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10 More Unmissable Art Exhibitions in Tokyo This Summer
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10 More Unmissable Art Exhibitions in Tokyo This Summer

Picture of Jessica Dawdy
Updated: 14 November 2015
Tokyo is a city of delightful contradictions, a place that visitors can admire, adore, but rarely fully understand. Formality reigns supreme in business districts like Akasaka, while creativity erupts in fashionable areas like Harajuku. The city’s art scene reflects this same elusive mix of traditional and modern, with exhibitions ranging from the work of established masters to creative new artists pushing the boundaries of their genres.

MOT Collection: Chronicle 1995 at the Museum of Contemporary Art

7 June – 31 August

The first of a three-part exhibition marking the Museum of Contemporary Art’s 20th anniversary in March 2015, MOT Collection: Chronicle 1995 draws on the museum’s own collection of works. This exhibition showcases artwork created in 1995, the year the museum opened. The year turned out to be a tumultuous one for Japan, with the Aum Shinrikyo terrorist attack, the 50-year anniversary of the end of World War II, and the Great Hanshin Earthquake all creating a sense of turmoil that is explored in the pieces chosen for the exhibit. The show will feature work by artists like Makoto Aida and O Jun, as well as the museum’s opening exhibition from 1995.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 4-1-1 Miyoshi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, Japan, +81 03 5245 4111

Ancient Egyptian Queens and Goddesses at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

19 July – 23 September

Presented at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, this collection of over 200 artifacts associated with the women of ancient Egypt is on loan from the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Ancient Egyptian Queens and Goddesses is the first showing of this fascinating collection in Japan, featuring objects excavated from the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut, one of the most well-known female pharaohs who ruled Egypt from 1479–1458 BC. Visitors can expect to see pharaoh statues, luxurious jewelry and ancient cosmetic tools, as well as images of deities, including Hathor the goddess of love and fertility.

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 8-36 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 3823 6921

Ken Kitano’s Now, Here and Beyond at MEM Inc

5 July – 10 August

Now, Here, Beyond is a solo exhibition by Japanese conceptual photographer, Ken Kitano. In 2007, Kitano won the Newcomer’s Award from the Photographic Society of Japan for his ‘Our Face’ series, a collection of group portraits made by layering many individual portraits together to create new photographs. More recently, Kitano was shortlisted for the BMW Paris Photo Prize in both 2008 and 2009. His first exhibition since returning from a one year stay in California, Now, Here and Beyond is a continuation of Kitano’s ‘One Day’ series, in which he captures different landscapes in one long exposure, from sunrise to sunset. This new series examines the relationship between nature and man-made objects, depicting scenes of California city streets, highways, and war monuments.

MEM INC., 1-18-4, Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 6459 3205

Visual Deception II: Into the Future at Bunkamura Museum

9 August – 5 October

The sequel to a visual trick exhibition held in 2009 in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Hyogo prefectures, Visual Deception II: Into the Future marks Bunkamura Museum’s 25th anniversary. The first part of the exhibition explored the history the trompe l’oeil art genre, in which artistic devices are used to trick the eyes of viewers. This new exhibition will focus on how the use of ‘trompe l’oeil’ has evolved in modern art, branching out into different streams, such as anamorphose, shadow, and illusion. The exhibit features new artists with modern approaches to visual tricks, as well as established masters of the genre, including works by Patrick Hughes, M.C. Escher, and Michelangelo.

Bunkamura The Museum, B1, 2-24-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 3477 9111

Koichiro Takagi’s Eyes of Tomorrow at Clear Edition & Gallery

4 July – 2 August

‘Eyes of Tomorrow’ is a solo exhibition by mixed media artist, Koichiro Takagi. Takagi is known for creating works that produce feelings of uneasiness in the viewer, and Eyes of Tomorrow is no exception. This exhibition features primarily works in embroidery, as well as paintings and stencil works. Many of the pieces depict anthropomorphized animals with uneven expressions, guides to an imaginary utopian world. Takagi aims make viewers question the truth of their everyday lives and re-examine what defines reality. Takagi’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, as well as in collaboration with fashion brands like Beams, Paul Smith and Zucca.

Clear Edition & Gallery, Kishida Bldg.,2F, 7-18-8 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 3405 8438

George Nelson Exhibition at Meguro Museum of Art

15 July -18 September

A travelling exhibit from Germany’s Vitra Design Museum, the George Nelson Exhibition is making its only Japanese stop at the Meguro Museum of Art. As the name suggests, the exhibition is dedicated to the work of George Nelson, one of the most prominent contributors to 20th century American design. Long-time design director of the Herman Miller Company, a major American manufacturer of office furniture, Nelson also collaborated with renowned architects like Alexander Girard and Isamu Noguchi. The show features more than 300 pieces of vintage furniture, models, documentaries, and images, which tell the story of Nelson’s important work in editing, design, education and architecture.

Meguro Museum of Art, 2-4-36 Meguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo, Japan, +81 03 3714 1201

X-Ray Sexysushi Exhibition at Good People and Good Coffee

14 June – 31 July

With the memorable tongue-and-cheek name and a unique back story, it’s difficult not to be curious about self-taught photographer X-Ray Sexysushi. His photography skills now in demand for ads and fashion shots, X-Ray Sexysushi began his career by uploading shots of cyclists, his friends, and his daily life to Flickr, and eventually professionals began to recognize his talent. The X-Ray Sexysushi Exhibition, officially called ‘sneaking with eye number one shut’, focuses on street biking and its surrounding culture.

Good People & Good Coffee, 3-18-9 Higashiyama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo, Japan, + 81 3 5725 1303

Sounds of Water at Yamatane Museum

19 July – 15 September

The Sounds of Water exhibition is a compilation of works from the museum’s existing collection, which explores the theme of water through artwork of rivers, rain, waterfalls, and seas. Ranging from Edo-period to contemporary Japanese artwork, water is depicted in a variety of different ways in this diverse collection. Some pieces portray water as a tranquil force, while others present more powerful images, such as waves crashing against a shore. In addition to works by well-known artists like Hiroshi Senju and Ryushi Kawabata, the exhibit features a soundtrack of water running in a stream. Visitors dressed in traditional yukata receive a discount on admission, which is sure to add to the beauty of this exhibition.

Yamatane Museum of Art, 3−12−36 Hiroo, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan, +81 03 5777 8600

Takehiko Inoue Interprets Gaudi’s Universe

12 July – 14 September

Commissioned by the Spanish ambassador to commemorate 400 years of friendly relations between Japan and Spain, Takehiko Inoue Interprets Gaudi’s Universe combines artistic works from two different cultures and time periods. One part of the exhibition focuses on drawings, furniture, models, and materials made by architect Antoni Gaudi, known for creating iconic Spanish buildings like Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. The other part of the exhibition showcases 40 illustrations of Gaudi’s life by artist Takehiko Inoue, who toured Barcelona and the countryside where Gaudi grew up, seeking to understand this renowned architect’s inspirations.

Mori Arts Center Gallery, 52F Mori Tower, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan, +81 3 5777 8600

The Birth of Impressionism – Freedom in Painting

9 July – 20 October

A collection of 84 works on loan from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, The Birth of Impressionism – Freedom in Painting explores the origins, characteristics, and historical impact of impressionism. Through works by well-known artists like Manet, Renoir, Monet, Cézanne, and Degas, the exhibit traces the 140-year history of this artistic movement, from the first impressionist exhibition that rocked the Paris art community in 1874, to the present. The artwork is divided into sections, including ‘The Impressionist Landscape’, ‘Still Life’, and ‘Manet: The New Painting’, allowing viewers to compare and contrast between the different styles, while also appreciating each individual piece.

The National Art Center, Tokyo (NACT) Exhibition Room 2E, 7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan, +81 03 5777 8600