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Tokyo: photogenic to its very core

Dec 13, 2016

Tokyo: photogenic to its very core

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Care to take a guess what the new exhibition "Tokyo, Tokyo and Tokyo" at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum is about? In fact there are two exhibitions with the same name running concurrently, so it's "Tokyo, Tokyo and Tokyo" and "Tokyo, Tokyo and Tokyo." It ...

Young artists to keep your eye on

Dec 13, 2016

Young artists to keep your eye on

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In Kurt Vonnegut's 1982 novel "Deadeye Dick," a Japanese man walks into an all-night drugstore and gestures for the protagonist, Rudy Waltz, to follow him outdoors. There they gaze at the decapitated cupola of Rudy's childhood home, glistening white in the moonlight. It reminds ...

Under Lucas Cranach's spell

Dec 6, 2016

Under Lucas Cranach's spell

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Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) is acknowledged as one of the greats of the German Renaissance. His combination of religious piety and fleshly eroticism went on to inspire artists across the globe, including many in Japan. Despite his standing worldwide, however, Cranach's career and ...

Early days for Sejima's Hokusai museum

Dec 6, 2016

Early days for Sejima's Hokusai museum

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At some point in the future, the new Sumida Hokusai Museum in Tokyo will be considered with great affection by a lot of people. Like Tokyo Tower and Starck's Asahi Beer Hall — which have had their fair share of criticism but are now ...

A play on the idea of performance art

Nov 29, 2016

A play on the idea of performance art

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By the late 1960s, Japan's early postwar avant-garde had largely petered out. The radicals of yesteryear were now 20 years older and the country had returned to material affluence and international acceptance symbolized by the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Following the anti-art movements from the early ...

The alchemy of the avant-garde

Nov 29, 2016

The alchemy of the avant-garde

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"Abanga-do," the Japanese loan word derived from "avant-garde" has a relatively wider usage than the original French term. The political philosopher Henri de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) originally coined "avant-garde" as a rallying cry for art of the early 19th century to be a medium of ...

Maruyama Okyo melded styles to pioneer a new path in art

Nov 15, 2016

Maruyama Okyo melded styles to pioneer a new path in art

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The 18th century was an exciting time for Japan. After unification in 1603, a remarkable spirit of innovation pervaded as urban centers grew and the arts flourished. The creativity came despite a policy of sakoku that the ruling Tokugawa shogunate enacted in 1633 to close ...

Reality and imagination: a double brush

Nov 8, 2016

Reality and imagination: a double brush

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One take on the past two centuries of artistic development is as a cacophonous cache of "isms." With latter-day Japanese museum curation, impressionism regularly glistens as the golden-haired, oft-cited draw among recurrent "ism"-titled exhibitions — historical precedents, collection-building imperatives, curatorial agendas and crowd-pleaser incentives ...

Opposing today's rising intolerance

Nov 1, 2016

Opposing today's rising intolerance

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It has been a bumper year for chauvinism. Deplorables around the world who feel that their livelihoods, identities and values are under threat from "others" have let it be known that they're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. If you ...

Every hero has a few human flaws

Nov 1, 2016

Every hero has a few human flaws

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Ryoma Sakamoto (1835-1867), among Japan's most beloved heroes, came of age when U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry's Black Ships arrived demanding trade relations and ending the country's closed-door foreign policy. The old Japan ruled by the feudal Tokugawa shogunate was giving way to the modern ...