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Under Lucas Cranach's spell

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Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) is acknowledged as one of the greats of the German Renaissance. His combination of religious piety and fleshly eroticism went on to inspire artists across the globe, including many in Japan. Despite his standing worldwide, however, Cranach’s career and legacy have only now become the ...

Early days for Sejima's Hokusai museum

Dec 6, 2016

Early days for Sejima's Hokusai museum

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At some point in the future, the new Sumida Hokusai Museum in Tokyo will be considered with great affection by a lot of people. Like Tokyo Tower and Starck’s Asahi Beer Hall — which have had their fair share of criticism but are now ...

A play on the idea of performance art

Nov 29, 2016

A play on the idea of performance art

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By the late 1960s, Japan’s early postwar avant-garde had largely petered out. The radicals of yesteryear were now 20 years older and the country had returned to material affluence and international acceptance symbolized by the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Following the anti-art movements from the ...

The alchemy of the avant-garde

Nov 29, 2016

The alchemy of the avant-garde

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“Abanga-do,” the Japanese loan word derived from “avant-garde” has a relatively wider usage than the original French term. The political philosopher Henri de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) originally coined “avant-garde” as a rallying cry for art of the early 19th century to be a medium of ...

Art that moves beyond our world

Nov 8, 2016

Art that moves beyond our world

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In the beginning, long before Netflix and Google Maps, our ancestors had only the sky, the sun, the moon and the stars to guide, dazzle and humble them. Naturally, as religions began to form, the first place to look was up, because surely that’s ...

Reality and imagination: a double brush

Nov 8, 2016

Reality and imagination: a double brush

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One take on the past two centuries of artistic development is as a cacophonous cache of “isms.” With latter-day Japanese museum curation, impressionism regularly glistens as the golden-haired, oft-cited draw among recurrent “ism”-titled exhibitions — historical precedents, collection-building imperatives, curatorial agendas and crowd-pleaser incentives ...

Opposing today's rising intolerance

Nov 1, 2016

Opposing today's rising intolerance

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It has been a bumper year for chauvinism. Deplorables around the world who feel that their livelihoods, identities and values are under threat from “others” have let it be known that they’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. If you ...

Every hero has a few human flaws

Nov 1, 2016

Every hero has a few human flaws

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Ryoma Sakamoto (1835-1867), among Japan’s most beloved heroes, came of age when U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry’s Black Ships arrived demanding trade relations and ending the country’s closed-door foreign policy. The old Japan ruled by the feudal Tokugawa shogunate was giving way to the modern ...

Sci-fi and fact at the Okayama Art Summit

Oct 18, 2016

Sci-fi and fact at the Okayama Art Summit

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The city of Okayama was flattened by incendiary bombs in 1945. Many people died, more than 12,000 homes were destroyed and Okayama’s centuries-old wooden castle burned to its stone foundations. In 1966, the donjon was rebuilt with modern concrete, which was likely made in ...

Thomas Ruff: in the grand scheme of things

Oct 11, 2016

Thomas Ruff: in the grand scheme of things

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Thomas Ruff is one of the key figures of photography in the postmodern era, and his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, will probably already be pencilled into your calendar if you have any interest in contemporary art. His work, along with ...