Home
Feature
The Small Print
Faces & Places
The Goods
Travel
Tech Know
Sports
Cars & Bikes
Arts & Entertainment
Music
Japan Beat
Clubbing
Art
Stage
Books
The Agenda
Listings
TV
Movies
Dining Out
Sake
Wine
Tastemaker
Table Talk
Local Flavors
International Dining
Restaurant Review
Bar Review
Classifieds
Jobfinder
Horoscope
Mailbox
The Last Word
Photo of the Week
Archive
About Us
Subscribe
Search
Distribution Points




exhibitions
 PAST ISSUES

775: Twelve Travels
773: Fuchu Biennial
769: Leonard Foujita
767: Andrew Wyeth
765: Tokyo in the 1930s
763: Treasures by Rinpa Masters
761: Yokohama Triennale 2008
759: Vermeer & The Delft Style
757: John Everett Millais
755: Avant Garde China
753: The Railway Museum
751: Parallel Worlds
749: George Raab: Canadian Wilderness Etchings
743: Daido Moriyama
741: Bauhaus Experience, Dessau
739: The Perry & Harris Exhibition
737: The House
735: XXIst Century Man
733: Kaii Higashiyama
731: Three Weeks of Art Celebration
729: Fashion + Art
727: New Horizons: The Collection of the Ishibashi Foundation
725: Yokoyama and Toulouse-Lautrec
723: Goth: Reality of the Departed World
721: Genesis Art Lounge
717: Tatsuya Matsui: Flower Robotics
715: Space for Your Future: Recombining the DNA of Art and Design
713: MoMA Design Store + Gallery White Room Tokyo
711: Roppongi Crossing 2007: Future Beats in Japanese Contemporary Art
709: Daikanyama Installation 2007
707: Nippon to Asobo
705: Marina Kappos at Tokyo Wonder Site
703: African-American Quilts: Women Piecing Memories and Dreams
701: Kids Earth Fund
699: The Mural Art of Kotohira-gu Shrine: Okyo, Jakuchu and Gantai
697: “Ayakashi” and “Odilon Redon”
695: Architects Around Town
693: Chocolate
691: My Civilization: Grayson Perry
689: Henry Darger: A Story of Girls At War—of Paradise Dreamed
687: Taisho Chic: Japanese Modernity, Nostalgia and Deco
685: Marlene Dumas: Broken White
683: The Mind of Leonardo: The Universal Genius at Work
681: Suntory Museum of Art and 21_21 Design Sight
679: Art Fair Tokyo 2007
677: Gregory Colbert: Ashes and Snow
675: The Door into Summer: The Age of Micropop
673: World of Kojima Usui Collection
671: Keeping TABs
669: The National Art Center, Tokyo
667: New Year’s Preview
665: Jason Teraoka: Neighbors
663: The 3rd Fuchu Biennale: On Beauty and Value
661: Bill Viola: Hatsu-Yume (First Dream)
659: Shinro Ohtake Zen-Kei
657: Prism: Contemporary Australian Art
655: The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium Exhibition
653: Luisa Lambri
651: Modern Paradise
649: The Legend of Ultraman
647: Nihonga Painting: Six Provocative Artists
645: Echigo-Tsumari Triennial
643: Art × Communication = Open!
641: YOROYORON: Tabaimo
639: Africa Remix
637: Mashcomix
635: Move On Asia and Hitoshi Nishiyama’s White Out
633: A Passion for Plants
631: Chikaku: Time and Memory in Japan
629: A Sense of You, Created by Me
627: Beautiful Cities in Dreams
626: 77 Million
625: No Border
623: The 9th Annual Taro Okamoto Memorial Award for Contemporary Art
621: Tokyo-Berlin/Berlin-Tokyo
619: Conversation With Art, On Art
617: Olafur Eliasson: Your light shadow
613: Mayumi Terada: New Works
611: Gerhard Richter: New Works
609: Hokusai
607: Stephan Balkenhol: Skulpturen und Reliefs
605: International Triennale of Contemporary Art 2005
603: CWAJ 50 Years of Print Show
601: Hiroshi Sugimoto: End of Time
599: Shinji Ohmaki: Echoes-Infinity
597: Miwa Yanagi
596: Cubism in Asia: Unbounded Dialogues
595: Canada Tsuga: The Feeling of Wood
594: Laurie Anderson: The Record of the Time
593: Today's artists X: Nishimura Morio/Matsumoto Yoko
592: Masaaki Yamada
591: Follow me!
590: Daido Moriyama: Buenos Aires
589: Mutsuro Sasaki: Flux Structure
588: Shinro Ohtake
587: Masterpieces of the Louvre Museum
586: Tabaimo: Yubibira
585: Yasumasa Morimura: Los Nuevos Caprichos
584: Julian Opie: Films and Paintings
583: Masterpieces of the museum island
582: The Elegance of Silence
581: Tapies
580: The world is a stage: Stories behind pictures
579: Shigejiro Sano At Play in the Esprit of Paris
578: The Body: Hitoshi Abe
577: Tenshin Okakura: The Awakening of Japan
576: Contemporary Spanish Photography: Ten Views
575:Taro Okamoto Memorial Award
574: Takeshi Tamai: Till Moss Grows On
573: Laura Owens
572: Alphonse Mucha: Treasures Of The Mucha Foundation
571: “Welcome, Welcome” Art-Beijing-Contemporary
570: The hidden side of Japanese art
569: Art Scope 2004: Cityscape Into Art—Michiko Shoji + Johannes Wohnseifer
568: Life Actually
567: Traces: Body and Idea in Contemporary Art
566: Mirrorical Returns: Marcel Duchamp and the 20th Century Art
565: Archilab: New Experiments In Architecture, Art and the City, 1950-2005
564: The Second Annual Fuchu Biennale
563: Have We Met?
561-2: Fluxus: Art Into Life
560: Christopher Wool
559: Pop Art and co.
558: Art & Money
557: Art of the Japanese Postcard
556: Yayoi Kusama: Eternity-Modernity
555: Ihei Kimura: The Man with the Camera
554: Wolfgang Tillmans: Freischwimmer
553: Emerging Generation
552: Larry Clark: Punk Picasso
551: Cool & Light: New Spirit in Craft Making
550: Angelo Mangiarotti: Un Percorso
549: Endo Akiko: Poetry of an Everlasting Life
548: Paris and Klein
547: Yoshitomo Nara: From the Depth of My Drawer
546: Colors: Viktor & Rolf & KCI
545: Micro Presence & Macro Presence
544: Non-sect Radical: Contemporary Photography III
543: Pastoral and Flowers in Modern French Painting
542: Collapsing Histories: time, space and memory
541: Supernatural Artificial
540: Jiro Takamatsu: Universe of His Thought
539: The World Press Photo 2004
538: I Dreamt of Flying: Noguchi Rika
537: Man Ray Exhibition: The Gift of His Vision
536: Why Not Live For Art?
535: Brazil: Body Nostalgia
534: n_ext: New Generation of Media Artists
533: Empty Garden II
532: Street Art in Africa: A Color Commotion
531: Modern Crafts and Design from the Museum Collection: Art Deco
530: And or Versus? : Adventures in Images
529: Modern Means
528: Remaking Modernism in Japan 1900-2000
527: Treasures of a Sacred Mountain: Kukai and Mount Koya
526: Jan Jansen: Master of Shoe Design
525: Yasuo Kuniyoshi: Between Two Worlds
524: Beyond The Border: Seung H-Sang and Yung Ho Chnag
523: Testimony of Life: Ancient Roman Portraits from the Vatican Museums
522: I Love Art
521: "My" Siberia and "My" Earth: The 30 Year Memorial Retrospective Exhibition of Yasuo Kazuki
520: Time of My Life: Art with a Youthful Spirit
519: Joy of Life: Two Photographers from Africa-JD 'Okhai Ojeikere and Malick Sidibé
518: Roppongi Crossing: New Visions in Japanese Art 2004+Kusamatrix
517: Exposition Musee Marmottan Monet
516: Treasures of a Great Zen Temple: Nanzenji
515: Johannes Itten: Ways to Art
514: Meiji Kaigakan (Memorial Picture Gallery)
513: Kaii Higashiyama: One Man's Path
512: Future Cinema: The Cinematic Imaginary after Film
511: Yasujiro Ozu: Japanese Film Master
509/10: End-of-the-year review and 2004 preview
508: Surface tension
507: Jean Nouvel
506: Makoto Aida: My Ken Ten
505: Gaudi: Exploring Form
504: Ino Tadataka and Old Maps of Japan/Fusuma Paintings of Jukoin
503: Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum
502: Happiness: A Survival Guide for Art and Life
501: Today's Man
500: Taro Shinoda: Helicopter 1

Issues 499-
Issues 449-
Issues 399-

By Andrew Conti

Tenshin Okakura: The Awakening of Japan

Watari-um examines one of Japanese art’s most influential advocates

Images courtesy of The Watari-Um Museum of Contemporary Art
Arata Isozaki and Kijou Rokkaku, Shinrokkakudo, plan drawing, 2004

Scholar, philosopher, lecturer and
ambassador, Kazuko Tenshin Okakura led a truly remarkable life. Traveling throughout Asia and the world presenting (and often creating) a public face for Japan, Okakura thrust himself into a vital place in Japan’s art history. This exhibition at Aoyama’s Watari-Um Museum of Contemporary Art is an intensely researched and detailed account of his life and contributions to Japanese culture, as well as to the world’s understanding of the country.

The show begins from Okakura’s birth in 1862 in Yokohama, where he first developed a fascination for the world outside of Japan. It then chronicles his appreciation for the arts and humanities with an assortment of pens, clothing and ephemera that adds visual context to the otherwise text-heavy opening segments.

Tenshin Okakura, Climbing to Jiunji and The Book of Tea, first edition, 1906

This section also establishes the important relationship Okakura had with American Ernest F. Fenallosa, a visiting professor and guest of the Ministry of Education. Under Fenallosa’s mentorship, Okakura developed a belief that a national art was necessary for Japan’s prosperity and progress. He became an outspoken advocate for the creation of a new Japanese style of painting, one that mixed Western and domestic ideas to create a national art form. That form became known as nihonga.
Okakura’s ideas can be seen in the writings on display and in a few paintings that he created during his tenure as a professor and lecturer at the Tokyo Fine Arts Academy (now Tokyo Geidai). Luckily, the show also includes works by more accomplished artists like Kanou Hogai and Rokkau Shisui, who illustrated Okakura’s nihonga.

By far the largest and most interesting spaces in the exhibition are dedicated to Okakura’s influential period as a writer on Asian culture and as curator for the Boston Museum of Fine Art’s Japanese and Chinese art collections. His numerous writings include the inspiring correspondences he maintained with scholars throughout America, India and China. Here his wisdom and intellectual brilliance unquestionably shines. In the predominantly English letters, Okakura translates poetry, questions texts, and displays a keen interest in several subjects.

Okakura’s cultivated presence as a modern man of letters led him to write two novels that are of great significance in understanding modern Asian culture. The Ideals of the East (1903) and The Book of Tea (1906) established him as a writer and philosopher of international distinction. The books are featured here both as original notes and in prints of their published form. The exhibition also stresses Okakura’s ongoing influence: In later life, he managed to present the country’s art to the West with the reverence and esteem it deserved, while also acting as an unofficial cultural ambassador to the United States.

“The Awakening of Japan” is dense with writing and historical documentation, and not an exhibition to be entered into lightly. It demands attention and time from its visitors and extracts them seriously. Yet considering how much of Okakura’s life was invested in presenting Japan to others, it’s unfortunate that this show isn’t more accessible to the foreign community. Indeed, the majority of English-language materials that visitors encounter were written by Okakura himself.

However, those with an interest in the development of modern art in Japan should not miss this thorough examination of perhaps the most significant figure in the past 200 years of Japan’s art history.

Watari-Um Museum of Art, until June 26. See exhibition listings for details.


 

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.