|Collection size||49 objects|
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The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum (東京都美術館, Tōkyōto Bijutsukan) is a museum of art located in Ueno Park, Tokyo, Japan. It is one of Japan's many museums which are supported by a prefectural government. The first public art museum in Japan, it opened in 1926 as the Tokyo Prefectural Art Museum and was renamed in 1943 after Tokyo became a metropolitan prefecture. The museum's current building was constructed in 1975 and designed by modernist architect Kunio Maekawa, remaining one his most well-known works today.
Currently, the museum is perhaps best known for showing high-profile temporary exhibitions of both Japanese and international modern art, recently showing major retrospectives of Tarō Okamoto, Isamu Noguchi, Edvard Munch, and Tsuguharu Foujita. Highlights of the museum’s permanent collection include twelve twentieth-century sculptures and reliefs that are on permanent display throughout the museum, as well as a collection of calligraphic works.
The Tokyo Prefectural Art Museum was first conceptualized with the support of Japanese industrialist Keitaro Sato, a coal magnate from Kyushu. In March 1921, he donated one million yen to the prefectural government with the aims of establishing a “permanent art museum” to conserve the nation’s art and to “promote new works of art for the future,” as dictated in a letter to then Governor Hiroshi Abe in April of that same year. The open letter quickly gained traction with local and national news outlets, and five years, later, on May 1st, 1926, the Tokyo Prefectural Art Museum opened.
Upon its opening, the new institution was quickly lambasted by several art critics, with high-profile critic Shizuka Shikazaki deriding it as a “complete failure,” due to the fact that, despite its objective of being a “permanent art museum,” the museum itself did not have a permanent collection, and was mainly used as leased exhibition space to local art collectives. Just two years later, criti Seisui Sakai cwrote a similarly critical review, stating that the museum would not truly be complete until it had established a permanent collection.
Despite these early criticisms, the museum would not begin amassing a permanent collection until the 1970s, due to a combination of pressures by local artist collectives and turbulent trajectory of the physical site itself, which began deteriorating in the 1960s and was replaced by a new museum building in 1975. The original site was then demolished and the remaining space repurposed as a garden..
In 2012, upon the occasion of its grand reopening, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum established a new administrative policy to expand upon its founding goal “to promote the advance of art for the sake of the city’s residents.” This new policy promotes the museum as an inclusive “doorway to art,” accessible to people of all ages and abilities.
In line with this mission, the museum outlines four “active roles” on its website:
The museum consists of five floors: a lobby basement level, a first floor, a second floor, and two lower basement levels. In addition to a number of gallery and exhibition spaces, the museum also contains a museum shop, café, restaurant, auditorium, library & archives, and the Sato Keitaro Memorial Lounge.
Along with a slate of temporary, permanent, and thematic exhibitions, the museum also has established an "Art Communication" initiative that seeks to establish the institution as a "doorway to art." This initiative comprises and participates in a number of projects, including:
The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art's permanent collection was relocated to the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art in 1994 but later returned to the former on the occasion of its reopening in 2012. The collection includes twelve pieces of sculpture from the 1970s and 80s, currently displayed around the museum, as well as 36 pieces of Japanese calligraphy..
In addition to the permanent collection, a key highlight of the museum is the architecture of the building itself. The current structure, designed in 1975 by modernist architect Kunio Maekawa, was built with the surrounding green space of Ueno park in mind and has been praised by critics and visitors alike for an aesthetic that is avant-garde yet simultaneously harmonious with the nature surrounding it..
The museum holds around 280 exhibitions per year.. It is particularly known for hosting large traveling exhibitions by globally high-profile artists, including French Impressionists, Dutch Masters, and Italian Renaissance painters, as well as collections from other major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Louvre, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
In addition to these “blockbuster” exhibitions, the museum puts on frequent shows from its permanent collection, as well as yearly showcases of contemporary Japanese calligraphy. Through initiatives such as the Ueno Artist Project, the museum also organizes thematic exhibitions featuring the work of both established and up-and-coming Japanese artists.
Tokyo University of the Arts or Geidai (芸大) is the most prestigious art school in Japan. Located in Ueno Park, it also has facilities in Toride, Ibaraki, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Kitasenju and Adachi, Tokyo. The university has trained renowned artists in the fields of painting, sculpture, crafts, inter-media, sound, music composition, traditional instruments, art curation and global arts.
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