Exhibitions to See

Yoshitomo Nara: The Beginning Place

Aomori Museum of Art in northern Japan boasts the world’s largest collection of works by Nara Yoshitomo, an icon of Japanese contemporary art known for his paintings and sculptures of childlike figures that give off simultaneously subversive and kawaii vibes. This exhibition, held in Nara’s home prefecture, reflects on his activities since the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami while harking back to his origins. It displays new work as well as notable pieces from as far back as his student days in the 1980s, exploring his enduring creative tendencies, such as house motifs, anti-war messaging and an affinity for rock music.

When: Until February 25, 2024
Where: Aomori Museum of Art
More info: https://www.aomori-museum.jp/en/

The Shin-Hanga: The Great Endeavor of Watanabe Shozaburo

Publisher Shozaburo Watanabe (1885–1962), who initiated the shin-hanga (new prints) movement in the early 20th century, can be credited with bringing Japanese printmaking into the modern age. Watanabe developed printmaking from traditional ukiyo-e techniques. Adopting new methods that incorporated Western aesthetics while preserving Japanese processes, he worked with European artists on prints inspired by Impressionist paintings. This show features shin-hanga from his shop, Watanabe Woodblock Prints, created by masters like Hasui Kawase. The lakeside Shimane Art Museum, ranked as one of Japan’s top 100 sunset locations, also has an outstanding permanent collection that includes a dedicated Hokusai gallery.

When: January 26–March 18, 2024
Where: Shimane Art Museum
More info: https://www.shimane-art-museum.jp/en/exhibition/

Takashi Murakami Mononoke Kyoto

Takashi Murakami, father of the Superflat movement, unveils his first major Japanese solo show outside of Tokyo at the Kyoto City Kyocera Museum of Art’s Higashiyama Cube gallery. Exhibiting around 170 works of predominantly new art, Murakami makes Kyoto itself his theme, referencing the ancient capital’s history and culture in works inspired by the 17th century Rimpa School. Highlights include a thirteen-meter painting based on classic folding screens that depicts the city. In addition to works debuting in Japan, “Mononoke Kyoto” (the title alludes to vengeful spirits of Japanese folklore) also shows pieces from some of Murakami’s most well-known series.

When: February 3–September 1, 2024
Where: Kyoto City Kyocera Museum of Art Higashiyama Cube
More info: https://takashimurakami-kyoto.exhibit.jp/

Nakahira Takuma: Burn–Overflow

Takuma Nakahira (1938–2015) made a lasting impact on the theory and practice of postwar Japanese photography. In the late 1960s, he co-founded Provoke magazine and helped pioneer the “are, bure, boke” (grainy, blurry, out-of-focus) style that would echo through successive generations. Before falling into a coma and experiencing amnesia in 1977, he embarked on a period of self-criticism and exploration. (After recovering he resumed his practice, which he continued into the 2000s). This exhibition re-examines Nakahira’s career, focusing on the 1975 to 1977 period. On view are 400 photographs and materials, including recently discovered works and some shown publicly for the first time.

When: February 6–April 7, 2024
Where: The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
More info: https://www.momat.go.jp/en/exhibitions/556


Focusing on two concepts, “Constant Growth at a Pan-Global Scale” and “The Remote Individual,” this exhibition brings together international creators at the forefront of contemporary art. Their works address 21st century issues like the complexities of the information age, environment destruction and imbalances of power. Among the displays are video artist Maiko Jinushi’s poetic ode to Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, “artist/hacker” Evan Roth’s massive photo installations and a recreated performance by Hito Steyerl and two of her students skewering the fashion industry’s ironies.

When: March 6–June 3, 2024
Where: The National Art Center, Tokyo
More info: https://www.nact.jp/english/exhibition_special/2024/universalremote/index.html

Chiharu Shiota

The Berlin-based artist Chiharu Shiota’s exhibition in Osaka next autumn will be her first major retrospective in her hometown in 16 years. Acclaimed for her intricate, room-spanning webs, Shiota has been spinning crowd-drawing installations for more than two decades. She explores themes of connection, memory and mortality in works contemplating the fundamentals of human existence. Through the lenses of “I,” “Eyes,” and “Love” (“ai” in Japanese), this show, held only in Osaka, considers our ties to others in the wake of a global pandemic. It presents paintings, drawings, sculptures, and film work as well as thread installations.

When: September 14–December 1, 2024
Where: Nakanoshima Museum of Art, Osaka
More info: https://nakka-art.jp/en/

Festivals and Fairs

Dogo Art 2023

There’s still time to catch Dogo Art 2023, which concludes at the end of February 2024. Held in the Shikoku city of Matsuyama, this festival invites leading contemporary artists to create works for venues around Dogo Onsen — said to be one of the oldest hot spring resorts in Japan. The current edition is led by French architect, artist and designer Emmanuelle Moureaux, who brings her rainbow-hued installation series “100 colorsto the Dogo Shotengai shopping arcade. Also look for site-specific displays by photographer/alpinist Naoki Ishikawa and photographer/film director Mika Ninagawa. This year’s event showcases area crafts as well, with special shops and markets.

When: Until February 29, 2024
Where: Matsuyama, Ehime
More info: https://dogoonsenart.com/

Last Snow: Sapporo International Art Festival 2024

As the planet grows consistently hotter, our relationship to and understanding of snow will dramatically change by the end of the 21st century. With the next Sapporo International Art Festival, SIAF2024, director Hideaki Ogawa asks: Do we simply wait for the future to arrive and accept it? Or can we seize this moment as our “last chance” and create our own future? This triennale, taking place at six venues around the famously frosty Hokkaido capital, seeks out intersections of art, technology and science, looking a century into the past and the future. Around 50 artists will participate in the festival, including the art and technology studio Eness and the creative unit Maywa Denki.

When: January 20–February 25, 2024
Where: Sapporo, Hokkaido
More info: https://2024.siaf.jp/en/

Tokyo Gendai

2023 saw the launch of Tokyo Gendai, an international contemporary art fair aiming to raise Japan’s profile in the eyes of worldwide art collectors and enthusiasts. This three-day event brings together over 80 blue-chip galleries from across Japan and around the globe at the Pacifico Yokohama convention hall; it also offers a schedule of talks by notable Japanese artists and curators, thematically curated displays, and off-site exhibitions and festivities. The 2024 edition will be held from July 5–7, with a VIP preview on July 4.

When: July 5–July 7
Where: Yokohama, Tokyo, and beyond
More info: https://tokyogendai.com/

Northern Alps Art Festival 2024

The city of Omachi, Nagano, at the foot of the Northern Alps hosts this cultural occasion every three years. Home to pristine forests and lakes and a local culture of hot springs, soba and sake, Omachi is an enticing countryside retreat on its own. Next autumn it will have the added draw of an international festival coordinated by Fram Kitagawa (organizer of events like the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale), with visual direction by textile designer Akira Minagawa. Emphasizing thematic elements of water, trees, earth and sky, NAAF 2024 welcomes visitors to enjoy outdoor installations and site-specific works by leading contemporary artists from Japan and abroad.

When: September 13–November 4
Where: Omachi, Nagano
More info: https://shinano-omachi.jp/

Forest Festival of the Arts Okayama

“The Forest Festival of the Arts Okayama: Clear-skies Country” will unfold across 12 municipalities in western Japan’s Okayama Prefecture. Curated by Yuko Hasegawa, director of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, this two-month event is rooted in an appreciation of local culture and the natural world. Its venues include museums, architectural heritage sites, scenic outdoor locations, and even a cave. Around 30 accomplished and up-and-coming artists representing a variety of genres will take part, among them architect Kazuyo Sejima, photographers Rinko Kawauchi and Yoshihiko Ueda, and documentary maker Asim Waqif. Their works considering ecological themes are particularly resonant in the bucolic setting.

When: September 28–November 24
Where: Northern Okayama Prefecture
More info: https://forestartfest-okayama.jp/en/

Art Collaboration Kyoto

The fourth Art Collaboration Kyoto is scheduled for next November. This multinational contemporary art fair, gaining momentum each year, is modest in size but large in ambition. Each of its approximately 30 booths is occupied by two galleries — one from Japan, one from overseas — creating a spirit of cooperation through unique international partnerships. There is also a section dedicated to artists with distinct connections to Kyoto, as well as an extended lineup of talks, specially curated exhibitions, and public programs around the city. In past years, these events have been held at shrines and temples, local galleries, and major museums.

When: November 1–3
Where: Kyoto
More info: https://a-c-k.jp/en/