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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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Journey and Imagination -- Connecting to the Stories of Others
23 September - 27 November 2022
Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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The desire to go on a journey, to travel someplace other than where you are now -- that impulse has surely grown stronger in many of our hearts over the past two years. What exactly is a journey, anyway? In hopes of encouraging visitors to ponder that question, the exhibition supplies hints from the travels of others through an "anthology of journeys." Featured are installations by contemporary artists that interact with the unique background and Art-Deco ambience of the museum, which occupies the historic former residence of Prince Asaka.
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New Glass Now
16 July - 16 October 2022
Toyama Glass Art Museum
(Toyama)
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Held in cooperation with the Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York, which boasts "the world's largest collection of glass," this show presents works on loan from the museum by over 50 artists and art units. According to the curators: "These works, gathered from around the world through open submission and subjected to a rigorous selection process, offer new types of expression drawn from the features of glass as a material, and the diverse endeavors of artists addressing themes that encompass the conditions and challenges we face today."
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Lee Ufan
10 August - 7 November 2022
The National Art Center, Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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A thorough retrospective of the career of Lee Ufan (b. 1936), one of the most prominent artists and thinkers to emerge from the Mono-ha movement. From the museum: "The exhibition assembles Lee's most important works, from his earliest pre-Mono-ha pieces, which considered the problem of vision, to the Relatum series, which changed the concept of sculpture, and his highly spiritual paintings, which produce a tranquil rhythm. In addition to showcasing Lee's past works, enabling us to trace the trajectory of his creation practice, the exhibition is also scheduled to include his latest ground-breaking efforts."
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National Treasure: Choju Giga (Frolicking Animals) and the Adorable Art of Japan
3 September - 16 October 2022
Fukuoka Art Museum
(Fukuoka)
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As the museum describes it: "Choju Giga (Frolicking Animals), the national treasure held at Kosan-ji Temple in Togano-o, Kyoto, is one of the most famous and cherished artworks in Japan. The appeal of this picture scroll is, of course, the lovable nature of the theme. Young and old, everyone breaks into smiles at the sight of the adorable figures of animals hustling and bustling about the scenes on the picture scroll. The exhibition introduces Japanese art on the themes of humor, simplicity of expression, and animal motifs, all of which underpin the appeal of Choju Giga."
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Inokuma Genichiro: A Retrospective

17 September - 6 November 2022
Yokosuka Museum of Art
(Kanagawa)
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Commemorating the 120th anniversary of Inokuma's birth, this show features some 100 works on loan from the Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art in his home prefecture of Kagawa. The artist led a peripatetic life, as the curators relate: "In 1938, he went to France, where he mingled with Matisse and Picasso. Fleeing the ravages of World War II, he returned to Japan and was later dispatched to the Philippines and Burma to record the military campaign in war paintings. In 1955, he stopped by New York on his way to revisit France and was so enchanted by that city that he remained there for nearly 20 years."
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Manet within Japan: Encounters, 120 Years of Images
4 September - 3 November 2022
Nerima Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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The painter and art critic Hakutei Ishii (1882-1958) was so taken with Manet's A Luncheon on the Grass that he painted an homage titled A Little Rest on the Grass. Ishii was only one of many Japanese artists whose works reveal Manet's influence -- some as outright copies, others in their brushwork, composition, or motifs. Centered around seven Manet paintings that reside in Japan, this show introduces some 100 items, including Impressionist and modern Western-style Japanese works as well as related materials, that trace the French master's legacy in Japan from the Meiji era (1868-1912) to the present day.
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Yoshiko Nakagami: Ceramics Designer / Cloisonné Artist
13 August - 13 November 2022
Toki City Historical Museum of Mino Ceramics
(Gifu)
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Born in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, Nakagami (1932-2005) showed an affinity for painting while still in school, and applied this talent to ceramics production at a kiln in the pottery mecca of Tajimi. There she met the influential ceramics designer Sakuzo Hineno, who became her mentor and avid promoter, encouraging her to join the craft design movement he had launched in the surrounding Mino region. Later Nakagami also became known for her cloisonné enamel work, which won her prizes in France and elsewhere.
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Gaku Tsutaja: Warp Drive
23 July - 2 October 2022
Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels
(Saitama)
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For some time the Japan-born, New York-based artist has been producing works that address the tragic consequences of nuclear weapons in our time. This interest derives from her experience of living in the U.S. and discovering "major discrepancies in the stories told about nuclear weapons in these two countries" -- notably regarding the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As the museum puts it, "Tsutaja teases out these divergent accounts, creating works of art that cultivate new narratives that transcend national boundaries," and strives to "create new stories that make the war and events surrounding it personally relevant to the generations that have come after."
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Okamoto Taro: A Retrospective
23 July - 2 October 2022
Nakanoshima Museum of Art, Osaka
(Osaka)
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A massive presentation that purports to trace the entire artistic journey of the iconic avant-gardist (1911-96). The exhibition website states: "The large-scale sculptures and murals Okamoto installed in public spaces -- exemplified by his Tower of the Sun -- embody his belief that 'art belongs to the people,' an attitude that underpins his popularity with viewers even now, decades after his death. Included, along with Okamoto's most renowned works, will be lesser-known late-period works to introduce the full scope of his oeuvre." (Note: The exhibition will reopen at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum from 18 October to 28 December 2022.)
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Reborn-Art Festival 2021-22: Altruism and Fluidity [Part 2]
20 August - 2 October 2022
Ishinomaki City and Oshika Peninsula
(Miyagi)
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Per the organizers: "Reborn-Art Festival is a comprehensive festival of art, music, and food. Based on the concept of 'Reborn-Art' as a means of living, it started in 2017 in the area devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake. At a time when the globe is once again assailed by new uncertainties caused by a disastrous war, we aspire to present a vision of a new world never seen before through sharing a wide range of artistic expression."
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