Sunday, July 16, 2006

contemporary art museums in Tokyo

Hmmm, I really want to get done with my Japan posts so I can move on and maintain the blog as it should... with frequent and time sensitive posts. Before concluding the Japanese experience, I have to make a summary of my "artsy" experience in Japan.

I have seen a number of ineresting exhibitions, unfortunately, only one with Japanese thematic.

The first one I saw was the Watari museum, or Watarium (fig 1). The exhibition, entitled "Bye Bye, Nam June Paik" is , as you can imagine, an homage due to the recent passing of the artist.
I am not an expert of [contemporary] art so I will not embarass myself trying to give smart comments on the exhibition - I am sure that if you google the title you will find better references.

The second exhibition that I've seen, and in fact enjoy the most, was the Metropolitan Musem of Photography in Tokyo. I have seen two exhibitions: Michael Kenna's "In Japan - Conversation with the land" and the latest "World Press Photo". I enjoyed the former quite a lot, although it became repetitive after a while, perhaps because the Japanese landscape in some sense does not vary very much. But the exclusive beauty of Japanese landscape is in its trees and Michael Kenna does a very good job of simplifying the scenery to focus on the geometrical patterns of his trees.

While Michael Kenna's exhibition can be considered dull by some, the "world press photo" is in contrast quite shocking. You see everything from dead children, to cancer operated breasts with crystal visual quality and it is very traumatic, but in the same time very educational for the common person to become aware of the life outside his/her little infinetesimal sphere. Although one can see this exhibition anywhere in the world (I am guessing that from Tokyo will travel to oter cities, in fact I think it will even come to Toronto at some point), the unique relationship between Tokyo and its citizens is harmonic to the relationship between the viewer and the exhibition: the same huge contrasts, the same feeling of dominance of the city towards it people.

The last major exhibition I've seen was entitled "Africa Remix" in the Ropongy tower, the center of American culture in Tokyo. While I liked many of the pieces shown and while I liked the political statement and criticism of many western colonists, most artists no longer live in Africa - in fact most of them live in one of these 3 cities: New York, London, Paris. Kind of poor representation of African Art.

All these venues only host temporary exhibitions so in fact if you go, you will not see the same thing. But, these are,to the best of my knowledge, some of the main venues for contemporary art and browsing through their programs it seems they generally host very nice exhibitions so if you find yourself in Tokyo, give them a visit.

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