Dream or Reality? MOMAT special exhibition on “Sleeping”

It is said that we spend about a third of our lives sleeping. Sleep is the source of creativity that connects dreams and reality. It is something mysterious and ambiguous. So how do artists and creatives express sleep in their works of art? To find an answer to this question, we visited the “Sleeping” exhibition at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.

This special exhibition is the third joint exhibition by Japan’s six national art museums.

For the special exhibition “Sleeping: Life with Art – From Goya and Rubens to Shiota Chiharu”, 119 works on the subject of sleep were selected from around 44,000 works of art at Japan’s six national museums. The exhibition shows artworks from 33 artists – from inside and outside Japan – such as Rubens, Goya, Redon, Tsuguharu Fujita, Rei Naito, and Chiharu Shiota.

The exhibition is divided into several chapters, each in a different exhibition room. In addition to the explanations of the individual chapters, the titles of the works and many image descriptions are available in four languages: Japanese, English, Korean, and Chinese. Having multilingual descriptions makes this exhibition particularly attractive, especially if you cannot read Japanese.

If you download a dedicated app, you can get even more multilingual information about the exhibits.

Another feature of this exhibition is the appealing design of the exhibition rooms and digital displays. These are all themed with a sleep in mind, which is very creative and cute!

The design of the words “Sleeping Exhibition” (nemuri-ten) expresses the unclear and fragile state of dreaming. The characters are drawn apart and stretched out, like a blanket or a pillow.

What’s hiding behind the window with the curtains?

What is sleep?

Some of the works on display show people with their eyes closed. What are they dreaming about? The pictures make us think about how we interpret these defenseless, sleeping people, and what historical background they probably have.

West meets East! It’s fun to compare the works of Kinosuke Ebihara’s “Sister Nemuru” (left) and Peter Paul Rubens’s “Two Sleeping Children” (right).

The exhibition is also a thought-provoking project. Among other topics, you can see how naked women or World War II were depicted in art and how the art world is currently discussing these issues.

The “File Room” photo series by Indian photographer Dayanita Singh shows a large number of “sleeping files”.
Multilingual information
Multilingual information
The ambiguous world of the Japanese photographer Asako Narahashi. From the series “half awake and half asleep in the water”

Of course, you can also just drift through the exhibition and enjoy the works of art. You are guaranteed to find exciting food for thought and inspiration!

Sleeping: Life with Art – From Goya and Rubens to Shiota Chiharu

https://www.momat.go.jp/en/ (English)

Venue: The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Special Exhibition Gallery (1st floor)

Date: until February 23, 2021 (Tuesday, public holiday)
Hours: 10:00-17:00 (Fridays and Saturdays open until 20:00)
*Last admission: 30 minutes before closing.

Closed: Mondays (except January 11, 2021), from December 28 to January 1, 2021, and on January 12, 2021
* During Japan’s state of emergency, the museum may be temporarily closed or the opening times changed (e.g. no opening in the evening).

Please visit the official website for more information.

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (MOMAT)

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