Mori Art Museum Tokyo celebrates its 20th anniversary 

4 mins read
Agnes Denes Wheatfield - A Confrontation: Battery Park Landfill, Downtown Manhattan - With Agnes Denes Standing in the Field 1982 Courtesy: Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York Photo: John McGrail

The Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, will celebrate its twentieth anniversary in 2023 — a place dedicated to the global contemporary art, offering encounters with complex and diverse worlds. 

The past 20 years have seen monumental shifts in the world in which we live, both politically and economically, plus an increase in the number of serious natural disasters, a previously unimaginable pandemic, civil conflicts, and war. Contemporary art reflects all these, in all their aspects.

In the two exhibitions and myriad learning programs planned for the 2023 fiscal year, the Mori Art Museum will revisit its mission, and journey back and forth along the timeline of past, present and future. 

WORLD CLASSROOM: Contemporary Art through School Subjects, our exhibition scheduled for the first half of the anniversary year, will see contemporary art liberated from the fine art and arts and crafts categories of the classroom, and viewed instead as a domain with connections to all sorts of subjects that teach about the world. The Mori Art Museum will then become a classroom for studying the world, accessible to all.

It is also noteworthy that WORLD CLASSROOM will be the first exhibition where the Mori Art Museum Collection comprises more than half of the exhibited works in an originally-curated exhibition, providing an opportunity to look back on the museum’s exhibitions to date. Then in the second half of the year 2023, Our Ecology will contemplate the challenges of global sustainability, including that of climate change as one of the most pressing issues facing the planet today, in an exhibition also touching on the history of ecology in contemporary art.

Twenty years may be no more than a waypoint on our journey, but it is still a milestone. Our intention is to make 2023 a year for looking ahead to the next two decades, as we reconsider yet again the role of the Mori Art Museum in these changing times.

Kataoka Mami, Director, Mori Art Museum
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Wang Qingsong Follow Me 2003 C-print 60 x 150 cm Collection: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

World Classroom: Contemporary Art School Subjects

Since the 1990s, when the development of contemporary art began to be considered from multiple perspectives in different parts of the world, we have been seeing that contemporary art today goes far beyond the framework of arts and crafts and fine art in the school classroom. 

It is a composite field with connections to all subjects, including language and literature, arithmetic, science, and social studies. 

In each of these disciplines, researchers are exploring the “unknowns” of the world, delving into history, and making new discoveries and inventions from the past to the future in order to enrich our perception of the world. 

The stance adopted by contemporary artists that seeks to go beyond our preconceptions in a creative way is also connected to this exploration of these unknowns. 

In this sense, the contemporary art museum is something akin to a “classroom of the world” where we can encounter and learn about these unknown worlds.

World Classroom: Contemporary Art through School Subjects, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Mori Art Museum, is an attempt for us to encounter a world we have never seen or known from a wide variety of perspectives, using the subjects we learn at school as a gateway to contemporary art. 

Even though this exhibition is divided into sections such as Language and LiteratureSocial StudiesPhilosophyArithmeticScienceMusic, and P. E, each work, in fact, crosses over multiple subjects and domains. 

mori art museum
Miyajima Tatsuo Innumerable Life/Buddha 2018 Light Emitting Diode, IC, electric wire, steel, stainless, transformer, LED type “Time Hundred” (Red) 100 plates 251.7 x 251.7 x 15 cm Collection: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo Courtesy: Lisson Gallery Photo: Omote Nobutada

While over half the exhibited works will be drawn from the Mori Art Museum Collection for the first time ever, there will also be newly commissioned artworks for this exhibition – altogether creating a classroom of the world, place of learning with works by some 50 artists/artist groups.

Curated by: Kataoka Mami (Director, Mori Art Museum), Kumakura Haruko (Assistant Curator, Mori Art Museum), et al.

Featured Artists

Ai Weiwei, Aoyama Satoru, Joseph Beuys, Sam Falls, Fuji Hikaru, Shilpa Gupta, Hatakeyama Naoya, Susan Hiller, Jakarta Wasted Artists, Kazama Sachiko, Kikuchi Tomoko, Jacob Kirkegaard, Joseph Kosuth, Dinh Q. Lê, Lee Ufan, Park McArthur, Miyagi Futoshi, Miyajima Tatsuo, Miyanaga Aiko, Morimura Yasumasa, Nara Yoshitomo, Pangrok Sulap, Sopheap Pich, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Vandy Rattana, Hrair Sarkissian, Sasamoto Aki, Seto Momoko, Sugimoto Hiroshi, Mika Tajima, Rodel Tapaya, Tsai Charwei, Umetsu Yoichi, Wang Qingsong, Yang Hague, Yee I-Lann, Yoneda Tomoko, and others

Our Ecology

The impact of humanity on our planet since the industrial revolution is said to match that of the thousands of preceding years of geological change. The environmental crisis is a challenge of utmost urgency, and right now an important theme on the international art scene.

Is there still any possibility of a sustainable future, in which we leave behind the anthropocentrism that has triggered this crisis, and instead, as humans, find a new way of relating to all other, non-human entities?

This exhibition interprets the term “ecology” broadly to encompass concepts like harmony, and cycles of different sorts, as we contemplate a new kind of “cycle” that includes human communities, ecological systems incorporating humans, and conditions in realms imperceptible to humans. 

The title Our Ecology posits the questions: who are we, and to whom does earth’s environment belong?

Our Ecology will be diverse, covering everything from historical works to new works made especially for the exhibition. 

For example, as a protest against global warming and economic disparity, Agnes Denes‘ 1982 conjuring of a wheatfield in the capitalist capital Manhattan offers an opportunity for fresh thought about the world we live in today. 

The exhibition will also reexamine art produced and presented in Japan from the 1950s to 1970s, when pollution formed a dark downside to the country’s rapid economic growth, in an effort to reconsider today’s environmental problems from a Japanese standpoint. 

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Yang Haegue Installation view: Haegue Yang: The Cone of Concern, Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD), Manila, 2020 Photo: At Maculangan

Furthermore, the Mori Art Museum itself will become an environment in its own right, with steps taken to make this an ecological show in terms of production as well as theme, such as reducing transportation to a minimum, and reusing and recycling resources.

Contemplating how contemporary art and artists have engaged to date with environmental issues, and how they can do so in future, Our Ecology will aim to explore the possibilities left for the sustainable future on a global scale.

Curated by: Martin Germann (Adjunct Curator, Mori Art Museum), Tsubaki Reiko (Curator, Mori Art Museum), Tokuyama Hirokazu (Associate Curator, Mori Art Museum).

(Via The Mori Art Museum)

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