Japan Museums Collaborate to Curate 20th-Century Western Art Exhibition

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Part of the “Trialogue” exhibition at the Yokohama Museum of Art

A chronological journey through the history of 20th-century Western art is underway at the Yokohama Museum of Art, in a collaborative exhibition also featuring items from the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art and the Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art and Design.

Titled “Trialogue,” the exhibition was organized by the three public museums through online discussions. They divided the 20th century into three distinct chapters with each museum contributing about 40 items from its collection and then organized them chronologically to showcase the flow of art history.

The three museums expanded their collections of 20th-century artworks from the 1970s through the early 1990s, a period during which many art museums were built in Japan.

People in Japan often don’t take notice of museums’ regular collections of famous artists’ work, thinking they can see them any time. However, according to Mika Kuraya, director of the Yokohama Museum of Art, “a collaboration among three museums is on par with a collection from abroad.”

“This exhibition was planned prior to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, but even so, I’d like to rouse interest in cultural pursuits and make [Trialogue] a model case that will help our visitors realize once again that many excellent works are part of collections right here in Japan,” Kuraya said.

At the museum’s entrance, visitors are greeted by the works of Pablo Picasso, beginning with his 1902 “Woman in Blue Shawl” from his Blue Period and shifting to his avant-garde cubism pieces. From there, visitors can spot his classical 1923 “Woman in an Armchair,” the radical expression of “Woman Sleeping in an Armchair” from 1927, and his 1960 “Seated Woman,” which seems to be a return to cubism. These works lead visitors through Picasso’s rapidly changing painting styles.

Among the works from the surrealism movement that dominated the mid-20th century, the exhibition features Rene Magritte’s “The Well of Truth” (1963) and “The Museum of the King” (1966). This illustrates art’s move away from Europe to the United States, where other pop art and other genres took off in the late 20th century. In this period, artists including Andy Warhol came on the scene.

“Because the works of Gerhard Richter, which came to the Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art and Design’s possession in 1984, became extremely well regarded later on, I came to understand the importance of collecting works at the time they are made,” said Shintaro Matsunaga, a senior curator of the Yokohama Museum of Art.

Curators from the three museums also collaborated on the exhibition’s catalogue, which includes a thorough description of the history of 20th-century art. The catalogue is also available at regular bookstores.

Trialogue is scheduled to run through Feb. 28, 2021, at the Yokohama museum, which is closed every Thursday, during the year-end and New Year holidays and on Feb. 12. All tickets must be booked in advance online.

The exhibition will then move to the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art from April 23 to June 27 and finally to the Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art and Design from Nov. 20 to Jan. 16, 2022.