Summer in Tokyo is notoriously hot. Some love going to the beach or mountain, but the art lovers have something else in mind. A scorching summer can’t get you in the cool confines of a gallery or a museum. So here are some of the most exciting exhibitions to see in Tokyo in July and August 2021. A few are ending soon, so catch them quickly.
1. The second installment of the series Reiwa’s 100 Views of Tokyo, The Tokyo 2020 Olympic venue edition — Nagai Gallery
Following on from the popular series of architectural drawings of Tokyo, this series of drawings by Riki Shino will focus on buildings associated with the Tokyo Olympics. Given the subject matter, expect a more futuristic feel to the drawings in this series, rather than the nostalgia of the previous Old Tokyo series. There is still plenty of charm and skill on show and with the rapidly evolving situation surrounding the event, this exhibition offers a chance to reflect on shifting expectations, hope and how to evolve.
When: Until Jul 30
Where: 8-6-25 Ginza, Chuo-ku
How much: Free
2. Ainu Attire Kimono for Halle Day — The Shoto Museum of Art
Left: Garment (cotton) “ciukaukap”, 19th century, Tokyo National Museum. Image courtesy of TNM Image Archives
Right: Jinbaori Military Jacket, “cinpaori”, 19th century, Tokyo National Museum.Image courtesy of TNM Image Archives.
To celebrate the opening of the National Ainu Museum in Shiraoi Town, Hokkaido, the Shoto Museum is putting on a special exhibition dedicated to the clothing culture of the Ainu People. The exhibition will look at the design and materials used in the creation of the kimonos and other garments traditionally worn by the Ainu people and will include some exquisite special occasion pieces.
When: Until Aug 9
Where: 2-14-14 Shoto, Shibuya-ku
How much: ¥100-¥700
3. Okeei: Eifu Kawamata Exhibition — Huls Gallery
Okeei was founded by Edo-period yui-oke craftsman Shinemon Kawamata in 1887 in Fukugawa, a port town that once thrived from lumber distribution. Now the only yui-oke workshop in Tokyo, Okeei is helmed by Eifu Kawamata, whose painstaking craftsmanship is reminiscent of Shinemon’s legacy. As a fourth-generation yui-oke master, Kawamata challenges the hundred-year-old method. He proposes the use of tensile nickel silver as hoops instead of bamboo or copper to sturdily hold the wood in place, giving the final result a beautiful gloss. “I hope to create a beauty born from simplicity,” the artist remarks. In this upcoming exhibition, Kawamata’s newer creations, including wooden containers and tea utensils made with 300-year-old Sawara cypress, will also be available for sale.
When: Until Aug 11
Where: 6-4-10 Akasaka, Minato-ku
How much: Free
4. A New Fine Day by Shinoyama Kishin — Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
Kishin Shinoyama’s photography is difficult to define. His interests and styles are diverse, but an acute awareness of the changing meaning of a moment in time captured by the photographer’s lens is a key aspect of his expansive output. As a result, he has frequently been drawn to change, such as era-defining cultural developments and the rapid periods of transformation he has witnessed in Tokyo.
When: Until Aug 15
Where: 1-13-3 Mita, Meguro-ku
How much: ¥600-¥1,200
Take Your Time:
5. Five Purr-fect Points for a New Public Space: Kengo Kuma — The Museum of Modern Art Tokyo
This exhibition offers a thorough and immersive exploration of the visionary work of Kengo Kuma, one of Japan’s leading contemporary architects. Through the display of models, photographs, mockups, video clippings, interactive exhibits and VR simulation, the exhibition gives visitors the chance to experience both Kuma’s architectural works from around the world and his vision for the future. Particularly notable is his re-imagining of Tokyo from the perspective of cats. This is a view from a low vantage point, offering a radical reinterpretation of our urban environment.
When: Until Sept 26
Where: 3-1 Kitanomaru Koen, Chiyoda-ku
How much: ¥800–¥1,300
6. Isamu Noguchi: Ways of Discovery — Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
Fascinated with space and the creations of forms whose abstraction harmonized with nature, Isamu Noguchi used sculpture as a way to find meaning and peace in a world torn apart by war. With both American and Japanese parents, Noguchi’s world was, in many ways, defined by cultural differences and throughout his career he strove to discover as much as he could about the essence of the cultures that defined him. The resulting sculptures are on display at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, some shown together for this first time.
When: Until Aug 29
Where: 8-36 Ueno Park, Taito-ku
*Requires special advance reservation
7. Naked Uranai — Shibuya Hikarie
Naked Uranai reinterprets the fortune-telling and cosmic worldview by integrating art, technology and AI into the ancient practice. Wander through the constellation chamber with horoscope alignment projects across the room or immerse yourself in the mysterious world of tarot through the three-card oracle experience that tells your past, present and future. Ryotaro Muramatsu’s Lucy provides a glimpse of your psychology and inner turmoil through dream diagnosis. A final ode to spiritual healing, the numerology therapy calculates your birthdate and assigns you a flower essence based on your personal number. Supervised by popular fortune teller Akari Maki, the exhibition is a gateway to tap into your spiritual side. Results will be displayed on your smartphone for a unique visual experience.
When: Until Aug 27
Where: 2-21-1 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku
How much: ¥1,600–¥8,000
8. Rules? — 21_21 Design Sight
On the face of it, rules might not sound like the most promising premise for an exhibition. However, the curatorial team (unusually including a lawyer) has put a positive spin on the concept, encouraging visitors to think of rules as means with which we can shape and change our future. The exhibition looks at the influence of all kinds of rules on our everyday lives and from there, looks at how we can design these rules. Interestingly, the exhibition is presented as a model of society, with visitors given the opportunity to make their own rules within this structure; moving objects and voting for changes that will impact the evolution of the exhibition.
When: Until Nov 28
Where: 9-7-6 Akasaka, Minato-ku
How much: ¥500–¥1,200
9. Ukiyo-e Landscape Painting — Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts
Three of the great Japanese landscape woodblock printmakers are brought together and displayed in an exhibition that celebrates both their similarities and differences. Hiroshige Utagawa, who was active in the Edo period, Kiyochika Kobayashi, who was active in the Meiji period and Hasui Kawase from the Taisho and Showa eras were all very influential in their own time and produced some of Japan’s most astounding landscape art. Under the concept ‘three generations of eyes’, the exhibition traces the changing landscape of Japan through their work, comparing depictions of some sites that have remained the same and others that have changed dramatically.
When: Until Sep 12
Where: 4-28-1 Haramachida, Machida
How much: ¥450–¥900
10. Pavilion Tokyo 2021
Centered around the new National Stadium, Pavilion Tokyo 2021 brings free and accessible installations from renowned artists and architects to Tokyo. The idea behind the widespread and diverse exhibitions is that anyone might stumble across one of the pavilions while walking around the city. The resulting encounter could be a bit mysterious, uplifting, thought-provoking, animating – the beauty of the project is that everyone will have their own unique encounters with the art, which become intermingled with their impressions of Tokyo. Art and the city merge into one and the same thing, encouraging all of us to look at our surroundings in a new light and to reconsider what it is we want from the city we live in.
The pavilions include Terunobu Fujimori’s tea room in front of Victor Studio; Kazuyo Sejima’s installation ‘Suimei’ in Hamarikyu Gardens; Sou Fujimoto’s ‘Cloud Pavilion’ in Yoyogi Park; Akihisa Hiram’s ‘Global Bowl’ at the United Nations University; Junya Ishigami’s ‘Shade cloud’ in the garden of Kudan House; Teppei Fujiwara’s ‘Street garden theatre’ at the Former Children’s Castle; Makoto Aida’s ‘Tokyo Castle’ at Meiji Jingu Gaien; and Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Obliteration Room’ at Shibuya Ward Office. There is also an associated exhibition held at Watari-um, where more information can be found about the creation, process and ideas behind the seven pavilions.
When: Until Sep 5
Where: Various venues. Please check the event website for a full list.
How much: Free
11. The Eighth Tsubaki-kai — Shiseido Gallery
This summer sees the start of the eighth Tsubaki-kai group exhibition at Shiseido Gallery, an exhibition series that began in 1947. The new group of artists includes Hiroshi Sugito, Ryugi Nakamura, Nerhol, Futoshi Miyagi and [mé]. The artists were chosen for being especially representative of their era and have been challenged to envision a post-corona “new world.” The first theme, “Impetus,” asks the artists to select works from the Shiseido collection and consider them in the context of this “new world.” Upcoming themes are “Quest” and “Culmination.”
When: Until Aug 29
Where: 8-8-3 Ginza, Chuo-ku
How much: Free
12. Fashion in Japan: 1945-2020 — The National Art Center, Tokyo
This exhibition takes an in-depth look at the development of western-style fashion in Japan. As the title suggests, it puts a special focus on the post-war years and how Japan developed its unique sartorial culture. Fashion in Japan: 1945-2020 will consider fashion trends from the perspective of both the designers and the people who bought and wore the clothes on the streets. The first of its kind, this exhibition is definitely worth a look.
When: Until Sep 6
Where: 7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku
How much: ¥800–¥1,700
13. “Go, go, go, said the bird, humankind cannot bear very much reality” by Hirofumi Isoya — Scai PiramideWith its title referencing a poetic passage from T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets” (1943), the exhibition is conjured as a silent warning to modern civilization rising from absurd everyday landscapes. Hirofumi Isoya’s composition of situations speaks in riddles, unfolding materials he finds in his daily life while using mundane methods. Signs and images run through the exhibition unfolding complex multivocal worlds — appearing as a confectionery paper pasted on an airplane window, a mustache passing through the fabric of a T-shirt, or a broken glass that appears as a ridged terrain.
Exhibited at Scai Piramide, a gallery associated with Scai The Bathhouse.
When: Aug 19–Sep 25
Where: 6-6-9 Roppongi, Minato-ku
How much: Free
*Advanced reservations required
14. TeamLab Planets’ New Garden Area
If futuristic art is your bent, then head on down to TeamLab Planets’ new Garden Area where you will be immersed in a floating, blooming visual feast. Rising and descending three-dimensional flowers will bloom all around you as you make your way through the ‘garden,’ giving off different scents depending on the time of day. The moss garden’s capsules react to stimulation, providing an ever-changing landscape. A fun option for all the family.
When: Until the end of 2022
Where: 6-1-16 Toyosu, Koto-ku
How much: ¥300–¥3,200
15. Forms in Space: From Alberto Giacometti to Tadaaki Kuwayama — Museum of Modern Art, Hayama
Another exhibition concerned with space, this time a multi-artist exploration of how modern sculptors have explored the concept in their work and how this is reflected in the collection practices of The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama. Sculptural works by artists such as Alberto Giacometti and Mogami Hisayuki are displayed under nine different themes, with the hope that this will provoke thought about how forms interact with surrounding spaces in the everyday.
When: Until Sep 5
Where: 2208-1 Isshiki, Hayama, Kanagawa Prefecture
How much: ¥100–¥800
Note: There is a timed-entry reservation system. Check the details on the website.