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Picks :
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Picks is a monthly sampling of Japan's art scene, offering commentary by a variety of reviewers about exhibitions at museums and galleries in recent weeks, with an emphasis on contemporary art by young artists.

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The World of Yoshiyuki Tomino
12 October - 22 December 2019
Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art
(Hyogo)
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Nowadays it seems normal for public art museums to curate exhibitions about anime. To its credit this show doesn't just introduce animated works, but celebrates the creative worldview of legendary animator-director Tomino (b. 1941). One virtue is its exploration of Tomino's interest not only in visual effects but in philosophical concepts, like the Newtype of Mobile Suit Gundam and the Ide of Space Runaway Ideon.
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A Jewel Box from Europe: Treasures from the Collections of the Prince of Liechtenstein
12 October - 26 December 2019
Bunkamura The Museum
(Tokyo)
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This selection from the art trove of the tiny European nation's royal family does not limit itself to Rubens and other Baroque masters, but also offers plenty of porcelain and other finely wrought pieces of applied art. Most stunning are the miniature paintings from the Biedermeier period of the early 19th century. Waldmüller's Flowers in a Porcelain Vase with Candlestick and Silver Vessels belies its dryly descriptive title with rivetingly minute details and a lush beauty that threatens to spill over into the realm of kitsch.
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Cartier, Crystallization of Time

2 October - 16 December 2019
The National Art Center, Tokyo
(Tokyo)
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An innovative look at contemporary works created since the 1970s by the iconic jewelry maker. The exhibition space, designed by Hiroshi Sugimoto and Tomoyuki Sakakida of the New Material Research Laboratory, is part of the fun. Taking "Time" as a theme, it uses materials ranging from traditional fabrics to Oya stone that highlight the origins of gemstones in ancient ores formed over eons. The result is a uniquely primitive backdrop to the gorgeous jewelry on display.
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Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey
29 September - 24 November 2019
Nerima Art Museum
(Tokyo)
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Gorey was an American picture-book writer with a cult-like following despite, or because of, his highly eccentric style. Known for meticulous monochrome line drawings, he somehow infused vaguely aristocratic European settings with a sinister, unsettling air. Though adults often criticized his works as inappropriate for juvenile reading, kids, if anything, love to be scared. This show was a welcome opportunity to savor Gorey's delightfully perverse world of children's tales with a little dollop of venom.
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The Magic of Alice in Wonderland Exhibition
21 September - 17 November 2019
Sogo Museum of Art
(Kanagawa)
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Why does "Alice in Wonderland" enjoy such universal popularity? Lewis Carroll's immortal books contain wordplay comprehensible only in English, and lose half their humor if a reader is unfamiliar with the conventions of Victorian England. One big reason why the "Alice" phenomenon transcends the bounds of language and culture is the stories' original illustrations by John Tenniel. This show includes later "Alice" renderings by eminent illustrators like Arthur Rackham as well as more contemporary artists, but few manage to avoid seeming derivative of Tenniel's work, and those that do simply don't look authentically Alice-esque.
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Michiko Matsumoto: Bath in New York
27 September - 27 October 2019
BankArt Silk
(Kanagawa)
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Colorful boards cut freehand into plump round shapes cover the wall. Closer inspection reveals that all of these compositions consist of cats -- anywhere from one to several dozen. But the colors, and the fishscale and polka-dot patterns that fill the cutouts, are anything but catlike; they tend more to evoke Middle-Eastern arabesques, outsider art, or pop art. That ambiguity is, in fact, what makes Matsumoto's work so appealing. The show title, incidentally, is a pun: "New York" pronounced in Japanese sounds just like nyuuyoku, the word for "bathing."
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Leslie Kee: Bookish
17 October - 4 November 2019
Parco Sapporo 5F
(Hokkaido)
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This show was part of the SapporoPhoto exhibition held by The North Finder, a photographers' group established in 2007 in Hokkaido. Singapore-born, Tokyo-based fashion photographer Kee exhibited works on the "Bookish" theme at the behest of art director Tsuguya Inoue. These sublime juxtapositions of fashion model-like male and female figures with a lineup of serious-looking tomes brought out the charms of both their animate and inanimate subjects.
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Sugano Yumiko 2019
24 September - 12 October 2019
Galerie Tokyo Humanité
(Tokyo)
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For a bit over a decade Sugano has been painting nothing but cups, plates, bottles and other containers. Initially these objects were laid out horizontally like a still life by Zurbaran, but then shelves began to appear, followed by more complex Escher-like constructions. In some of the recent works shown here the vessels float in space without shelves or floors to support them. The term "still life" hardly does justice to these enigmatic images, and one looks forward with anticipation and a bit of trepidation to what sort of "still lifes" Sugano will come up with next.
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Masaaki Kazama: Street Memories 1968-1971

7 September - 13 October 2019

ArtPotluck
(Tokyo)
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The photos plastered across the wall portrayed street scenes emblematic of Japan's "season of politics," the period from the late sixties to early seventies when college students nationwide protested the renewal of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. Kazama captures the energy that spilled from campuses onto the streets with a sharp eye for detail that makes these snapshots a valuable documentary of those intense times.
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Jean-Michel Basquiat: Made in Japan
21 September - 17 November 2019
Mori Arts Center Gallery
(Tokyo)
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Initially an anonymous graffiti artist, Basquiat (1960-88) burst onto the New York art scene in the early eighties just as postmodern neo-expressionism was blooming in the wake of modernism's dead end. The title of this exhaustive retrospective references the many Japan connections to his art, ranging from purchases by collectors like Yusaku Maezawa, who famously paid a record-setting 12.3 billion yen (US$110.5 million) for a Basquiat, to such motifs in his work as pagodas, karate, manga characters, and the word YEN. Like Van Gogh a century earlier, Basquiat seems to have been an admirer of things Japanese.
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