Experience Japanese Art Online

From virtual tours to social media, Tokyo museums and galleries are using alternative ways to reach audiences. Browse and buy Japanese art from home.

In Features by Jennifer Pastore 2020-03-27

The past month has seen temporary closures at many Tokyo museums. With social distancing encouraged and travel restrictions put in place amid the spread of the coronavirus, art spaces in Japan are going online to showcase their collections. Here are some ways to experience art at Japanese museums and galleries without leaving your home.

Google Street View
Google Arts & Culture lets you take virtual tours of Japanese museums with its Street View feature. Click your way through rooms at institutions such as Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, and the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo.

Tokyo National Museum

Apps and Websites
Art world players are creating their own apps and media to promote art online. The National Art Center, Tokyo has unveiled Conic, a soon-to-be multilingual app dedicated to the museum’s architecture. Download it to your smartphone to enjoy photos with descriptions of the museum’s points of interest and take tours around the stunning modernist glass building.

Niconico Art Museum streams live broadcasts and posts recordings from museum tours guided by art experts. Currently you can watch videos from the following exhibitions:

Peter Doig at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Dreamed Childhoods – Bonnard, the Nabis, and Childhood at Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum
Japanese Bamboo Art From New York: The Abbey Collection at The Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka
The collection of the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum
Commentary for these tours is in Japanese, but the sound and comments can be turned off.

Art Fair Tokyo, Japan’s largest international art fair, was scheduled for March 19th through March 22nd but unfortunately cancelled due to the coronavirus. You can still browse and even purchase works from the fair, however, thanks to the online “gallery and mall” AFT Art Hunting. Around 70 galleries and art merchants are represented, with more than 300 artworks from antiques to contemporary art on display and for sale. The site is open through May 9.

The art journal Bijutsutecho is doing something similar with its website Oil by Bijutsutecho. Oil lets users view and purchase from a selection of some 700 artworks at around 50 galleries. Its focus is on contemporary art.

AFT Art Hunting

Social Media
Of course, you can count on Japan’s museums and galleries to leverage social media while their doors are shut. TOP Museum, Nezu Museum, and Teien Art Museum are among the venues with YouTube channels.

Mori Art Museum is using Instagram IGTV for virtual walkthroughs of its exhibitions (in Japanese). Stars of the Instagram photo stream include teamLAB, Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, and Edo Tokyo Museum.

On Facebook, Tokyo Station Gallery, Panasonic Shiodome Museum of Art, and Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery have posts on their most recent exhibitions.

Finally, on Twitter, Ota Memorial Museum of Art is gifting the internet with photos from its extensive Ukiyo-e collection. This museum has a popular knack for showcasing the animals, kaiju, and other colorful characters that appear in its prints.

Ota Memorial Museum of Art Twitter account

Whether you’re just looking or looking to purchase, the online experience may not compare to seeing works of art in person, but it will have to tide us over for now. Stay healthy and don’t forget to feast your eyes on beauty every once in a while.

Jennifer Pastore

Jennifer Pastore. Jennifer Pastore is Tokyo Art Beat's editor. » See other writings


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