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Since the late 19th century, Japanese art has been schizophrenically split into yoga (Western-style) and nihonga (Japanese-style). The latter arose as a self-conscious response to the inroads of the former. Nevertheless, when nihonga took up the challenge of Western art, it was unable to avoid borrowing some of its ideas, most notably the romantically inflated concept of the “divine” artist. But instead of Michelangelo or van Gogh, nihonga found its role models in the elite artist/craftsmen of the Rinpa school. The Yamatane Museum of Art’s exhibition What Did Nihonga Learn from Rinpa? uses 50 mainly large works to look at echoes of the school in the works of 20th-century nihonga artists. Particularly worth seeing is Kaii Higashiyama’s vast seascape Rising Tide and Gyoshu Hayami’s Falling Camellias.

Through Dec 25. See exhibition listings (Ginza/ Kyobashi/ Tokyo) for details. CBL

Metropolis is offering readers ten free tickets to “What Did Nihonga Learn from Rinpa?” For your chance to see this excellent exhibition, email the following information by Wednesday, December 17, to

1. Name; 2. Address; 3. Age; 4. Home country; 5. Last exhibition you visited

Include the text “Nihonga” in the subject line. Winners will be selected at random.


449: Between Reality and Dreams: 19th Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum
448: Quobo: Art in Berlin 1989-99
447: Scandinavian Landscape Painting in the 19th Century
446: Peter Bellars: Par for the Course
445: Doug Aitken: New Ocean
444: Andrea Zittel: A-Z Garments Series
443: Sebastiao Salgado: Exodus
442: Dumb Type: Voyages
441: Tadanori Yokoo: All Things in the Universe
440: Jean-Marc Bustamante: Private Crossing
439: Joan Miro : 1918-1945
438: Modern Paintings of Mongolia
437: Manit Sriwanichpoom: Bangkok in Pink
436: French Drawings from the British Museum: From Fontainebleau to Versailles
435: Muneteru Ujino: Japan Series
434: Photography Today 2: Site/Sight
433: Rirkrit Tiravanija and Raymond Pettibon
432: Three Young Artists from Korea
431: Dynastic Heritage of Korea
430: Seoul Pop
429: Dreams & Goals
428: Since Godzilla
427: Yoshihiro Suda + Tetsuya Nakamura: Un Monde Revé de la Main
426: GA Houses Project 2002
425: Sesshu: 500th Anniversary
424: Luis Barragan: The Quiet Revolution
423: The Mori Arts Center/Young Video Artists Initiative
422: The Adventures of Tintin
421: Session - Super Eccentric of Japan's Warring States Period
420: Jorge Pardo
419: Artists Without Borders
418: Dennis Hollingsworth
417: Masterworks from the Prado Museum
416: JAM: Tokyo-London
415: Digital Beauties
414: Arika Someya
413: MOMAT
412: NW House
411: Mariko Mori
410: Sonia Delaunay
409: Buckminster Fuller
408: Wusheng Wang
407: Tokyo Architecture #2
406: Tokyo Architecture #1
405: The Art Ahead
404: Table Manners
403: Tom Sanford at Tomoya Saito Gallery
402: Nambanga: An Anthology of World Manga
401: Masterworks from MoMA
400: Spencer Tunick: Nude Adrift

Issues 500+
Issues 499-
Issues 399-

By John McGee

Quobo: Art in Berlin 1989-99

Albrecht Schafer, florina, 1998

This diverse show captures the artistic zeitgeist coming out of Berlin's recent metamorphosis via Maria Eichhorn's irregular eight-ball installation, Game on a Sloping Billiard Table (1989), and other unexpected works.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, great political and cultural upheaval occurred as the two halves of the formerly divided city rejoined. Artists began to move into the cheap housing and studio space in the eastern Berlin district of Mitte. Over the next decade, bars, clubs and galleries sprang up, transforming Berlin-Mitte into an art center not only for Germany, but for all of Europe. In 1998, the city held its first Biennial. And in 1999, the German capital moved from Bonn to Berlin.

"Quobo," organized by the German Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, compresses this decade of energy into a modest touring exhibition of work by 14 artists and art collectives. The generation of artists (most in the show were born between the early '50s and mid-'60s) that emerged during Berlin's '90s cultural rebirth eschewed the bombast of '80s big paintings for concept-based production. Crossed-cultures, pop-sculpture, perception-thematically, nearly all the works are different. Most of the show's sculptures, installations, and videos, however, either invite viewers to interact or describe a dynamic flux.

Twin Gabriel, Lemonade. From Africa, 1996

Carsten Nicolai entertains visitors' DJ fantasies in his simple but addictive noto kit ° (1997-98). Four turntables create an analog sequencer that lets you play at being a pattern musician, experimenting with layered tracks in real time. The pale translucent records contain multiple short tracks of pops, hisses, sine waves, wa-was, and other electronic noises. Play one, two or all the records. Adjust the speed. Choose the hole in the center of the record for regular effect or the secondary, slightly off-center hole to produce a warped effect of the same sound. Each element has a narrow range of functions, but the combinations are limitless.

A pair of installations take spectacular visual command of MoT's huge, open lower-floor gallery. Monica Bonvicini covered the entire floor with gypsum wallboard, raising it on bits of styrofoam placed here and there underneath. As visitors tramp along the top, they punch through the thin gray construction panels into the white gypsum center and the floor below. Over time, the pockmarked surface resembles a road in a war zone. At one end of this floor, glass cube plankton incubation chambers sit on top of cement blocks. The plankton in Lemonade. From Africa (1996), by the duo (e.) Twin Gabriel, grows under overhead sunlamps, slowly changing the color of the liquid to a dark, increasingly opaque green.

For florina (1998), Albrecht Schafer enlarged a basic children's building toy-notched discs-into white styrofoam units the size of garbage can lids. He fit the pieces together to create a tunnel, an ice cave of oversized, uniform snowflakes. Light filters down, bouncing off the surfaces in sensual shadow play.

There are a few duds, like Nina Fischer and Maroan El Sani's update of a Warhol screen test. And a couple of pieces lose viewers in their Ÿber-concept. But the thematic variety and general lighthearted spirit of "Quobo" offer a positive glimpse inside Europe's thriving new art capital.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo
Until Nov 24. Kiba stn (Tozai line); Kikukawa stn (Toei Shinjuku line). Miyoshi 4-1-1, Koto-ku. Tue-Sun 10am-6pm. Tel: 03-5245-4111. Adm: Adults ¥800, students ¥650, children and seniors ¥400.

Photo credit: 1) Albrecht Schafer; 2) (e.) Twin Gabriel