivia and Paraguay. He is particularly fascinated by the Pantanal jaguar, and a shot in this exhibition of a jaguar leaping into a river to catch a caiman is nothing short of stunning. Yet these photographs impress us not so much with the cruelty of the law of the jungle as with the matter-of-fact way animals go about the business of survival. As Iwago notes in his eloquent captions, every denizen of this rich ecosystem has its own "lifestyle," its own story to tell.
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Continuous Contours
29 April - 28 August 2022
Sezon Museum of Modern Art
(Nagano)
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Four contemporary artists working in various media -- Maki Ohkojima, Hideo Takashima, Yohei Fusegi, and Hiroko Masuko -- "rely on tactile sensations to push beyond the personal sensory realm, as they search for Continuous Contours of the territories to which they belong," states the museum. "The contours of nature and of human life are always amorphous. They repeatedly expand, discontinue, and fuse. In this era of changing value systems with a certain distance between us and our subject matter, how can we grasp outlines, those points of contact between inside and out?"
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The Greats: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland
22 April - 3 July 2022
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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A rare opportunity to sample the National Galleries of Scotland's vaunted collection of Western art from the Renaissance to the late 19th century. Represented among the 90-plus works on show are not only familiar European giants like Raphael, El Greco, Rubens, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Corot, Seurat and Renoir, but also English masters Gainsborough, Reynolds, Blake, Constable, and Turner. A special bonus is the appearance of work by the Scottish painters Raeburn, Ramsay, Wilkie and Dyce.
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Botero: Magic in Full Form
29 April - 3 July 2022
Bunkamura the Museum
(Tokyo)
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The first exhibition of Fernando Botero's work in Japan in 26 years commemorates the iconic Colombian artist's 90th birthday. According to the museum: "The defining characteristic of Botero's works is that all their forms and shapes are depicted with extensive volume. He invokes a regular motif of giving exaggerated proportions to humans and other animals, making fruit look almost ripe as if to burst, and even bringing plumpness to the musical instruments and daily necessities shown in his works. By giving volume to his subjects, he instills them with a complex semiotic mixture that is at once sensual, humorous, and ironic, bringing a multitude of emotions to the viewer."
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Transformation: Arts Crossing Borders in the 19th and 20th Centuries

29 April - 10 July 2022
Artizon Museum
(Tokyo)
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Modern art's spawning of successive avant-garde movements is owed, aver the curators, to the internationalization of the art world. Here they seek to answer the question, "How have artists from the modern period on, amidst influences and relationships of unprecedented diversity, pursued their own artistic ideals and originality?" The 80-piece show focuses on four painters from France, Germany, China, and Japan respectively -- Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Klee, Zao Wou-Ki, and Takeji Fujishima (along with his fellow Francophiles Tsuguharu Fujita and Misei Kosugi) -- in an exploration of how these artists' border-crossing experiences brought about "transformation" in their work.
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Organizing Daily Life
16 April - 3 July 2022
Hajimari Art Center
(Fukushima)
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The six artists or art units introduced here make their art by arranging, and thereby inducing changes in, the stuff of everyday life. Whereas it may be difficult to effect rapid change in such objects or in oneself, change can come about through the act of organizing or arranging. The artists and curators hope that raising awareness of this process of "organizing daily life" can serve as an impetus for transforming our emotional lives and creating more comfortable spaces in which to live.
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Copperplate Prints from the Louvre Museum
29 April - 3 July 2022
Kushiro City Museum of Art
(Hokkaido)
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Founded in 1797, La Chalcographie du Louvre houses a massive collection of engraved copperplate prints as well as original plates dating back to the reign of Louis XIV. Since the early 20th century the ever-growing trove has been opened to new works by contemporary artists. This remarkable show introduces 130 prints made from their original plates especially for exhibit in Japan.
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Human and Animal: Breathing Life into Clay
28 May - 3 July 2022
Iwate Museum of Art
(Iwate)
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The museum invites visitors to "enjoy the vanguard of clay art" through this exhibition, which, with a focus on "human and animal forms used as artistic motifs since the earliest of times, features approximately 100 clay works by five important artists: Beth Cavener (USA), Kim Simonsson (Finland), Susan Halls (UK), Stephanie Quayle (UK), and Yoshitomo Nara (Japan). The artists breathe life into clay through a dialogue with the medium, creating unique forms of human and animal."
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Is it possible to create Tohoku paintings? -- Myriad Sceneries
16 April - 3 July 2022
Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels
(Saitama)
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The provocative title is that of a project launched by two art teachers at Tohoku University Art and Design; its flagship work, Ark Plan, is themed on the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region in 2011. As home to the Hiroshima Panels, which chronicle the atomic bombings and other horrific events of war in the 20th century, the Maruki Gallery is an appropriate venue for the exhibition, which features pictures and tales created by artists and students with roots in 21st-century Tohoku.
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Kacchu Anatomy: The Aesthetics of Design and Engineering
3 May - 10 July 2022
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa
(Ishikawa)
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According to the museum, kacchu -- the style of Japanese armor prevalent from the Sengoku through the Edo periods (roughly the 16th through 18th centuries) -- "developed and evolved as a symbol of a samurai's pride and strength in battle in a unique way. This development occurred in terms of both the aesthetic that deployed craft skills and innovative designs seen in lacquering, metalwork, and braiding, as well as the functionality and engineering of these items as protective gear. These fascinating aspects will be exhibited in a space designed by contemporary artists."
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