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‘Self Portrait: Others as Myself’

by Jae Lee

Takahashi Collection Hibiya

Closes Nov. 28

Since Seiki Kuroda (1866-1924), a leader of the yoga (Western-style painting) movement, introduced self-portraiture as a graduation project at the prestigious Tokyo University of the Arts, it has become one of the school’s ongoing traditions and a respected art form in Japan. To celebrate the importance of self-representation, the Takahashi Collection Hibiya, which closes this December, is showing “Self Portrait: Others as Myself” as one of its final exhibitions. For two years, the gallery has been showing works from the collection of Ryutaro Takahashi, a psychiatrist and art lover who is largely responsible for coining the art term “Neoteny Japan.” His selection of self-portraits consists of mostly paintings, but it also includes sculptures and installations, each revealing the artists’ inner psyches — sometimes in abstract ways.

Daisuke Nakayama focuses on the “self” interacting with an “other” for “DELICATE: Friendship,” a pair of connecting aluminum armorlike arm pieces, designed to be worn by two friends holding hands. Tadanori Yokoo, on the other hand, is more literal, portraying himself in a painting that is titled in the exhibition notes as: “I went to Bangkok to visit ‘WAT ARUN,’ which is the title of the third volume of Mishima Yukio’s last novel ‘Fertile Sea.’ At that time, it was snowing in Tokyo. I was under the golden light in Bangkok, nevertheless another Yokoo was in Tokyo. I painted this with a sense of bilocation.”

None of the self-portraits in this show has its title displayed with it, which encourages viewers to guess who is on display. Yoshitomo Nara? Yes. Yayoi Kusama? Check. Morimura Yasumasa? Of course! This is no art-college graduation show; it’s an impressive collection of works by 14 of Japan’s most talented artists. But don’t let the big names intimidate you. Instead, imagine that these artists are your friends and that, as the graduating class of 2010, they are revealing something to you about themselves.

Takahashi Collection Hibiya is in Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku; admission ¥300; open daily 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., closed Mon. For more information, call 03-6206-1890 or visit www.takahashi-collection.com.