Looking ahead: 10 shows to mark on the 2012 calender

by Edan Corkill

Staff Writer

“Fuyuko Matsui: Becoming Friends with All the Children in the World”

Yokohama Museum of Art
Dec. 17, 2011-March 18.
www.yaf.or.jp/yma

The tall and strikingly good looking Fuyuko Matsui confirmed her status as the nation’s most media-friendly artist when she was included as one of just 10 judges on public broadcaster NHK’s New Year’s Eve musical extravaganza, “Kohaku Uta Gassen” (“Red and White Song Battle”), on Saturday night.

But the 37-year-old’s slightly too serious live-to-air comment about one of the performance’s “construction of a uniform beauty” showed that all the attention has not yet gone to her head. She still cloaks her media persona in the same veil of studiousness and mysteriousness that characterizes her uniformly dark and occasionally grotesque nihonga (Japanese style) paintings which are featured in this mid-career retrospective.

“Yayoi Kusama: Eternity of Eternal Eternity”

National Museum of Art, Osaka
Jan. 7-Apr 8
www.nmao.go.jp

Like many well-known artists, the 82-year-old Yayoi Kusama prefers that attention be focused on her newest, or at least her most recent, artworks. That approach has been adopted in this large scale show , which begins in Osaka and will tour to The Museum of Modern Art, Saitama April 14-May 20; the Matsumoto City Museum of Art (Nagano Prefecture.) July 14-Nov. 4; and Niigata City Art Museum Nov.10-Dec. 24.

Visitors will be inducted into a wonderful world of intricate, interlinked patterns of flowers, eyes, ears, dots and much more through her paintings and sculptures. Viewers may, however, find themselves hankering for a few older works, which would provide real evidence of the scale and breadth of Kusama’s creative drive that has remained potent for an astonishing 70-plus years.

“Japanese Masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston”

Tokyo National Museum
March 20-June 10
www.tnm.jp

Exhibitions of art from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, are not rare in Japan — two toured in 2010 — but this show focuses squarely on the museum’s famed holdings of Japanese art, and that will make it worth a visit.

The Japanese art collection, which is the largest of its kind outside of Japan, was built up in part by the Meiji Era (1868-1912)theorist Tenshin Okakura, who became head of the museum’s East Asian Art department in 1910. This show will include highlights from the collection including Soga Shohaku’s still-influential 18th-century painting “Dragon in the Clouds” and “Night Attack on the Sanjo Palace, From the Illustrated Scrolls of the Events of the Heiji Era,” a 13th-century scroll depicting one of the battles that will feature in NHK’s 2012 Sunday evening drama, “Taira no Kiyomori,” which kicks off this weekend.

“400 Years of European Masterpieces from the State Hermitage Museum”

The National Art Center, Tokyo
April 25-July 16
www.nact.jp

A fitting celebration of the fifth anniversary of the opening of the National Art Center, Tokyo — a venue that specializes in blockbuster shows touring from overseas — this exhibition will feature 89 masterpieces of European art from the State Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg.

Highlights will be Henri Matisse’s “Red Room (Harmony in Red),” which hasn’t been seen in Tokyo or Kyoto for over 30 years. The exhibition will tour to Nagoya City Art Museum July 28-Sept. 30 and Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art Oct. 10-Dec. 6.

“Contemporary Art from the Arab World”

16 June-28 Oct.
Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
www.mori.art.museum

This exhibition has been in the works since long before the Arab Spring, but it has taken on renewed significance in the light of those events.

What better time to gain an insight into that tumultuous region, and what better way to do that than through a survey of work by more than 30 of the artists who are living through those changes and making artworks in response.

“Masterpieces from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis”

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
June 30-Sept. 17
www.tobikan.jp

This exhibition will mark the reopening of the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, which has been closed for renovations for two years. It will also represent one of several chances to see work by famed 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer in Japan this year.

This show will feature Vermeer’s masterpiece “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” while many other masterpieces are already on display at a separate Vermeer show (continuing through March 14) at Tokyo’s Bunkamura. The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum will emerge on June 30 not just with refurbishments to its boxy redbrick building — which was designed by Kunio Maekawa in 1975 — but with a new logo, designed by renowned product designer Tokujin Yoshioka, that consists of a red-colored cube.

“Yoshitomo Nara”

Yokohama Museum of Art
July 14-Sept. 23
www.yaf.or.jp/yma

“I don’t mind, if you forget about me,” Yoshitomo Nara’s solo exhibition at the Yokohama Museum of Art held in 2001, attracted more than 1,700 people per day, and remains one of the museum’s best attended exhibitions by a living artist.

With dozens of his manga-style paintings of cute-but-scary children, dogs and much more, that exhibition cemented his huge popularity among young, mostly female, viewers for whom the “scary” bit appeared to resonate with their own attempts at asserting their own identity.

Will the same audience come back again, 11 years on? Or can the now 52-year-old win over a new generation?

Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale

July 29-Sept. 17
www.echigo-tsumari.jp

The latest iteration of this massive art festival that takes place mostly outdoors in the mountainous Echigo-Tsumari region of Niigata prefecture will feature not only the existing, permanently installed works from previous years but many new works by Japanese and international artists and several new projects, including the East Asia Art Village, where artists from China, Korea and Japan will stay in residence.

“Ikko Tanaka”

21_21 Design Sight
Sept. 21-Jan. 20, 2013
www.2121designsight.jp

Exhibition curator Kazuko Koike told me she didn’t want this exhibition of work by the late graphic designer Ikko Tanaka to be a “normal” retrospective.

That’s exciting, but at the same time just a little worrying, because if a “normal” retrospective means an exhibition that presents an artist’s work in its original form and then explains why it was significant, I can’t think of anyone who is more worthy of such treatment than Tanaka — the man whose elegantly crafted and boldly colored posters and advertisements all but defined the look of Japan in the second half of the 20th century.

“Makoto Aida”

Mori Art Museum
Nov 17.-March 31, 2013
www.mori.art.museum

Comprehensive solo exhibitions by mid-career artists are one of the things that the well-funded Mori Art Museum does best.

It has done Hiroshi Sugimoto, Yayoi Kusama and Tsuyoshi Ozawa in the past, and now it turns its attention to Makoto Aida, the 46-year-old best known for mining that rich seam in Japanese society where sex, perversion, pop culture, and neutered postwar nationalism collide.