After World War II, many Japanese, including artists, found themselves going through a cultural identity crisis. They struggled with the integration of Western methods and influence, wondering how the two seemingly opposing forces of East and West could come together in art. Were Western methods sufficient to express the Japanese aesthetic ideals or spirit? The answer was no, and these days, Japan’s national identity is stronger than ever. Contemporary Japanese life – and its unique cultural identity – is alive in modern art.
Contemporary art allows us to reflect on our modern societies and the issues we face. In 1995, the largest contemporary art museum in Japan, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, opened to protect and share art created by both Japanese and international artists in the post-war and modern period. It displays not only pieces of traditional art, such as painting and photography, but all manner of design, from fashion and architecture to sculpture and paper craft. The museum keeps a rotating collection of 5,500 artistic pieces for exhibition and fills three floors with temporary displays from local or overseas contemporary artists. In this way, it manages to keep its collection fresh and its patrons coming back for more.
In addition to the art collections, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo houses a vast library of more than 270,000 books, magazines and catalogues on subjects relating to art, and the Atrium. The latter is home to the Atrium Project, an annually rotating artistic display built specifically for the venue; it never fails to disappoint in scale or skill.