Japanese museums boosting appeal ahead of Olympics

TOKYO • Art museums in Japan are reopening after undergoing refurbishments.

Museums that have completed construction after a long period of closure are thinking of new ways to attract new visitors.

They are coming up with ideas to gain distinctiveness through the offerings of their facilities and exhibitions.

Many new art museums - mainly public facilities - were built throughout Japan after the 1980s. These buildings are now approaching the due date for renovation and many are undergoing expansion in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo in the capital's Kiba district reopened in March after being closed for about three years.

The facilities have been renewed with a strategy to appeal to new visitors, including parents with young children. The various information displays inside and outside the museum have been created with pictographs to make them easier to understand.

Kodomo Toshoshitsu, a reading room for children, has also been created with a collection of art books that young ones can enjoy.

The museum is holding an exhibition, until June 16, to commemorate the reopening. The event uses selections from leading modern and contemporary art collections in Japan, including artists from Ryusei Kishida, one of Japan's most famous 20th-century painters, to young contemporary ones.

A staff member of the museum said: "We would like to enhance our influence by being recognised as an art museum where visitors can directly feel contemporary art trends."

The Fukuoka Art Museum in Chuo Ward, Fukuoka, reopened in March after 21/2 years of renovations. The museum has made access more convenient by setting up a new passage along the Ohori Park side of the building, which attracts many people.

To convey a positive image of the museum, which is characterised by its openness to Asia, Chinese and Korean descriptions have been added to information displays that were previously only in Japanese and English.

The Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, which is famous for being home to Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers, has built a new facility - scheduled to open in May next year on the site of the company headquarters.

With the aim of becoming an art landmark of Shinjuku, the museum will reinvent itself so that it functions as a beacon for art appreciation for elementary and junior high school students.

Bridgestone Museum of Art in the Kyobashi district of Tokyo, which is currently closed for reconstruction, will change its name to Artizon Museum and relaunch in January.

With its new building, which will have an exhibition area around double the size, the museum will move away from its image as a museum replete with Impressionist works and will focus on presenting a wider selection of works from ancient to contemporary art.

According to a staff member, as the area around Tokyo Station has a lot of hotels and many international tourists are expected, the museum aims to attract visitors with "exhibitions that can accommodate a wide variety of tastes".

The Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art in the Okazaki district of Kyoto opened in 1933 and boasts the oldest standing building among Japan's public art museums.

Architect Jun Aoki was appointed the museum's new director last month and announced the outline for major renovations for the building, to be conducted with architect Tezzo Nishizawa.

The refurbished museum is scheduled to open in March next year. It will incorporate exhibition spaces for contemporary art while preserving as much of the historic building as possible, with the aim of having it registered as a national cultural property.

Meanwhile, there is also a trend to move art museum facilities from Tokyo to regional Japan.

The Crafts Gallery of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, located in Kitanomaru Park in Tokyo, will move to Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, before the commencement of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2019, with the headline 'Japanese museums boosting appeal ahead of Olympics'. Print Edition | Subscribe