Immeasurable Vision of Art Museums in Tokyo

Summer Trip to Tokyo 2016

Let me just say a couple words about this trip with my family to Tokyo. It was a real eye-opening experience, quite worthwhile to have my new camera ready, and of course a doable tight schedule to handle the museum visits.  It is also too late now for feeling some regret that I did not get the opportunity to go for the two projects of the building renovation to art spaces in Yokohama. But, other than that,  it is a no-brainer for me to say that I do recommend an architecture and museum trip to Tokyo, alongside some amazing food and most importantly, a faster recovery from the trip thanks to the perfectly comfortable hotel Tokyo Aman that is perched above the Tokyo skyline, with the smart mixture of the traditional Japanese furnishings and the modern Japan.

Museum Tour in Tokyo

So you are in Tokyo, today you ask for a couple of must-visit museums and the front desk gives you this ‘art map’ that states ‘Roppongi Art Triangle’ museums- Suntory Museum of Art, The National Art Center, Tokyo, and Mori Art Museum. I also visited 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT, which is fairly easy to reach from either Suntory or NAC by walking. See following for the short brief descriptions and personal impressions of the museums that I visited in Tokyo.

Name of Museum

  1. Architect
  2. Museum concept
  3. Location
  4. Current exhibition

Suntory Museum of Art

  1.  Kengo Kuma
  2.  ‘Japanese Modernism’ absorbing traditional and contemporary Japanese elements
  3.  Tokyo Midtown
  4.  “With the exceptional support from the Musée d´Orsay, Emile Gallé, 170th anniversary”

Suntory Museum of Art is located in the Tokyo Midtown Galleria. Seen from the distance, it was difficult to have a realization of the scale of the museum due to the portrayed entrance just like a typical shop entrance in a shopping mall. I could not take photos inside the exhibition spaces for this specific exhibition. Despite the slight sadness, I walked down the stairs and immediately I was captivated by the full senior crowd with the great concentration and their exhibition attitude towards each and every displayed work. The unique soothing atmosphere, created by the use of Japanese interior materials and its sunlight-controlling system also inspired by Japanese traditional window design, ‘musougoushi,’ is captured by the calmness and silence that dominate the entire spaces.

The National Art Center, Tokyo

  1.  Kisho Kurokawa
  2.  The ‘empty museum’ periodically filled with temporary ‘traveling exhibitions’ consisting of wavy glass facade and massive inverted concrete cones.
  3.  Tokyo Midtown
  4.  “Renoir. Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie

The facade of the museum already gave me the impression of the museum possessing prospective functions and changes that would offer inspiration and creative thinking to visitors. The organic undulating curvature reminds me of Zaha Hadid, but in glass. Moreover, the new museum with zero permanent collection in this massive, possibly the largest exhibition site in Japan, was attractive to me. No entrance fee, very public to the visitors, advocating a true open art museum in Japan. The only thing that distracted me to be completely honest with you was the independent structure with a circular roof just for keeping umbrellas that situated just in front of the greatest architecture you will see. (yet, I totally understand the true intention) So, I passed by the entrance and then the first thing I realized was where did all these people come from. No, I realized that at the moment, I wished myself to be scaled up or to have temporary wings to capture the comprehensive architectural design and its diverse material textures from the various perspectives at a glance. The whole atmosphere of the space contains ambiguity despite understanding the exact role of each space. The most curious feature of the museum space is its exposed restaurant and cafe area on the inverted concrete cones located in the middle of the massive space. The exhibition spaces are not much different from the other typical museums.


  1.  Tadao Ando 
  2.  The concept derived from ‘20/20 vision’ describing a perfect sight in English, aiming for the place of design origination that penetrates the advanced future, having a symbolic building roof of ‘one sheet of folded steel’ that devised from the exhibition director and designer Issey Miyake’s clothing design concept of ‘a piece of cloth.’
  3.  Tokyo Midtown
  4.  “DOBOKU: Civil Engineering”

Exposed concrete wall, the light entering through the openings. When viewed from the outside, I was again difficult to measure the size of the museum because the museum is constructed as a low-rise building with one ground floor and one underground floor. As I walked down the rectangular concrete stairs, I finally could grasp the volume of the space. The delicately built flow diagram and its direction with the constant size changes of the spaces have maximized the texture of the entire spaces with the surrounding concrete materials.

Mori Art Museum

  1.  Richard Gluckman
  2.  The entrance formed by the swirling glass structure of the ‘museum cone’ introducing the museum motto of ‘the nearest art museum to sky’ that is based on the exhibition ideology of ‘modernity and internationalism’ to meet the world’s radical art, architecture, and design, mainly holding temporary international contemporary art on the top floors of the 53-story Roppongi Hills Mori Tower.
  3.  Roppongi Hills, Tokyo
  4.  “The Universe and Art: Princess Kaguya, Leonardo da Vinci, teamLab”

The overall impression of Mori Art Museum, founded by the real estate developer Minoru Mori, is that it works simultaneously as a pure gathering place and art center. There is no question that the advantage of its location at the heart of Roppongi Hills with the given experience at Tokyo City View and the establishment of the museum under ‘art and life’ philosophy of the founder have mutually boosted the area and most importantly tourism. The space itself was full of energy, but also quite complicated, occupied by a LOT of people.

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