Renowned artist Maxx gets a Tokyo sendoff


When Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum director Akiomi Hirano heard that one of Japan’s favorite artists/illustrators, Maya Maxx, was planning to move permanently to New York in February, he decided he wanted to “send her out into the world,” by giving her a special sendoff exhibition at his institution in Minami Aoyama. The result, “Maya Maxx’s Sayonara Exhibition,” is on now — but it might not be what you expect.

Rather than simply putting on a conventional retrospective, Hirano and Maxx decided to hold an exhibition of paintings made specially for the venue — at the venue. In fact, if you visit the show before Jan. 27 — between 12 noon and 6 p.m. — you will see Maxx actually making her exhibits. Once completed, the paintings will be on display until April 20.

Latest information from the museum suggests that Maxx is in the midst of creating artistic homages to the late, great Taro Okamoto, the 20th-century Japanese artist after whom Hirano’s museum is named. One painting is devoted to the master’s “Tower of the Sun,” a 70-meter-high Inca-looking edifice that Okamoto made for the Osaka World Expo in 1970.

Maxx’s affection for Okamoto is understandable. Like the famously outspoken but ever-energetic Okamoto, she too has managed to spread her artistic activities beyond the confines of the art world. Maxx gained fame when she created delicate illustrations for some of Banana Yoshimoto’s books — winning a legion of young female fans from among the novelist’s followers. Maxx has also created CD covers for Japanese bands such as The Pillows, and she has also followed Okamoto into the mass media, appearing in a variety of television programs.

“It’s not like I want to make artworks that will be praised by Okamoto. I just want to be the sort of person who wouldn’t be scolded by Okamoto,” Maxx says on the museum Web site. It seems like there is little chance of that.