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C.B. Liddell
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Dec 18, 2014
Sculpting the uncanny space between permanence and evanescence
Sculpture is supposedly the most solid and permanent of the creative arts, so it is a paradox that an artist like Junichi Mori — whose work often focuses on impermanence and evanescence — has chosen to work in this style, using materials like marble and wood, instead of something more fleeting...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Dec 11, 2014
Taking flight with Arata Isozaki
I once almost got to interview the architect Arata Isozaki, but it was canceled due to his ill health at the time. No doubt a consideration in the cancelation was the fact that interviews with him can go to extreme lengths, as Isozaki has much to tell, having collaborated with almost every big name in...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Dec 4, 2014
The trick to understanding Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico is not unlike a rock star in terms of his career trajectory. His greatest and most seminal work was done when he was young — between the ages of 23 and 32 — after which he lost much of his "edge," but kept going by rehashing his earlier career, mixing it with the less adventurous...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Nov 28, 2014
A modern annex for an old favorite
I always feel a little inadequate arriving at the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, shambling up its gravel drive in my slovenly journalist garb and running one hand over my face to check if I've shaved that day. It's such an elegant venue that I feel I really should be arriving in more style, possibly...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Nov 27, 2014
The beating art of Ferdinand Hodler
With Japan and Switzerland celebrating the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations, there have been a few Swiss-themed events in town, such as the exhibition "Masterpieces from the Kunsthaus Zurich" at the National Art Center, Tokyo, reviewed earlier this month. That exhibition contained some paintings...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Nov 20, 2014
Treasures worth standing in line for
There is a fundamental problem with the Tokyo National Museum (TNM), which I come up against time and time again. In a nutshell, the venue is too big for its exhibits and too small for its audience. This is underlined yet again by the latest exhibition "National Treasures of Japan."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Nov 13, 2014
Uffizi highs of the Renaissance
There's something quaint about the main painting at the "Galleria Degli Uffizi: Arte a Firenze da Botticelli a Bronzino — verso una 'Maniera Moderna' " exhibition now showing at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art. The work, "Pallas and the Centaur" (c. 1480-85), a large canvas by the Italian Renaissance...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Nov 6, 2014
The all-star cast of Kunsthaus Zurich
Switzerland is an "island" in a "sea" of Europe. From its elevated Alpine position in the heart of Western Europe, it figuratively looks down on the main European cultural heartlands of Italy, France and Germany, the perfect place for a wide-ranging, cosmopolitan collection of European art — which...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Nov 6, 2014
Beneath the disarray lies a struggle
One of the joys of covering a Willem de Kooning exhibition, such as the one at the Bridgestone Museum of Art, is catching up with the jargon that surrounds his work. As he was a leading light of New York's postwar abstract expressionist movement, who later veered in the direction of figurative art, de...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 16, 2014
Less meant more to Shunso Hishida
It's no secret that the Japanese art world was going through major changes at the end of the 19th century. On the one hand, there was a flood of Western art styles, called yōga, offering exciting new possibilities, while, on the other, there was a reaction called nihonga, which sought to revitalize...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Sep 25, 2014
The Royal Academy gazed beyond its shores
If last week's Scottish independence referendum achieved anything, it raised awareness of Britain and Britishness. But for a few hundred thousand votes, here is a nation that could have ceased to be. But just what is Britishness? A visit to "Genius and Ambition: The Royal Academy of Art, London 1768-1918"...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Sep 18, 2014
Taking a pictorial trip to Normandy
"Normandie — L'Estuaire de la Seine: L'Invention d'Un Paysage" ("Normandy — The Seine Estuary: The invention of a Landscape" is an exhibition at the Sompo Japan Museum of Art that recently changed its name to Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art. Just as the museum's name is rather too long...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Aug 7, 2014
The back story to Taiwan's treasures
The artworks and objects on display at the Tokyo National Museum's latest show, "Treasured Masterpieces from the National Palace Museum, Taipei," have had something of checkered history. A large part of this was due to the efforts of the Japanese Imperial Army to get their hands on the collection, which...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jul 24, 2014
It's time to wise up to academic art
For too long the fine academic art of the 19th-century has lingered in the shadow of the Impressionist movement. The French Academy, with its rules and standards, has often been cast as the villain in the story of the period, standing in opposition to the 'heroic' Impressionists in their quest for 'artistic freedom.'
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jul 17, 2014
To perceive is to see Felix Vallotton's genius at work
The art of the Swiss painter Felix Vallotton is both deceptive and loaded with revelation. On the surface it has the knowing sophistication and social references of other fin-de-siècle art — Vallotton was active from the 1880s until his death in 1925 — but it also cuts much deeper, pushing...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jun 18, 2014
Raoul Dufy's true colors outshone many of his peers
No painter's works look as good in a newspaper or advertising poster as they do when seen directly. Some painters works, however, suffer more from the process of being transferred to print than others. Raoul Dufy is one.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jun 4, 2014
How Japan crafted its modernization
When Japan ended its isolation in the mid-to-late-19th-century, it had lots of disadvantages compared to the other major powers. But one distinct advantage that its isolation had preserved was its craft industries and the skills of its craftsmen.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
May 28, 2014
Nicolas Buffe's show is a dream come true
Being swallowed by an enormous anime canine is the kind of experience you are only likely to have in a dream — perhaps after eating too much cheese before bedtime — and this is the theme of Nicolas Buffe's exhibition, a surreal dream that provides the perfect licence for the artist to unpack his creative impulses.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
May 14, 2014
Before the vividness of France came the simplicity of Holland
It must be something of a Faustian bargain buying a Post-Impressionist painting for a record-breaking price. In 1987, Yasuo Goto, president of Yasuda Fire & Marine Insurance Co., bought Van Gogh's "Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers" (1888) for $39 million. Perhaps due to that daring purchase, his company,...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Apr 30, 2014
A powerful look at 'exotic' and 'primitive' artworks
The "Power of Images" exhibition at the National Art Centre Tokyo is nothing less than an assault on the senses — a barrage of exotic and vivid anthropological oddities from the collection of the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka.

Longform

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