In an Aug. 31, 1923, edition of the Shin-aichi newspaper, a clipping shows a photo of artists milling around paintings propped up against a tree in Tokyo’s Ueno Park. Another image in the previous day’s Asahi Graph shows a girl looking over an apparently abstract painting, above which is a label that reads “Mavo.” These scenes sound tranquil, but in fact they depict the immediate aftermath of artistic anarchy.

Takamizawa Michinao, a member of the art group Mavo, had just sent rocks sailing through the glass ceiling of an exhibition hall displaying artworks chosen by Nika-kai (The Second Society), a Western-style painting organization established from 1914 in opposition to the conservatism of the governmental Bunten (Ministry of Education Exhibition) — and the jury members had hastened outside to ascertain the culprits.

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