Roppongi is home to hundreds of art galleries, but finding them and visiting them can be both difficult and exhaustive. One of the less well known cluster of art galleries for the aesthetically hungry is the Piramide building, very close to Roppongi Hills. The building itself is peculiar enough to interest modern architecture fans but there are also many tiny galleries housed inside the building, making it a convenient place to see a lot of contemporary art in one tiny place. I might be biased, but it seems that most of the galleries are focused on photographic art, but there are paintings and sculptures and even sometimes installations on show. You can find a lists of galleries, addresses as well as restaurants and other businesses in the building here, under ピラミデ.
The most senior of all art universities in Japan, the Tokyo University of Arts might not be on top of anyone’s list of places to visit, but there is still a lot things to see. I visited on one of their days when they welcome the public and I am not sure how accessible the campus is on other days. One of the first things you see on the inner courtyard is Auguste Rodin’s The Vanquished (Le Vaincu, from a 1876 sculpt but I do not know when this particular bronze was cast). Not a bad way to start your day if you are an art student! There is quite a lot of sculpture on display in the inner garden of the university, and while none of the buildings are very impressive sometimes the views are.
The university itself was founded in 1949 of two smaller schools that were both founded in 1887. I definitively need to visit again.
Right now the fourth Shinjuku Creator’s Festival is taking place mainly around Shinjuku station, but with far flung satellite exhibitions taking place around Shinjuku ward, like Hatsudai, Ichigaya and even Kagurazaka. I went to see the work of famous artist Yoichiro Kawaguchi, which you might remember from this blog last year.
This year Mr. Kawaguchi exhibits two statues called Ficco at the Zenkokuji temple in Kagurazaka, famous for its statue of the Bishamonten which is only uncovered for the public on special days. The temple was originally erected in Bakurocho in 1595 but moved to Kagurazaka in 1793. In 1945 the original temple was destroyed in air raids, the only thing that survived was the unusual guardians from 1848, which here are actually tigers whereas they are usually lions or foxes: these are the only guardian tigers in Shinjuku ward. You can see the patchwork of repairs on one of the tigers in the third image.
So in a sense, placing these to Ficco on either side off the temple guardians makes perfect sense. The Shinjuku Creator’s Festa goes on for one more week, ending on the 7th of August.
As Japan modernized and aligned with the rest of the world during the Meiji period of Japan (1868-1912), not only science, politics, religion and technology changed, but also art. Japanese artists were eager to understand and to master the new modern art styles of Europe and wealthy patrons sent out scores of promising artists to study abroad. One of these was a young man from Nagano prefecture, Rokuzan Ogiwara (1879-1910) who studied modern sculpture in both the US and France where he received instruction from the famous Rodin himself. Rokuzan was also a christian convert from an early age and a member of the temperance movement. His rather short life was ended by tuberculosis.
Almost as interesting as the man and his work themselves are the museum put up in his name in Hotaka, Azumino City. The main structure is built like a church and was funded by donations from local school children and teachers who also took part in the construction itself, which took many decades to finish in 1958. There is another completely modern concrete construction as well, and an almost ancient looking logg house construction put up completely by local students and teachers. Junior high school kids were pretty crafty back then! Everything in the garden and tiny museum grounds is designed, from the concrete tables to the hidden spouts of the rain gutter. It is easy to tell that a lot of people put a lot of effort in this place.
You can read more about the museum here on their official website.