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The best pick and mix of modern art

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The current exhibition at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art could be considered a retrospective of Toshio Hara's career as a collector. Surprisingly, given that the museum was founded in 1979, it's the first time that the director and president has personally curated a show there, and the title is ...

An excavation of hu-man traits

Feb 13, 2018

An excavation of hu-man traits

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The excavation of the tomb of the Tang Dynasty general Mu Tai (660-729, buried in 730) took place in Qingcheng County in China's Gansu Province in 2001. Unearthed were colorfully painted and realistically detailed small-scale sculptures of "foreign" peoples and their animals, such as ...

Roni Horn: Ways to present the self

Feb 6, 2018

Roni Horn: Ways to present the self

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While visiting the Rathole Gallery, a confident 3 year-old told me that his favorite work in the current exhibition, Roni Horn’s “The Selected Gifts,” was a picture of meatballs. Among the straightforward, but nonetheless very beguiling, studio photographs of objects that the New-York based artist ...

Van Gogh's long-distance love affair

Jan 30, 2018

Van Gogh's long-distance love affair

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"Van Gogh & Japan" concerns a love affair of creative misperceptions between temporally and geographically distant admirers. Van Gogh (1853-1890) never went to Japan, though he idealized it briefly as a utopia in which artists worked communally in converse with nature. Attempting to establish what ...

Minakata: Japan's pioneer of ecology

Jan 28, 2018

Minakata: Japan's pioneer of ecology

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In an old black-and-white photograph on show at the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, Minakata Kumagusu — with a shaved head and dressed only in a waistcloth — stands by a huge tree, arms crossed in seeming defiance. He could easily be ...

The explorations of Emperor Rudolf II

Jan 23, 2018

The explorations of Emperor Rudolf II

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The strides in Western culture that took place around the 16th century are all too often associated with the Italian Renaissance, but other centers of learning in Europe deserve equal attention. Of note is Prague, where Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor from the ...

The cosmic talents of Noriyoshi Ohrai

Jan 16, 2018

The cosmic talents of Noriyoshi Ohrai

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It must have been nonstop monsters, warships, hunks and epic boobage for much of Noriyoshi Ohrai's life. The retrospective exhibition, at the Ueno Royal Museum, of this incredibly prolific illustrator's work is a frenzied and spectacularly schlocky cosmos of sci-fi and action movie posters, magazines, ...

The elaboration of decoration as art

Jan 9, 2018

The elaboration of decoration as art

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In the setting of what is probably Tokyo's most stylishly decorated art museum, curator Kasumi Yamaki explains the theme of the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum's latest exhibition "Decoration Never Dies, Anyway." "I've always wondered what the audience are thinking when they use the ...

Edo-kiriko: A cut above the average glassware

Jan 7, 2018

Edo-kiriko: A cut above the average glassware

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For Ryuichi Kumakura, a 70-year-old cut-glass artisan, finding young workers eager to learn and preserve the traditional Japanese craft is the least of his troubles — showing them how to engrave exquisite pieces of glassware with precision is what matters most. Having a decent "business ...

A cloven landscape, a cloven tree, a cloven self

Jan 4, 2018

A cloven landscape, a cloven tree, a cloven self

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On a recent trip to Tohoku, photographer Naoya Hatakeyama took a picture of a tree. It wasn't a particularly remarkable tree, but it caught his attention all the same. In Hatakeyama's photo the tree stands in the middle distance, right in the center of the ...

The zero hour of Kobe's avant-garde

Jan 2, 2018

The zero hour of Kobe's avant-garde

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Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art's present draw card is the Saint Petersburg collection, "Old Masters from the State Hermitage Museum." But on a lower level, at the far end of a long corridor gallery, are photos and grainy videos — the small-scale documentation of ...