Due to the efficient transportation system, cleanliness, booming nightlife, and high fashion, Tokyo is a destination that falls on many people’s must-see lists. Because there’s so much to enjoy, people often forget to mention the phenomenal contemporary art scene. Art in Tokyo varies from the old traditional Japanese paintings we often associate with Japan. They are known as Kaiga (絵画) to the most eccentric and thought-provoking pieces of the contemporary world.
Generally, those with an interest in contemporary art in Tokyo visit to see the works from well-known Japanese artists such as Yayoi Kusama and Takashi Murakami. As amazing as these two artists are, the museums in the capital hold much more to see. They host an array of works from both Japanese artists and others from all over the world. Here are some recommendations:
1. Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Koto
Although this museum is a little out of the center of Tokyo, the journey is worthwhile. It can take you around 2-3 hours to get through the whole building if you buy a ticket to see all three of the exhibitions. It holds a continuous collection of post-war Japanese art by young artists. Their work relates to current issues and trends in society.
Alongside this collection, the museum usually holds two separate exhibitions by artists from elsewhere in the world. The current exhibition being held is by Danish-Icelandic Olafur Eliasson whose illuminated pieces reflect on the themes of sustainable development and climate change.
2. Design Festa, Harajuku
In the hip neighborhood of Harajuku, you will find Design Festa. It advertises itself as a gallery for “anyone and everyone” and it truly is. This space allows anybody to exhibit and sell their artwork without any commission or fees. The charm of this gallery is that you never quite know what to expect, as there are 21 showrooms and artists change daily. Admission is always free and sometimes you can find pop-up shops and food stands.
3. Hara Museum, Shinagawa
If you’re heading to South Tokyo and love architecture, this gallery cannot be missed. The modernist building is designed by the legendary Jin Watanabe, it has many Instagram worthy features, like curved walls, small crevices with art inside, and large, open windows with art strategically placed in front.
It’s the perfect light, airy space to enjoy the various artworks. They also have a fantastic cafe, which has a diverse range of teas, where you can sit inside with a view of the garden and some art pieces. Make sure to reserve your visit to Hara Museum, but this can easily be done on their website.
4. Gyre Gallery, Harajuku
This gallery is a must if you’re shopping in Omotesando or Harajuku. It’s located inside a shopping complex on Jingumae. Although this space is a lot smaller than the others, you will never walk away disappointed. A collection previously shown there was by David Lynch, who most of us probably know for directing and starring in the TV series Twin Peaks. The exhibition was as weird and wonderful as his movie scripts and it gave us a dive into his troubled mind. Most of the works there gave us a lot to think about afterward. The current exhibition is about extinction and regeneration. Usually, the space is open all day and, on the floor below, you will find the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) shop where you can find lots of arty goodies.
5. Public Artworks, All Over Tokyo
Art in Tokyo isn’t just confined to the indoors. We can find it all around us outside. Various works that are commissioned throughout the city. Two of my favorites are “Roots,” by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa and “The Love Sign,” by American artist Robert Indiana. They both hold similar meanings of universal love and the celebration of living within a global community. In Tokyo, it isn’t too hard to find sculptures, graffiti, and installations in many neighborhoods. Over the summer, get outside, explore, and take pictures of the art in Tokyo.
Check out STAY JAPAN to book a stay in Tokyo and enjoy the same experience as Scarlett.