Missing the light at 'Roppongi Crossing'

Oct 16, 2013

Missing the light at 'Roppongi Crossing'

I’ve always thought that the “Roppongi Crossing” exhibitions try too hard. They take themselves too seriously and usually end up missing the point. Held every three years at the Mori Art Museum, the shows bring together heavily curated selections of contemporary art in an ...

A Michelangelo appetizer

Oct 9, 2013

A Michelangelo appetizer

This has been quite a year for fans of Renaissance art in Japan, with all three of its giants — Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and now Michelangelo — featuring in exhibitions. While the da Vinci show was weak in content and the Raphael quite ...

Kohfukuji Temple: under divine protection

Oct 2, 2013

Kohfukuji Temple: under divine protection

Tucked away behind the main museums in Ueno, the Tokyo University Art Museum may not be on most people's radar, but it is definitely one of the city's top museums in terms of curatorial quality.

<em>Nihonga</em>: without the hand over the eye

Sep 18, 2013

Nihonga: without the hand over the eye

At its essential level, art is a battle between the eye and the hand; the first representing sensory input, the second artistic habit and convention. When the hand outweighs the eye, art can become over-stylized, clichéd, and eventually dead. Asian art has been particularly ...

Understanding the fun side of Surrealism

Jul 31, 2013

Understanding the fun side of Surrealism

Part of the reason for the success of Surrealism in the 1920s and ’30s was its sexual dimension. This element, covered over by a veneer of respectable intellectualism, had a powerful attraction at a time when sexuality was much more circumscribed by social morality ...

The Pushkin's masterpieces cannot fail to inspire

Jul 24, 2013

The Pushkin's masterpieces cannot fail to inspire

There are a lot of people who wish that art had simply stopped around 1911 or so. If it had, we would have been spared many of the monstrosities that modern art then proceeded to unleash — urinals in art galleries, randomly distributed paint, ...

Japan's population of ghouls keeps coming back to haunt us

Jul 17, 2013

Japan's population of ghouls keeps coming back to haunt us

Caught up in the rush of modernity, it is sometimes easy to forget just what a unique and unusual country Japan is. An exhibition such as “Yokai: Demons, Folklore Creatures and GeGeGe no Kitaro” serves to remind us, by peeling back the surface of ...

The 'floating world' that drifted to the West

Jul 3, 2013

The 'floating world' that drifted to the West

The main pleasure of any extensive ukiyo-e (woodblock print) exhibition, like the “Floating World” show now on at the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, is the evocation of the unique civilization that underlies this particular slab of global modernity. Among the sleek office buildings of the ...

Art that bloomed with the Feinbergs

Jun 27, 2013

Art that bloomed with the Feinbergs

As a simple matter of economic convenience, some of the best art collections in the world started out going against established taste. By avoiding what was already highly valued — and therefore expensive — collectors could build up impressive collections that could then help ...

Everyday goods: the Japanese art of convenience

Jun 27, 2013

Everyday goods: the Japanese art of convenience

“Mingei” translates as “folk art” and is connected to objects that are made or used by ordinary people on an everyday basis. Usually this evokes hand-crafted objects, such as ceramics, baskets, items of woodwork, etc. As such, the term is evocative of the era ...