Time travel through Japanese modern and contemporary art! This is why the “MOMAT Collection” is just wonderful!

I went to see the “MOMAT Collection”, an exhibition held by the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (MOMAT). Walking around the exhibition space consisting of 12 rooms, you can time travel through the history of Japanese art starting from around 1900 to the present day. How has Japanese art changed over time? Let’s explore the exhibition together!

In addition to Japanese, all explanations of the exhibition and the works are available in English, Chinese (Simplified), and Korean. You can also download the multilingual museum app for free!

The MOMAT collection mainly showcases art pieces owned by the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. They are exhibited on three floors, starting on the 4th floor and finishing on the 2nd floor. The first room is reserved for “highlights” while the other rooms take you on a journey through history.

The “Highlights” exhibition space

Harue KOGA “Sea” (1929)

The main sections are “1900s-1940s”, “1940s-1960s”, and “1970s-2010s”. Showing pieces sorted by era, all rooms have their very own theme – like a sub-category. For me personally, it was fun to just walk into a room and try to guess the theme without reading the descriptions.

A work using pointillism and short brush strokes. What did the Japanese painters who were inspired by Western Impressionism choose as their motif?
The sculptures in this room are positioned as if they were talking with each other. Also, notice the pose of the female sculpture being similar to the painting displayed behind her!
The modern-looking colorful woodblock prints are called shin-hanga. They are actually newer than the traditional woodblock prints (like the ones from Hokusai). The shin-hanga by Ohara KOSON (or SHOSON) were very popular in the United States and the Netherlands. The animals are so cute! Right: “Two rabbits” (1926-45)

There is also an exhibition corner linked to the “Bauhaus 100 Japan Project” commemorating the 100th anniversary of the opening of Bauhaus in Germany. A special Bauhaus exhibition – that we visited, too – is currently being held at the Tokyo Station Gallery.

Bauhaus furniture

What I would particularly like to recommend is a small exhibition focusing on the work of Japanese artist Noboru KITAWAKI (1901-1951), “Kitawaki Noboru: To See the Universe in a Seed”. Kitawaki’s paintings show a mixture of plants, mathematical diagrams, the natural science of Goethe, and ancient Chinese divination. His collage-like works are very mysterious and absolutely fascinating! How surreal and original! The exhibition also displays the plants that became the model (or could have been the model) for his works. I loved the museum’s commitment!

Do you understand this divination? In my opinion, this “answer” is even more of a riddle. And what does the duck stand for? Noboru KITAWAKI “Diagram of I Ching Divination (Obedience and Pleasure)” (1941)
Kitawaki’s paintings are used in Haruki Murakami’s short story “All the Children of God Dance”. In my opinion, that makes sense. I feel that the surrealistic pictures perfectly match Haruki Murakami’s worldview.
A painting and the branch that was used as its model.

Another recommendation is the exhibition “Works of Japanese painters and artisans” on the 3rd floor in room 10. The works in this room are all about nature. Now that we can’t really go outside to travel and experience nature, this exhibition was really relaxing and healing.

Japanese style stools and tatami benches. You can sit on them and soak in the atmosphere of this room.
Keigetsu KIKUCHI “Dragonflies” (1913)

How did you like my short introduction to the MOMAT collection? This was only a glimpse of the huge exhibition which I can’t (and shouldn’t) introduce as a whole. So, if you got interested, please visit the MOMAT and go on a journey through the history of Japanese art! I’m sure you will make a bunch of exciting discoveries!

By the way, the view from “A Room With A View” is beautiful!

Collection Exhibition “MOMAT Collection”

(Period: June 20, 2020 – October 25, 2020)
*Simultaneously holding: Special Exhibition “Peter Doig”
(Period: February 26, 2020 – October 11, 2020)
(Day tickets are available at the museum, but you may not be able to enter immediately due to congestion at the venue, so please consider purchasing your ticket online in advance.)

National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

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