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Art from the margins of society

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

A show of brilliant color combinations, unusual shapes and a creative use of materials, “Art as a Haven of Happiness” at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum showcases the work of artists with Down syndrome and other disabilities. Free of any fixed ideas or concepts that often limit the definition of art, these are works created from instinct, often expressing the artists’ happiness and joy.

The 100 pieces on display — including paintings, sculptures and embroidery — were made at Atelier Element Present in Tokyo and Mie Prefecture, two art studios for people with Down syndrome, or at Shobu Gakuen in Kagoshima Prefecture, a rehabilitation facility for those with intellectual disabilities.

According to organizers, illustrator Ayumi Ohashi has described the exhibits as “a pure form of art,” saying: “I had to learn how to draw. But give (these artists) a pencil and a piece of paper and they can draw anything.”

“Art as a Haven of Happiness” runs till Oct. 8 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum; open 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., closed Mon. Admission is ¥800 for adults, ¥500 for those aged 65 and over, ¥400 for students and free for children. For more information, visit www.tobikan.jp/en/exhibition/h26_havenofhappiness.