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  HOME | Arts & Entertainment

From Kusama to Murakami: A Generational Journey Through Japanese Global Art

TOKYO – Six popular Japanese contemporary creators, among them Yayoi Kusama and Takashi Murakami, star in an exhibition from Thursday in Tokyo that offers a generational and stylistic tour of Japanese art since 1950.

The exhibition “STARS: Six contemporary artists from Japan to the world” organized by the Mori Museum, brings together paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos and installations that originated between the post-war period until 2010, coinciding with the rise of Japan as a cultural and economical power.

From Lee Ufan’s minimalist sculptures to colorful pieces inspired by Murakami’s anime, the exhibition confronts the aesthetic proposals of different creators from various generations that were torn between Japanese tradition, modernity and foreign influences.

The exhibition premieres new works by several of the creators, it includes others that haven’t been seen previously in Japan and is the first hosted since late February by the Mori Museum, a benchmark in the Japanese contemporary art scene which, like other galleries, was forced to close its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We chose six artists whose careers escaped Japan’s borders in that period and earned international recognition, in addition to exploring universal ideas about technology, society or culture from their Japanese context,” explained Mori director Mami Kataoka at the exhibition inauguration.

Real size Japanese cartoon figures with exaggerated sexual attributes welcome the visitor in the first room of STARS, dedicated to Murakami, perhaps the most sought-after and internationally recognized contemporary Japanese artists, as well as the youngest in the exhibit.

Faced with criticism in his artistic beginnings in Japan for using the “otaku” subculture, this creator born in Tokyo in 1962 decided to emigrate to the United States and “focus on reaching international audiences who understood art without prejudice,” Murakami said in the opening act.

“The artists participating in this exhibition have tried to break down barriers long before me. Thanks to their work, Japanese art is now more diverse and more global,” said Murakami, who presented two giant 20-meter murals created especially for STARS.

Yayoi Kusama, 91, who also found recognition outside before finding it within his country, stands at the other generational end of the participating creators, and contributes pieces from his psychedelic experiments in New York from the 1960s until today.

Some of the highlights of the exhibition are the installation of mirrors and kaleidoscopic lights “Infinity Mirrored Room,” and canvases with Kusama’s characteristic organic forms from the series “My Eternal Soul,” on which the artist continues to work today from her studio near the psychiatric asylum where she resides.

On the other hand, Yoshitomo Nara explores the nostalgia of a lost childhood in twenty paintings, sculptures and with a giant toy house, pieces which have been exhibited before in different galleries in Europe and the United States.

The work of Lee Ufan, born in Korea under Japanese occupation and resident in Japan throughout his career, offers a sober counterpoint in the framework of the movement known as “mono-ha” or “school of things,” a wave that rejected industrial modernity and used materials in their purest possible state.

The exhibition ends with an installation of Tatsuo Miyajima’s floating LED lights, a tribute to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011, and with several snapshots by photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto alongside his first short film, made for the occasion and which recreates the four Seasons.

The exhibition will be open until the beginning of 2021 in the Tokyo gallery, although it will only be accessible through a prior reservation, a measure aimed at preventing possible COVID-19 infections.

Visitors will also be asked to wear a mask while at the exhibition and to undergo a body temperature control at the entrance.


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