Cultre Power
Tokyo Art Museums and the Situation of Contemporary Art in Japan


Copyright © Aomi Okabe and all the Participants
© Musashino Art University, Department of Arts Policy and Management
©岡部あおみ & インタヴュー参加者

Tokyo Art Museums and the Situation of Contemporary Art in Japan
                        Aomi Okabe
Art Museums for the Twenty-First Century
  The rapid economic growth following World War II led to an art museum construction boom that began in the 1970s.  In the bubble economy of the late 1980s and early 1990s, art museums proliferated quickly all over Japan, and at present there are approximately 450 museums in various locations throughout the country.  I will only discuss a small number of them here, focusing primarily on those museums dealing with contemporary art.  A radical change in how art museums functions seem to have occurred at the beginning of the 21st century.
   The twentieth-century-style art museums, which continued to be built until the end of the bubble period in the early 1990s, were assaulted by the economic recession that followed the bursting of the bubble.  They entered a “winter” season and their future became uncertain.  Visitor numbers declined, operating budgets were reduced, and acquisition funds were cut in many cases, so many museums found themselves in a struggle for survival.  Some of the newer museums, by way of contrast, have become very successful.
  The Kirishima Open-Air Museum opened in the year 2000 inside the Kirishima National Park in Kagoshima, Kyushu.  In spite of the remote location, the number of visitors continues to grow each year.  Another Kyushu museum, the Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto (opened in 2002), has collected contemporary art from Eastern Europe and art made by patients with Hansen’s Disease, who were formerly kept isolated from the general public, and it enjoys the active support of large numbers of citizen volunteers.   The Hyogo Prefectural Art Museum, which has a distinguished history, was given a new and larger building after the old one was damaged by the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake.  The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, one of the first museums of modern art in Japan, added an elegant new building in the seashore resort town of Hayama in 2003.  The Mori Art Museum, built on top of the Roppongi Hills skyscraper, commands a marvelous view of Tokyo.  With its high position at the center of the city, it attracted over 2 million visitors in the year it opened, 2003, and has gained great prestige as an art mecca, one of the finest museums in the world.  The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (2004) is known for the original design of its building, a circular structure with transparent glass walls.  It has strong connections to the local community and has developed progressive programs and unique workshops.  The National Museum of Art, Osaka was established in Banpaku Park, taking over a building left after the Osaka world’s fair of 1970, but it was moved to Nakanoshima in the center of Osaka in 2004.  The inaugural exhibition was devoted to the work of Marcel Duchamp exhibition, and this museum has become an important cultural base in the Kansai region, which differs in many respects from Tokyo. 
  The economic recession is still with us, but construction of new art museums continues unabated.  The Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum, which has a collection of Spanish art, opened in 2005, and the Aomori Museum of Art, which includes the Sannai Maruyama Jomon historical site, in 2006 after ten years of preparation.  The National Art Center, Tokyo, which appeared the same year, was built at the request of exhibiting societies to provide rental space for their annual shows.  Much of the huge space, more than 14,000 square meters, is devoted to these exhibitions, but the museum also presents very fine temporary exhibitions organized by its own curatorial staff.  When the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum opened its doors in 2007, it was something of a latecomer among public museums in Japan.  The Yokosuka Museum of Art appeared by the waters of Tokyo Bay the same year after overcoming many obstacles.  The Towada Art Center started out with a permanent exhibition of work by internationally known artists in 2008 and it has also installed outdoor artworks in nearby urban spaces.  There are a number of common features shared by twenty-first-century-style art museums.  They create a festive space in the center of the city, form links with local citizens to vitalize the surrounding community, and devote unprecedented energy to contemporary art.

From the Public Sector to the Private Sector: Management Reform
  Museums are still being built today and there is no sign of a countertrend.  One might well believe that no people in the world are as fond of art museums as the Japanese.  There has, however, been a seismic change in how museums are managed.  As part of Prime Minister Koizumi’s structural reforms, policies were adopted to shift responsibility for managing a number of government institutions from the public sector to the private sector.  One example was the “designated manager system” that appeared in a revision of the Regional Self-Government Law passed in the 156th ordinary session of the Diet in June 2003.   Under this system, prefectures and municipalities operating public art museums were to entrust the management of their museums to a “designated manager” for a certain period of time, either by assignment or through open competition.  The candidates for this managerial role included cultural foundations, private corporations, and non-profit organizations.  Since there was no requirement for the managing organization to have experience in culture-related activities, problems inevitably arose when they actually began running museums.  This system raised a number of questions.  Can the designated manager understand the value of important art resources?  Can people who create cultural properties be evaluated by international standards?  Can compelling exhibitions and other museums programs be maintained while carrying out management reforms and making necessary cutbacks.  A tendency toward commercialism is a common danger faced by art museums throughout the world when funds are cut due to economic necessity.  If there is a drift toward exhibitions that are more economically viable, museums may end up restricting their commitment to the kind of thorough research necessary to create new cultural values.  Exhibitions may become less thought-provoking, causing visitors to stay away and furthering a vicious cycle.
  A hopeful trend seen recently in Japanese museums is the development of better education and outreach programs.  In 2004, graduate students in the Musashino Arts University Graduate School of Arts Policy and Management carried out a survey on this subject, receiving replies from 92 museums (66 public museums, 26 private and other museums).  They found that studio courses and workshops are being actively organized and that both public and private museums are increasing the number of personnel involved with education and outreach.  Around 1998 there was a decline in art and crafts education in elementary schools and a reduction of art classes in junior high schools.  In 2002, the school week was reduced to five days and a policy of reducing pressure in education was adopted, attempting to place less emphasis on grades and entrance tests and help children develop social skills and a capacity for practical thinking.  A block of time for “general study” was introduced, and art education was shifted from the schools to the art museum.  Many observers have expressed doubts about the “general study” period because they believe that there is a need to raise academic standards and increase competitiveness with other Asian countries.  It remains to be seen how art museums programs are coordinated with the schools.
   As a regional service, art museums have sent representatives to institutions for physically or mentally challenged or elderly people to give talks or present workshops.  These programs, which have been carried out on a limited scale, respond to the needs of a minority who find it difficult to visit art museums – mothers with infant children or handicapped or elderly people who have limited mobility.  One important function of a twenty-first-century-style art museum is to provide a variety of services and programs to users, especially education for greater mutual understanding.  They cooperate flexibly with the community, multiply interfaces, and cultivate creativity in enjoyable ways, developing ideas about human life and the world instead of just promoting esthetic appreciation.  The creation of a new place for interactive self-expression is essential. 
  Many people are asking how art museums can be managed with the proper balance to fulfill their ideals in the real world.  The new approach is to bring in people from the business world as museum directors because of their wealth of ideas and experience and well-honed skills.  For example, a prominent figure in the television industry was appointed as the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.  Also, the new director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography is the president of the Shiseido Corporation, which has operated an influential gallery since the prewar years and helped organize the Association for Corporate Support of the Arts, Japan.  Below I will look at art museums in the Tokyo metropolitan area and its environs in more detail.

Tokyo Art Museums: Focusing on Museums of Modern and Contemporary Art
  Ueno Park in Tokyo is known as a center of culture because of its many museums, including the Tokyo National Museum, built in 1872 to display traditional Japanese art, and the National Museum of Western Art, designed by Le Corbusier and opened in 1959.  Another important museum in the park is the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, first established in 1926.  It draws large numbers of visitors because of its role as a venue for the annual exhibitions of the many exhibiting societies in the Japanese art world.  The function of this museum, renting out exhibition space to these artists’ associations, exemplified by Nitten (the Japan Art Association Exhibition), is now shared with the National Art Center, Tokyo, a new national museum built for the same purpose in 2006 in the Roppongi district of Tokyo.  The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, was constructed in 1952 in Takebashi, Tokyo.  Along with the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, opened in 1953, it has an excellent collection of modern and contemporary art, thanks to a large acquisition budget, and organizes significant exhibitions of contemporary art.  The curators of the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum also worked hard to develop a substantial collection of artworks and documentation of postwar Japanese art, beginning with the activities of the Gutai Art Association.  This collection formed the basis of a new museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, erected in 1995 in Kiba, part of the shitamachi (lower city) section of Tokyo.  This museum exhibits work from the permanent collection on a regular basis and it has also organized very lively temporary exhibitions of contemporary art in recent years.  After the appointment of a director from the world of mass media, it has organized exhibitions aimed at a larger audience, exemplified by the Studio Ghibli show.
  A number of very large museums, costing billions of yen, have been constructed in Tokyo, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (1995), the Edo-Tokyo Museum (1993), the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (1995).  Shortly after these museums were established, the economic situation made it necessary to cut the purchasing budget over an extended period of time, but acquisitions programs were revived after management reforms were instituted  All of the cultural institutions of the capital are under the jurisdiction of the Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture.  Another museum run by this foundation is the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, created in 1983 in an Art Deco residence originally built for a branch of the Imperial family in 1933.  Curators have been transferred between the museums in this group.
  Tokyo is composed of 23 city wards and the extensive Tama district.  Many of the wards have their own museums exhibiting a strongly individual character.  The Itabashi Art Museum (1979) presents an annual show of original paintings for illustrated books.  Both the Itabashi museum and the Nerima Art Museum (1985) have made an effort to collect Western-style paintings, for example, works in the style of Surrealism.  The Setagaya Art Museum (1986) has focused on forming a collection of naïve art.  The Meguro Museum of Art (1987) has organized unique workshops and exhibitions on the theme of color.  Some of the most interesting museums outside of Tokyo are The Museum of Modern Art, Gunma (1974), known for the Gunma Youth Biennale; the Museum of Modern Art, Saitama (1982), which organizes selected shows of the work of younger local artists; the Kawasaki City Museum (1988), one of the first museums in Japan to collect manga; the Yokohama Museum of Art (1989), which boasts an excellent collection of photography and will host the Yokohama Triennale in 2011; the Mito Art Tower (1990); the Utsunomiya Museum of Art (1997), which has placed an emphasis on design in its collection and exhibitions; and the Fuchu Museum of Art (2000), which has a space for public demonstrations of artmaking.  The Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art (1990), a private art museum located near Tokyo, is operated by DIC, a company that manufactures printing ink.  It has an excellent collection of American Minimal Art and Color Field Painting. 
  Since 1990, private art museums have proliferated in Tokyo.  The oldest private museum of contemporary art in the city is the Hara Museum (1979), housed in a remodeled Art Deco residence.  It has built up a remarkable collection and established a branch, the Hara Museum ARC in Gunma prefecture.  The Watarium (1990) has shown a unique capacity for creative thinking and effective organization of exhibitions.  The NTT Inter-Communication Center (ICC, 1997) promotes media art.  The Taro Okamoto Museum of Art, Kawasaki (1999) has been a tremendous source of vitality.  The Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery (1999) is operated by the Tokyo Opera City Culture Foundation, composed of six private companies.  The Shiseido Art Gallery (established in 1919, reopened in a new building in 2001) has always supported the creativity of young, progressive artists.  Tokyo Wonder Site (TWS hongo, 2001) is an alternative space started by Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara.  There are now two branches, TWS shibuya (2005) and TWS aoyama (2006).  Another experimental alternative space, BankART Studio NYK, was established in Yokohama in 2003 in a remodeled bank building.  21_21 DESIGN SITE, operated by the Issey Miyake Culture Foundation, was constructed in Tokyo Midtown, near Roppongi Hills and the Mori Art Museum, in 2007.  It is a display space jointly managed by a group of design directors, led by Miyake.
  Tokyo is filled with art museums.  They are managed by a variety of different organizations, and they mostly operate separately.  In recent years, however, the district of Roppongi has emerged as a center of art and culture for a new age that is quite different from Ueno Park, the older base of culture in Tokyo.  2009 saw the emergence of “Roppongi Art Night,” a one-night event in which art fans could enjoy art-related events throughout the night.  This has become a major event attended by 500,000 to 700,000 people every year.

Regional Art Centers
  There are important regional museums of modern and contemporary art other than those I mentioned in the section on twenty-first century type art museums.  Two examples in central Japan are the Nagoya City Art Museum (1988), the site of the Aichi Triennale, and the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art (1991).  The Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (1989) has acquired a unique collection by commissioning artworks related to world peace and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and offering the Hiroshima Prize.  The Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Art was constructed in front of Marugame Station in Shikoku in 1991.  The city established the museum to house a collection of paintings by Western-style painter Genichiro Inokuma, but it has an energetic exhibition program focusing on the work of younger artists.  The Nagi Museum of Contemporary Art (1994), which showcases the work of four artists, Shusaku Arakawa + Madeline Gins, Kazuo Okazaki, and Aiko Miyawaki, was constructed against the protests of local people.  The Toyoda Municipal Museum of Art (1995) has skillfully displayed its collection of contemporary art in site-specific installations.  In Kyushu, the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (1999) has formed an important collection of Asian art in the process of organizing exhibitions of Asian art and as a result of extensive study and research.  The museum organizes a triennial exhibition of Asian Art from a multicultural and postcolonialist perspective.  There are many excellent sites for showing art throughout Japan as well as in Tokyo, and these museums cooperate in planning exhibitions of contemporary art and organizing touring exhibitions.
  When Japan abandoned its policy of national seclusion in the late nineteenth century and began to Westernize, the Western concept of art was adopted along with the institution of the art museum, which was rooted in Western society.  While gaining deeper and more objective knowledge of our own history, we need to become aware of the high level achieved by art museums in our country.  We should realize that we are in a position to show the world original and important models of the art museum appropriate to the changing culture and civil society of the twenty-first century.
(Translated by Stan Anderson)




III. 東京の美術館と日本の現代美術系美術館状況

―官から民へ 運営の変化

―東京の美術館 近現代美術館を中心に
また90年代以降、東京では民間の私立美術館も増加したが、現存する私立の現代美術館でもっとも古い歴史をもつのは、奥ゆかしいアール・デコ様式の邸宅を改修した原美術館(1979)で、コレクションの増加とともに群馬県に別館ハラ ミュージアム アーク(1988)を設立した。ユニークな発想と辣腕の企画力を発揮するワタリウム美術館(1990)、メディアアートの振興に務めるNTTインターコミュニケーション・センター(ICC、1997)、無尽蔵の元気をあたえてくれる岡本太郎記念館(1999)、民間企業6社による東京オペラシティ文化財団が運営する東京オペラシティアートギャラリー(1999)、若手新進作家の創造性をサポートする資生堂ギャラリー(1919年創業・新館設立2001年)、さらに石原都知事肝いりのオルタナティヴスペースとしてトーキョーワンダーサイト(2001)が開始し、2005年には渋谷に分館が、翌年には青山に東京に少ないレジデンスを設立した。ちなみに横浜には2003年に銀行を改装した実験的なオルタナティヴスペースBakARTが登場、現在は旧湾岸倉庫を利用して「BankART Studio NYK」として活動を続けている。2007年には森美術館のある六本木ヒルズに近い東京ミッドタウンに三宅一生デザイン文化財団が運営する21_21 DESIGN SIGHTが三宅を始めるデザイナー・ディレクターの共同企画の展示場として開館した。
21世紀美術館のところで述べた地方の近現代美術館以外に、2010年から開始した愛知トリエンナーレの会場となった名古屋市美術館(1988)と愛知県立近代美術館(1991)、原爆被災の歴史に立って世界に平和を訴え、ヒロシマ賞や委託制作を通して珠玉の作品を集めている広島市現代美術館(1989)、四国の丸亀の駅前に建設された丸亀市猪熊弦一郎美術館(1991)は、洋画家の猪熊弦一郎のコレクションの寄贈によって市が設立し、若手作家を支援する展覧会を開催している。また地元の反発を乗り切り、荒川修作+マドリン・ギンズ、岡崎和郎、宮脇愛子にかぎって建築家磯崎新とのコラボレーションで常設展示した奈義町現代美術館(1994)、さまざまな現代美術コレクションを見事にサイトスペシフィックな展示に練り上げている豊田市美術館(1995)、そして九州には多文化的なアジア美術の長年の調査と収集を基盤に誕生した独自なポストコロニアルな視点に立ち、アジア美術のトリエンナーレを開催する福岡アジア美術館(1999)など、全国各地にすぐれた実践の場が増えてきた。 日本は新たなミュージアム大国として、社会モデルとしてのミュージアムのあり方を世界に示さねばならない立場にいることを忘れてはならないだろう。