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Picks :
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Picks is a monthly sampling of Japan's art scene, offering commentary by a variety of reviewers about exhibitions at museums and galleries in recent weeks, with an emphasis on contemporary art by young artists.

Note: With the lifting of Japan's state of emergency on 25 May, most museums in the country have reopened or are scheduled to reopen by early June, and exhibitions that were interrupted by closures are being extended. However, conditions vary from venue to venue, so please contact any museum you plan to visit in advance.

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image image 1 June 2020
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Shigeru Ban: From Temporary Housing to Art Museums
11 May - 5 July 2020
Oita Prefectural Art Museum
(Oita)
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Having reopened on 11 May, the museum commemorates its fifth anniversary with a retrospective on its designer, Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban. The exhibition covers the whole panoply of Ban's oeuvre, from museums and concert halls to his acclaimed disaster-relief projects, notably emergency housing made of cardboard tubes. Seeing the show in one of his buildings is an added treat as it highlights firsthand his concept of "an art museum that acts as an engawa (veranda) opening to the city." The museum website also presents a series of videos (in Japanese) of the making of the exhibition, which you can view here.
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Monet and Matisse: Visions of the Ideal
1 June - 3 November 2020
POLA Museum of Art
(Kanagawa)
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An ambitious pairing of two giants, Monet the Impressionist and Matisse the Fauvist. Both created "artificial paradises" to serve as their ideal painting environment -- Monet in his garden at Giverny and Matisse in his house, which he arranged like a stage set. The exhibition explores this and other traits the masters shared in common. With the museum scheduled to reopen on 1 June, this delayed show will finally see the light of day.
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Dancing Symphony No. 5 by Beethoven: "Fate"

20 March - 14 June 2020
The Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu
(Gifu)
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When the museum had to cancel Morishita's dance performance to Beethoven's Fifth due to the coronavirus emergency, she and the staff teamed up to make a video of her program for public release, using various spaces in the museum as a stage. Morishita commissioned four choreographers for her dance, one for each of the symphony's four movements. The video can be viewed on YouTube until 14 June.
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William Morris
18 May - 28 June 2020
The Miyagi Museum of Art
(Miyagi)
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William Morris (1834-96) -- artist, poet, author, philosopher, social activist -- was one of 19th-century England's most protean talents. As the "father of modern design," he was also a leading exponent of the Arts and Crafts Movement. This exhibition, one of the first to open with the lifting of the corona emergency (Miyagi Prefecture was liberated a few days earlier than Tokyo), covers the entire span of his life as a designer, going as far back as his rarely examined childhood and student days.
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Photography and Fashion Since the 1990s
3 - 10 May 2020 (postponed)
Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (TOP)
(Tokyo)
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The 1990s saw the emergence of media that went beyond previous efforts to convey the allure of fashion: creative photography that appealed on its own terms, and fashion magazines reporting on the industry from an independent perspective. In the 2000s these were augmented by the advent of Twitter, Instagram and other social network services that eliminated the time lag in bringing fashion-related content to the public at large. This show, an exploration of the relationship between photography and fashion via the works of artists both inside and outside Japan, is currently postponed but can be enjoyed in part through photos and videos on the museum website.
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Ayako Ishiba: zip__sign and still lifes
10 - 19 April 2020
Gallery PARC
(Kyoto)
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Ishiba's works appear at first glance to be snapshots of very mundane slices of life, yet they trigger a discomfiting sensation of spatial distortion. On closer inspection you notice that the plastic umbrella leaning casually against the door, the bottles and cans on the kitchen shelf, the electric cord snaking across the floor are all bordered by pronounced black outlines that isolate them from their surroundings. The photographer achieves this eerie effect by actually outlining the objects in black ink before she shoots them.
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Isolation-Style Close-Contact Room
30 April 2020 -
Online
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This exhibition takes the form of a web page that only one viewer at a time can access. On show are works by the artist Rintaro Fuse, who designed the site, and the poet Mao Mizusawa. The arrangement establishes a critical distance from the unexamined assumption that "online" should mean "equal access and sharing by everyone." Even an online space can be set up to main a modicum of social distancing and avoid "close contact" with other users.
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Emergency Call
30 April - 25 May 2020
Online
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Multimedia artist Oiwa devised this whimsical "exhibition" to be heard over the telephone. Those who dialed the number on the website were treated to a 45-minute variety show featuring artists (among them Oiwa himself), musicians, poets, an SF writer, an architect, and a radio calisthenics corner. The message on the web page -- "Please call this number whenever and wherever you think yourself(ves) secure" -- took a cynical poke at the notion that any place or time might be considered secure during the coronavirus outbreak. (The number was disconnected when Japan's state of emergency ended on 25 May.)
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PANDAID

March 2020 -

Online
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NOSIGNER, a design studio headed by Eisuke Tachikawa, launched this multilingual website as one answer to the question of what designers can do in the age of the coronavirus. Content ranges from basic information about the virus to personal hygiene advice, teleworking tips, and instructions for making a face shield in 30 seconds from an A4-size clear file folder. Viewers are encouraged to sign up and participate in the project.
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Tokyo TDC 2020

4 April 2020 -

Online
(Tokyo)
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When we talk about typography's historical role as a linchpin of culture, we tend to think of Western text, and English in particular. Though international in scope, the Tokyo Type Directors Club's annual TDC Awards tend to hew to that orthodoxy, with submissions primarily from Europe, North America, and Japan. This year's recipients are therefore of particular interest: out of 12 prizes, two went to designers working with Chinese typography. As we enter the decade of the 2020s, the typographical environment promises to grow ever more globalized, boding well for further innovations in the field.
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