Communion with the spirits of wood

Nov 8, 2012

Communion with the spirits of wood

When you first encounter the sculptures of Koji Tanada, you might get the initial impression that he’s being facetious or whimsical, and assume that his sculptures are all part of an elaborate practical joke, designed to drive home some droll but not very profound ...

Run away to Paris with Rouault's circus

Nov 1, 2012

Run away to Paris with Rouault's circus

Paris in its heyday — between one set of Germans marching in (1871) and another (1940) — is one of those fabled cities that exists forever in the human consciousness; one that is often prefixed with the word “gay,” in its earlier and truer ...

History that lingers in photography

Oct 25, 2012

History that lingers in photography

There is an unseen hand behind The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art’s latest exhibition, “The Angel of History.” On the surface, this is an eclectic, almost random mix of avant-garde photography that spans the last 80 years and includes the work of Man Ray, ...

From the low key comes high art

Oct 18, 2012

From the low key comes high art

The Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum is deceptive in more ways than one. Not only is it a lot younger than it looks — it was built in 2009 as a recreation of a Meiji Era building — but the interior doesn’t quite match the exterior. ...

Treasures from China's rich tapestry of cultures

Oct 12, 2012

Treasures from China's rich tapestry of cultures

“China” has always been something of a simplification. This is because it is an idea that has been used to encapsulate a vast heterogeneous portion of the World’s population. With current relations with Japan tense, the idea of China as a monolithic giant with ...

The princely state of Liechtenstein's collection

Oct 11, 2012

The princely state of Liechtenstein's collection

Liechtenstein is the kind of place that philatelists and tax lawyers know best. Although an insignificant dot on the map, it has its own set of stamps and its small size allows it to offer tax advantages to thousands of holding companies. The latest ...

Drawing a bead on functional items as 'art work'

Oct 4, 2012

Drawing a bead on functional items as 'art work'

There is an idea common today that almost anything can be “art.” This probably has something to do with a certain Frenchman who exhibited a urinal as an “artwork” many moons ago; not to mention more recent absurdities. But, despite the looseness of the ...

The fabric of Okinawa design

Sep 27, 2012

The fabric of Okinawa design

With the typical “white box” museum, everything depends on the contents of the exhibition, but with the Mingeikan (The Japan Folk Crafts Museum), the museum itself is very much part of the experience. This is clear from the moment you slide open the entrance ...

Reading between the lines of realism

Sep 6, 2012

Reading between the lines of realism

Nineteenth century Russia is far better known for its composers and writers than for its artists. While the likes of Tchaikovsky, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy have a global resonance, the most famous Russian painters of the period remain internationally obscure. But this state of affairs ...

The Khitans: from Mongolic tribe to rulers of an empire

Aug 23, 2012

The Khitans: from Mongolic tribe to rulers of an empire

When I visited “The Splendor of the Khitan Dynasty” at the University Art Museum, Tokyo, I got a funny feeling that Japan somehow wanted to preserve good diplomatic relations with this mighty Empire. This makes perfectly good sense given this state’s great military strength ...