National | Regional voices: Chubu

World's masterpieces cast in Shigaraki ceramic at museum in Shikoku

Chunichi Shimbun

The Otsuka Museum of Art in Naruto, Tokushima Prefecture, drew a lot of attention last year when popular singer-songwriter Kenshi Yonezu held his first live TV performance there on Dec. 31 for NHK’s year-end “Kohaku Uta Gassen” (“Red and White Song Battle”) music contest.

Many people, especially young women, visit the museum to take “instagenic” pictures of its 1,082 ceramic reproductions of the world’s masterpieces. The ceramic board replicas were produced at a factory in Koka, Shiga Prefecture, famous for its Shigaraki ware.

Yonezu, a Tokushima native, played in the museum’s Sistine Hall, which is filled with elaborate, life-sized replicas of the works Michaelangelo painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, including “The Last Judgement” and “The Creation of the Sun, Moon and Plants.”

“They are so magnificent and beautiful,” said Hanna Soneda, 24, a graduate student in Tokushima who was examining the works.

“I saw the real works in the Vatican, but I’m surprised by how well they are reproduced here,” said Mizuki Kashifuji, 24, a graduate student from Fukuoka who accompanied her.

“Yonezu’s performance was magical,” she added.

Visitors are allowed to touch and photograph the reproductions, which include Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” and “Mona Lisa,” and Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch.” The replicas cover works kept at over 190 museums in 26 countries.

 

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The replicas were created by Osaka-based Otsuka Ohmi Ceramics Co.’s Shigaraki factory in Koka. Photographs of the originals go through digital color separation and are then transferred using a silkscreen process that fires them onto ceramic boards, which are made uneven on the surface to reproduce the rough, bumpy feel of oil paintings.

The ceramic boards are fired three to five times, with craftsmen making adjustments to make them as close to the original as possible. The factory can produce boards measuring up to 90 cm by 3 meters.

 

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Visitors can also make reservations to get a peek at the factory’s showroom and peruse reproductions of Pablo Picasso’s works, as well as murals from the historic Kitora Tomb in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, free of charge.

Ceramic replicas of Edo Period painter Tawaraya Sotatsu’s “Wind God and Thunder God Screens” and Matazo Kayama’s “Oboro” — the original of which was displayed at the venue for the 2016 Ise-Shima G-7 summit — are scheduled to be displayed at the National Theatre in Tokyo from March 3, when the government launches the Japan Expo to promote Japanese culture in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

“The works, which have been displayed at the Otsuka Museum of Art for the past 20 years, have not deteriorated, which proves the quality of our company’s technology,” said Otsuka Ohmi Ceramics President Eitsugu Osugi, 63. “We hope to contribute further by reproducing cultural properties and giving people chances to touch them and become familiar with them.”

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Feb. 8.

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