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Shiseido Co., Japan’s top cosmetics company, received the Asahi Shimbun Foundation’s Grand Prize on July 8 in recognition of its contribution to society.

The company allocates 3 percent of its annual profits to a variety of causes; 1 percent is devoted to cultural activities, including exhibitions held at its Shiseido Gallery.

The gallery, which opened in 1919, has hosted some 3,000 exhibitions, displaying works by more than 5,000 artists.

Morio Ikeda, president and chief executive officer of Shiseido, spoke recently about how he feels enriched by art — especially Christian art.

“Christian art gives me power. I am thankful for this and am aware that as far as art is concerned, I have been always on the receiving end, rather than on the giving end.”

Ikeda, who often goes abroad on business, especially to France and Italy, says he makes it a point to attend Sunday morning worship, mostly at Catholic churches, when he finds himself in such countries.

“Art helps me ponder my being — and the very nature of being,” he says.

Ikeda was speaking on the subject of “The Relationship Between Business Management and Visual Art” at the Ginza church of the Nihon Kirisuto Kyodan (the United Church of Christ in Japan) in Tokyo last week, on the occasion of the opening of the 27th Christian Art Exhibition, showing there.

For a Japanese business leader, Ikeda’s educational background is rather unusual. He graduated from the Tokyo Union Theological Seminary, a Protestant institution, in 1961. But rather than become a pastor, he chose to join Shiseido.

Ikeda calls ours an age of materialistic satisfaction. “In the name of the market economy, we are being driven to extremes — to the verge of economic war,” he said. “I fear that the spirit of harmony and cooperation is being lost.”

Ikeda believes that today’s society is sick, and that juvenile crime reflects this sickness. In such dire circumstances, art has an important role to play, he says. For inspiration, he looks to Michelangelo’s “Pieta Rondanini” in Milan.

“The ‘Pieta Rondanini’ left an indelible impression upon me when I first saw it, 25 or 26 years ago,” Ikeda recalled. “Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and ‘Moses’ embody a monotheistic strength of will. But this age needs tenderness, meekness and compassion as shown by the ‘Pieta Rondanini.’ “

This unfinished sculpture, representing Mary holding the dead body of Jesus (its title means “pity”) contains a powerful message for society today, he says.

“Only art can convey this kind of message. . . . I once read that it is precisely because art is powerless that it is able to create eternal truth, goodness and beauty. This, I believe, is the spirit of Christ,” Ikeda says.

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