2008年08月14日

Dueling Geniuses -The Best Exhibition of the Year

Tokyo National Museum Japanese.jpg Tokyo National Museum English.jpg

For those of you who are in Japan and haven't yet seen the exhibition "Dueling Geniuses: The Greatest Highlights of Japanese Artists," I declare the following: Run to the Tokyo National Museum now! The show ends on the 17th of August, and quite simply, you will not get another chance to see the likes of these artists and their art under one roof for a very long time.

Critics will be quick to poison our perceptions of the exhibition by claiming that the Tokyo National Museum have "sold out." In a sense, it is true that the TNM has dumbed down the traditionally daunting walls that surround Japanese art, and have essentially paired two artists together as if in competition for hegemony. In other words, the layout is like a boxing match, with simplistic conclusions being asked by the viewer: who is better than who? Art need not be black and white, and the viewer doesn't have to be force-fed such assumptions.

That being said, the exhibition is a spectacular tour de force of some of the most iconic works of art in Japanese history. And then again, art today is hardly for the aristocracy, and beauty can and should be enjoyed by the masses, with ease of consumption a key issue to be discussed and conquered.

Japanese art, moreover, is a treasure for all of mankind, and has no need for pretentious academia to smother it with snobbery. Shohaku vs Jakuchu? Okyo vs Rosetsu? Eitoku vs Tohaku? Bring it on!

And for those who aren't able to visit the show, there's an excellent English-language interactive website which features some of the works online. Please check it out here.

Lastly, for those who can read Japanese and are also interested in contemporary art, one of the most talented (and popular) Japanese painters today, Akira Yamaguchi (山口晃 1969- ), has painted images of each and every artist featured in the exhibition. You can take a look at his images here. The site's a gem, and I had a laugh whilst reading his comments on the artists and art history in general.

Softly melting away in summer sun,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited
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