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For decades The Tolman Collection has been a pillar in Japan’s culture of modern art, thanks in large part to the care it takes in cultivating lasting relationships with specific artists.

The career of its founder, Norman H. Tolman, has toured through a study of Chinese and Tibetan linguistics as well as diplomacy with the U.S. Foreign Service, settling eventually on art. Today, he is among the foremost ambassadors of contemporary Japanese art to the world.

Following the success of two recent exhibitions in collaboration with the Conrad Tokyo, one for Toko Shinoda and the other for Daniel Kelly, Tolman visited the hotel to thank its staff, who asked him to begin thinking of a third show, to be new and utterly unique. “I told them, ‘I came having already thought of it!'” he said. “I want the Conrad lobby to look like a flame of color is flowing through it.”

The Conrad’s staff “danced around the idea,” Tolman said, and having secured approval he began mustering from the ranks of his collection 100 works by some 35 artists under the unifying banner of color, an elusive concept that everyone is familiar with but few can sum up without resorting to synonyms. What, after all, is color?

He then took the 100 eye-catching pieces to an unidentified “secret matter,” where he spent hours painstakingly pairing each one with exactly the shade of mat against which it achieves full evocative power — and here Tolman may be providing a hint to the color conundrum.

Our endless fascination with color, it seems, is rooted in relationships.

A world with only one shade is almost inconceivable, and the power of any hue in isolation is muted, but in the context of other colors, seasons, environments and indeed people, colors begin to resonate. It is from this they draw meaning.

Visitors to “Color — Color — Color,” which runs at the Conrad Tokyo in Shiodome from Oct. 14 to 23, are sure enjoy Tolman’s varied selections spanning a huge swath of Japanese art. Admission is free.

By expanding beyond the bounds of the Tolman Collection’s traditional haunt in Shiba Daimon to the expansive lobby of the Conrad, Tolman and his staff feel the selected works will have the space they need to really breathe.

The hope is that those who pass through may just spy that special work or print that can elevate their favorite space.

The picturesque traditional house that is home to the Tolman Collection itself can be found at 2-2-18 Shiba Daimon, Minato-ku, and is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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