C.B. Liddell
May 9, 2001
Lines that trace a restless life
There is a French maxim that says "Style is the man." If there was ever an embodiment of that phrase, it was the French poet, novelist, playwright, filmmaker and artist Jean Cocteau. Considered one of the most creative talents of the 20th century, Cocteau's prodigious creativity is being currently showcased...
May 2, 2001
Hitchcock and human nature
Alfred Hitchcock is an icon of the film world, like the Beatles are to rock and pop. Often referred to as the greatest director of all time, the English filmmaker produced art for the masses, using avant-garde techniques and character psychology with universal relevance.
Apr 18, 2001
Leaves left by the divine wind
When England was conquered by the Normans in 1066, it was profoundly changed. We might expect the same to have been true in Japan's case if it had fallen to the invading Mongols and their Chinese and Korean auxiliaries in 1274 or 1281.
Apr 4, 2001
Incidental nudity and sci-fi plants
The life force that infuses the natural world can be an incomprehensible, vast subject. To capture its intangible beauty, the photographer is often forced to find an object that crystallizes or embodies it. Two of the most convenient examples of this are flowers and nudes.
Mar 27, 2001
Excelling in a formerly alien medium
White rappers used to be a joke until a credible one -- Eminem -- came along. In a similar way, Japanese artists' early efforts to master Western oil painting ended up looking extremely ersatz, clumsy or derivative; their paintings mere experiments or study pieces rather than true works of art. The urge...
Mar 24, 2001
Ukiyo-e reflects turn of century mood changes across Japan
The Meiji Era is considered to mark one of the low points of ukiyo-e, Japan's distinctive art of woodblock prints. This, however, is not apparent from the current exhibition at the Ota Memorial Museum.
Mar 17, 2001
Taking the Watanabe optional tour
Few of us can understand why the Taliban in Afghanistan is destroying the awe-inspiring giant Buddhist statues at Bamiyan instead of turning them into profitable tourist sites generating millions of dollars in T-shirt and other souvenir sales. Someone who might, however, is Satoshi Watanabe, whose own...
Mar 11, 2001
Swords and chrysanthemums
Modern warfare is increasingly being depersonalized by long-range missiles, so-called smart bombs, and the virtual battlefield of electronic information. The current exhibition at the Nezu Museum takes us back to an era when our dirty work wasn't done for us by computers but was up-close and personal,...
Mar 10, 2001
Graphic design's hammer and sickle revolution
The Art Deco architectural style of the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum is one usually associatedwith the plutocrats and movie moguls of the 1930s. It may therefore seem a tad ironic to hold an exhibition of posters from Communist Russia at such a venue. But the rivalry between the Soviet Union and...
Mar 3, 2001
The critical mass
The current exhibition of 127 sculptures at the Yokohama Museum of Art is not only interesting from an artistic point of view, but also provides a fascinating insight into much of the intellectual Sturm und Drang of the 20th century.
Feb 25, 2001
Funakoshi: Two heads are better than one
What distinguishes an artist from a craftsman? An obvious difference is the pricing of their work. Whereas craft products can sometimes be expensive, this usually reflects the time and trouble taken to make the piece. Art prices, however, are arranged on an exponential scale starting at almost nothing...
Feb 17, 2001
Ukiyo-e treasures make brief return
The Baur Collection of ukiyo-e woodcuts by several of Japan's top masters is this country's own version of the Elgin Marbles. Perhaps this is why the 200 works are only on display so briefly. If you want to see these excellent examples of print art in their homeland, you have only a short time.
Feb 11, 2001
Israeli contemporary art: The endless game
With the election Wednesday of hardliner Ariel Sharon as prime minister, Israel is once again in the news. This can only help focus interest on the excellent exhibition featuring contemporary Israeli art at the Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, and the complementary exhibition featuring older Israeli modern...
Feb 3, 2001
A passionate embrace of Nihon
Shinsui Ito (1898-1972) was a central figure during Japan's artistic identity crisis in the 20th century. As wave after wave of artistic movements from overseas broke upon these shores, native artists felt compelled to either abandon their own artistic traditions or embrace them even more strongly.
Jan 28, 2001
Beauty can be ugly -- insouciant Frenchman
What makes a great photographer? An artist usually needs to have special skills or unique concepts, but a photographer in a well-lit studio with the right equipment and beautiful models can get by even without good timing if he uses enough film and then selects the best images.
Jan 14, 2001
Pursuing Japan's great love affair with Toulouse-Lautrec
The Japanese love Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). His art is lively and interesting, and strong Japanese influences can be detected in it. The current exhibition at the Tobu Museum of Art makes much of this mutual admiration, with the French artist's work revealing his love for Japan while the...
Jan 6, 2001
Gentility of famed Wedgwood
Despite fears that England is increasingly becoming an unpleasant and vulgar country with an antisocial yob culture, internationally it is still blessed with an image of civilized gentility.
Dec 30, 2000
Simple tea, the soul-soother
Japan , a hectic, densely-populated country, has always been guilty of overloading the senses. It is only natural that here too an ameliorating aesthetic should have developed. This is best expressed by the calmness and simplicity of the tea ceremony.
Dec 24, 2000
Rene Lalique: the magic of design
"Siren and Frogs" carafe by Rene Lalique Some of the best window shopping this Christmas season is being enjoyed at an exhibition of jewelry and glassware by Rene Lalique (1860-1945), currently on display at Tokyo's most elegant art gallery, the Teien. Held in the Art Deco building that was once the...
Dec 16, 2000
Letting the genie of art out of its bottle
It was 112 years ago when Vincent van Gogh sat down to paint his bedroom in the famous yellow house at Arles. After a few hours of frantic work, the three-dimensional room had been transformed into a two-dimensional masterpiece.


Traditional folk rituals like Mizudome-no-mai (dance to stop the rain) provide a sense of agency to a population that feels largely powerless in the face of the climate crisis.
As climate extremes intensify, Japan embraces ancient weather rituals