Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

Last updated
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum Logo.png
Tokyo metropolitan art museum01 1920.jpg
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
Established1926 (1926)
Location Tokyo, Japan
Coordinates 35°43′02″N139°46′22″E / 35.7172°N 139.7729°E / 35.7172; 139.7729
TypeArt museum
Collection size49 objects
ArchitectKunio Maekawa
Public transit access

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. [1] 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. [2]

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. [3]

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. [4] .

The Museum Today: Mission, Programming, and Layout


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:

  1. To foster interchange among people and generate new values.
  2. To impart vitality to people’s art activities and deepen their appreciation of art.
  3. To respect tradition, give new life to tradition, and enable new fusions.
  4. To offer encounters with art masterpieces from Japan and around the world. [5]


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. [6]


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. [11] .

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. [12] .


The museum holds around 280 exhibitions per year. [13] . 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.

Selected List of Exhibitions (from 2012-present)


See Also

Japanese Museums of Modern and Contemporary Art

Buildings Designed by Kunio Maekawa

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tokyo University of the Arts</span> Art university in Tokyo, Japan

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">MOA Museum of Art</span> Art museum

The MOA Museum of Art is a private museum in the city of Atami, Japan. The museum is the third museum established to house the art collection of Mokichi Okada, the founder of the Church of World Messianity, and was founded in 1982. The first museum, the Hakone Museum of Art, was established in 1952 and is still in operation; the second museum, the Atami Museum of Art, was established in 1957 and is the predecessor of the museum.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tokugawa Art Museum</span> Art museum in Nagoya City, Japan

The Tokugawa Art Museum is a private art museum, located on the former Ōzone Shimoyashiki compound in Nagoya, central Japan. Its collection contains more than 12,000 items, including swords, armor, Noh costumes and masks, lacquer furniture, Chinese and Japanese ceramics, calligraphy, and paintings from the Chinese Song and Yuan dynasties (960-1368).

Japan was introduced to the idea of Western-style museums as early as the Bakumatsu period through Dutch studies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Toko Shinoda</span> Japanese artist (1913–2021)

Toko Shinoda was a Japanese artist. Shinoda is best known for her abstract sumi ink paintings and prints. Shinoda’s oeuvre was predominantly executed using the traditional means and media of East Asian calligraphy, but her resulting abstract ink paintings and prints express a nuanced visual affinity with the bold black brushstrokes of mid-century Abstract Expressionism. In the postwar New York art world, Shinoda’s works were exhibited at the prominent art galleries including the Bertha Schaefer Gallery and the Betty Parsons Gallery. Shinoda remained active all her life and in 2013, she was honored with a touring retrospective exhibition at four venues in Gifu Prefecture to celebrate her 100th birthday. Shinoda has had solo exhibitions at the Seibu Museum at Art, Tokyo in 1989, the Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu in 1992, the Singapore Art Museum in 1996, the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in 2003, the Sogo Museum of Art in 2021, the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery in 2022, and among many others. Shinoda's works are in the collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Art Institute of Chicago, the British Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Harvard Art Museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, the Singapore Art Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the National Gallery of Victoria, and other leading museums of the world. Shinoda was also a prolific writer published more than 20 books.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">National Museum of Western Art</span> Art museum in Tokyo, Japan

The National Museum of Western Art is the premier public art gallery in Japan specializing in art from the Western tradition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kenzo Okada</span> American painter

Kenzo Okada was a Japanese-born American painter and the first Japanese-American artist working in the Abstract Expressionist style to receive international acclaim. At the 29th Venice Biennale in 1958, Okada’s work was exhibited in the Japan Pavilion and he won the Astorre Meyer Prize and UNESCO Prize.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Japan Art Academy</span> Artistic organization in Japan

Japan Art Academy is the highest-ranking official artistic organization in Japan. It is established as an extraordinary organ of the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs in the thirty-first article of the law establishing the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The Academy discusses art-related issues, advises the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology on art-related issues, and promotes arts in three categories: 1) fine art, 2) literary arts, 3) music, drama, and dance. It is closely associated with the annual Japan Art Academy Exhibition (Nitten), the premier art exhibition in Japan; the Japan Art Academy originally ran the Nitten but since 1958 the exhibition is run by a separate private institution. The Japan Art Academy headquarters is in Ueno Park, Tokyo.

Ei-Q was a Japanese artist who worked in a variety of media, including photography and engraving.

Kiyoji Ōtsuji was a Japanese photographer, photography theorist, and educator. He was active in the avant-garde art world in Japan after World War II, both creating his own experimental photographs, and taking widely circulated documentary photographs of other artists and art projects. He became an authority in Japanese photography, extensively publishing commentaries and educating future generations of photographers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kohno Michisei</span>

Kohno Michisei was a Japanese painter, illustrator, and printmaker known for his association with the yōga movement of the early 20th century. His work is considered representative of the Taishō period in Japanese art.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ichimatsu Tanaka</span> Japanese academic, art historian, curator and editor

Ichimatsu Tanaka was a Japanese academic, art historian, curator, editor, and sometime public servant who specialized in the history of Japanese art.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Takahashi Yuichi</span> Japanese painter

Takahashi Yuichi was a Japanese painter, noted for his pioneering work in developing the yōga (Western-style) art movement in late 19th-century Japanese painting.There were many Japanese painters who tried Western painting and Western style painting in the modern age, but Yuichi is said to be the first "Western painter" in Japan who learned full-scale oil painting techniques and was active from the late Edo period to the middle of the Meiji era.

Shinichiro Kobayashi is a Japanese photographer, and "the leading practitioner if not the founder of the ever-popular 'Ruins' or 'Urban Exploration' genre of photography".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aiko Miyawaki</span> Japanese artist

Aiko Miyawaki was a Japanese sculptor and painter. She was best known for her sculpture series titled Utsurohi, installed at public spaces worldwide.

Madokoro Akutagawa Saori was a Japanese painter whose works were often associated with primitivism, folkloric and mythological subjects, as well as unique dyeing techniques. Her paintings from the 1950s manifest various themes from distorted and dramatic portrayal of women to divine narratives based on traditional Japanese folklore. After briefly studying and living in the US, Akutagawa shifted her artistic exploration towards abstraction before her death at a young age in 1966.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tokyo Fuji Art Museum</span> Art museum in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo Fuji Art Museum was established by Daisaku Ikeda and opened near the Sōka University campus in Hachiōji, Tokyo, Japan, in 1983. The new wing was added in 2008. The collection of some thirty thousand works spans the arts and cultures of Japan, Asia, and Europe, and the Museum takes touring exhibitions to other countries. The Fuji Art Museum is owned by the Sôka Gakkai sect, and its collection was bought using the billions of dollars donated by its worshipers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hirakushi Denchū</span> Japanese sculptor

Hirakushi Denchū or Hiragushi Denchū was a Japanese sculptor. He was noted for his traditional Japanese wood sculptures, especially realistically rendered painted wooden portrait sculptures, often incorporating Buddhist themes. He was appointed to the Imperial Art Academy in 1937 and in 1944 was appointed an Imperial Household Artist. He was named a Person of Cultural Merit in 1954 and in 1962 was awarded the Order of Cultural Merit.

Kinuko Emi was a Japanese painter. Emi is best known for her abstract painting in bold colors featuring the motif of four classical elements. At the 31st Venice Biennale in 1962, Emi's work was exhibited in the Japan Pavilion alongside that of four male artists, making her the first Japanese woman artist to be shown at the country's Pavilion. She had retrospective exhibitions at the Yokohama Civic Art Gallery in 1996, the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura in 2004 and Himeji City Museum of Art in 2010. Emi's works are in the collection of the National Museum of Art, Osaka, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama, Yokohama Museum of Art, and Takamatsu Art Museum, among others. Emi's daughter, Anna Ogino, is an Akutagawa Prize-winning novelist and emeritus professor of French literature at Keio University, Tokyo, who serves as the custodian of her mother's works and legacy.

Born in Machida, Tokyo in 1936. Nakazato attended Tama Art University and continued his art studies at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Pennsylvania. He received the John. D. Rockefeller III Fund Grant and lived in New York City from 1966 to 1967. After returning to Tokyo in 1968, he taught at Tama Art University. Nakazato left Tama Art University in the wake of the student uprising and returned to the United States. He lived in Manhattan until his death on July 17, 2010.


  1. Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Museums" in Japan Encyclopedia, pp. 671-673.
  2. Masaaki Morita, The Empty Museum: Western Cultures and the Artistic Field in Modern Japan. New York: Routledge, 2010. P. 64.
  3. Ibid, 65-67.
  4. "Museum History," Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum Website, (accessed 10 July 2023)
  5. "The Museum's Mission and 4 Active Roles," Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum Website, (accessed 11 July 2023)
  6. "Floor Map," Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum Website, (accessed 13 July 2023)
  7. Tobira Project Official Website, (accessed 18 July 2023)
  8. "ABOUT: All About Museum Start iUeno," iUeno Official Website, (accessed 19 July 2023)
  9. Creative Ageing Zuttobi Official Website, (accessed 19 July 2023)
  10. "About Art Communication, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, (accessed 10 July 2023).
  11. "The Collection," Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art Website, (accessed 10 July 2023).
  12. "東京都美術館," Tokyo Art Beat, (accessed 17 July 2023).
  13. "東京都美術館," Bijutsu Techō, (accessed 18 July 2023)
  14. "Exhibitions," Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, (accessed 14 July 2023).

35°43′02″N139°46′22″E / 35.717186°N 139.772776°E / 35.717186; 139.772776