‘Kenji Yanobe: Sun Child―Taro’s Child’

Exhibition Period: October 28, 2011 - February 26, 2012

For this, the final exhibition at the Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum to celebrate Taro’s 100th birthday, we have invited the artist, Kenji Yanobe, a leader of the Japanese contemporary art scene, to participate.

Yanobe grew up in Osaka where as a child he played on the site of the Osaka World Expo ‘70, becoming aware of Taro Okamoto from an early age. Starting with his video work, Taiyo-no-to nottori keikaku (Plan to hijack the Tower of the Sun), this artist has often challenged Taro head-on.

This Yanabe will venture into the museum with his new large-scale work, Sun Child, created specially for this exhibition. It is sure to cause a seismic tremor.

This promises to create a stimulating experience, with a leading young talent producing an innovative concept through which to confront Taro.

Please come and enjoy this exciting experience, one that is most appropriate for Taro’s 100th birthday.

‘Another Taro’

Exhibition Period: June 29, 2011 - October 23, 2011

The general image of Taro Okamoto’s work can be summed up as being: highly abstract forms with intense coloring employing primary colors. No nudes and no still-lifes. Most people believe that Taro Okamoto did not produce any realistic paintings.

Naturally, I thought the same myself. Apart from a few exceptions, such as works he produced during the war or death masks of relatives and friends, there are no realistic images by Taro. That is what I used to believe, in fact, even Toshiko Okamoto once stated that, ‘there are no self-portraits of Taro Okamoto’.

However, last year some amazing sketches came to light. They clearly date from the Kaminoge studio days and two of them feature Taro and Toshiko. This is doubtless the only self-portrait of him, drawn sixty years ago, and even Toshiko had forgotten about its existence. There is also a picture of a Toshiko that according to the people who knew her best, is the image of her when she was young, executed with amazing expressive skill. Both of them are the exact opposite of the usual image of his work, in that they display a quiet, gentle likeness.

This exhibition will present all the known lifelike pictures reproducing the expressions of people who were close to Taro. They are not pictures that were meant to be shown to the public.

Here you can find another Taro, one we did not know existed. However, there can be no doubt that it is still Taro.

Concurrent Exhibition:
‘Works by the winners of the 14th Okamoto Taro Memorial Award for Contemporary Art’

During this period new works by OLTA, winner of the ‘Taro Okamoto Prize’, and Toshitaka Machizuki, winner of the ‘Toshiko Okamoto Prize’ in the ‘14th Okamoto Taro Memorial Award for Contemporary Art’, will also be shown. We hope that you will enjoy these, too.

‘Tree of Life’

Exhibition Period: February 23, 2011 - June 26, 2011

When Taro Okamoto agreed to become Theme Producer for the Osaka World Expo, he said ‘No!’ to progressivism, piercing the roof of the pavilion with the Tower of the Sun, and inside this womb he developed the concept of a dynamic microcosm. This was the Tree of Life.

As it wound upwards, this single tree was packed with 300 varieties of living being, from monads to mankind, illustrating the process of evolution.

This period of life, that continues all the way from the subterranean to the sky. The development and transformation of life that has continued busily from its beginnings. The dignity and dynamism of life that rises up from its roots towards the future.

It was a peerless piece of art that only Taro Okamoto could create.

Unfortunately, however, after the Expo it was removed and it can no longer be seen today.

However, as this year marks the 100th anniversary of Taro’s birth, we have decided to have the Tree of Life re-created.

The work was handled by Kaiyodo, a champion of the figurine world.

We hope that you will come and see for yourself, this forty-year-old monument that only exists now in photographs. You are certain to make a new discovery.

‘Garbled Characters ― A Challenge from Calligrapher Koji Kakinuma’

Exhibition Period: November 3, 2010 - February 20, 2011

Young people today are calling for Taro Okamoto
Trapped within a stifling sense of stagnation, his honest way of life appears dazzling.

However, Taro Okamoto is not somebody to be copied or worshipped.
It is not the job of those left behind to look after his grave.
It would not please Taro or Toshiko Okamoto for them to do so.

There is only one thing to do.
That is to confront him head on.

Happily, there is an artist who is willing to challenge Taro.
That is the spirited young calligrapher, Koji Kakinuma.
He is prepared for the worst!

So, what kind of battle will it be…?
Why don’t you come and check out the battle at a ringside seat.

‘Taro in the Streets’

Exhibition Period: June 30, 2010 - October 31, 2010

What is the point of painting pictures only for them to be bought by rich people and locked away like money in the bank?

Art is for the masses. This is the basic philosophy that underlies Taro Okamoto’s art.

The reason why he did not sell his paintings, why he ignored the protests of those around him to produce giveaways for a whisky company, is because he believed that art should be set free among the daily lives of the people.
For this reason, public art, that can be seen anytime, by anyone, for free, provided Taro with the ideal stage.

The Tower of the Sun, Tree of Children, Young Clock Tower, Pride, Jomon People… Taro Okamoto produced numerous works to be displayed in public spaces throughout the country. These can still be found in locations stretching from the Tohoku region in the north to Kyushu in the south, continuing to challenge all those who see them. It is unlikely that there is another artist, anywhere, who has produced so much public art.

This exhibition will introduce the varied public art that Taro Okamoto set free on the city streets. They are a bit different to the art seen in museums, and we hope that you will enjoy this ‘Taro in the Streets’.

Concurrent Exhibition:
A new work by the winner of the ‘Toshiko Okamoto Prize’ in the 13th Okamoto Taro Memorial Award for Contemporary Art will also make an appearance. We hope that you will enjoy this too.

‘The Eye of Taro Okamoto’

Exhibition Period: March 3, 2010 - June 27, 2010

They are not photographs. They are Taro Okamoto’s eye. They are what he saw, and provide us with an image of the man that was Taro Okamoto.

‘They have an solid sense of presence, a figurative power of form. The timing is so perfect that they make a mockery of the term ‘crucial moment’ that is so often used in connection with photography. They truly represent a single moment, the glimpse of a firework, purity.’ (Toshiko Okamoto)

From the 1950s to 1960s Taro hung several cameras around his neck as he traveled around Japan, taking a huge number of photographs. These were not just records of things that he made as an alternative to sketching, but neither were they created as ‘works’. He was simply moved by things that he saw and devoted himself to photographing them.

The things that Okamoto’s gaze captured have become fixed, and can truly be described as ‘the eye of Taro Okamoto’. They are engraved with the atmosphere of primordial Japan and represent a valuable record that can never be reproduced.

This exhibition will introduce the variety of photographs taken by Taro Okamoto, and we hope that you will come to experience the ‘Taro’s gaze.’

‘Taro Okamoto’s “Living Things”’

Exhibition Period: October 28, 2009 - February 28, 2010

‘Not human. Not animal
Living things that can only be said to belong to a wonderworld.
This strange ‘life’ draws close to us in a vivid manner.
Is this Taro Okamoto? Or is it something from another world that he is observing?
―Whichever it may be, it is alive!’

This is something that Toshiko Okamoto once said.
All the various ‘living things’ that appear in Taro’s work.
These may well be Taro Okamoto’s self-portraits.

This exhibition gathers together all these ‘living things’ in one place. It becomes a space in which goggling eyes appear to float, allowing you to experience the dynamism of the ‘life’ that Taro creates.

Simultaneously, we will present, for the first time, a ‘rare’ symbol mark that Taro designed for the Kintetsu Buffalos baseball team but which was lost for a long time. With its humorous expression, it is a quite different design to the well-known version that was ultimately adopted. It has been locked away for fifty years, but is now finally making its debut.

During this exhibition, works by Kurumi Wakaki, who won the ‘Taro Okamoto Prize’, and Yukie Osa, who won the ‘Toshiko Okamoto Prize’, in the 12th Okamoto Taro Memorial Award for Contemporary Art will also be shown. We hope that you will look forward to seeing these too.

‘The Wellspring of Images’

Exhibition Period: July 1, 2009 - October 25, 2009

First comes the impulse to express ‘something like this’. Next is the enthusiasm to put it into concrete form. It starts with a quick sketch, created to drag it out of the imagination and into the real world as quickly as possible.

This was the process employed by Taro Okamoto in his work.

He produced numerous sketches of the images that rose up in his mind until he was able to grasp them accurately. He repeatedly asked himself if the result was consistent with the original image. He never produced a work based solely on a fleeting thought.

He would say ‘I want to draw something like this’. Looking at the vast collection of esquisses that Taro left behind, is to see graphic images of the impulses that drove him.

This exhibition will provide the opportunity to view all kinds of esquisse―designs, dessins and sketches, allowing the viewer to experience Taro Okamoto’s creative processes firsthand.

We hope you will enjoy the work of this ‘other Taro’ that possesses a different aura to that of his finished works.

‘Tracing 40 Years of “Myth of Tomorrow”’

Exhibition Period: February 25, 2009 - June 28, 2009

In November, 2008, the Myth of Tomorrow was unveiled at its final resting place in Shibuya, forty years after it was first completed in Mexico.

It has been five years since the miraculous reunion of Toshiko Okamoto with this work, that had been abandoned in a pitiful state.

Long having been tossed by the vicissitudes of fortune, the Myth of Tomorrow has now finally been reborn through the combined efforts of numerous people and returned to its original colors.

The Myth of Tomorrow, is filled with a great deal of enthusiasm and dedication, and was brought back to life through the unstinting application of highly-skilled restoration techniques.

The Myth of Tomorrow now on display in Shibuya was created by all of us after Taro and Toshiko passed on the baton.

This exhibition will focus on the process of restoration, while also looking back over the forty years of its history, from the first sketches to its installation in Shibuya. It will also present related works, such as the sketches produced for another mural, Myth of Fertility, that was planned to be housed in the same hotel, thereby tracing the entire story of the Myth of Tomorrow.

‘Taro Okamoto’s “Characters at Play”’

Exhibition Period: December 3, 2008 - February 22, 2009

‘Basically, writing and painting are the same thing. Even without tracing the origins and transformations of pictographs, unconscious play with writing will naturally result in the creation of a painting. The result is ‘characters at play’. The joy of life springs up within it. It is truly art.’ Taro Okamoto

Taro Okamoto produced a huge quantity of calligraphy. It was quite unique, part picture, part painting, and demonstrated the true value of Okamoto’s art. It can certainly be considered one of the representative genres of Okamoto’s art.

Taro’s attitude towards writing was one of ‘play’. That is why he called it called ‘characters at play’.

This exhibition is the first time that the original artwork for his 1981 book Asobu Ji (Characters at Play) has been shown. We hope that you will come and experience this world of Taro Okamoto’s play, that differs from that of his paintings and sculpture.

From January 14, 2009 (Wednesday) we will also be presenting new work by Junpei Ueda, winner of the ‘Toshiko Okamoto Prize’ in the 11th Okamoto Taro Memorial Award for Contemporary Art and we hope that you enjoy this too.

‘The Hands of Taro Okamoto’

Exhibition Period: September 3, 2008 - November 30, 2008

‘I want to be able to comprehend the world through these eyes. To look with my eyes and touch with my hands.
I will penetrate everything violently and hurl myself into it.
I want to grasp a broad and positive image of humanity with my whole body.’

Taro Okamoto produced lots of works using the motif of the ‘hand’.
Not restricted to painting, but also sculpture, furniture, products…he repeatedly depicted hands in a variety of expressional fields.
For Taro, the hand, together with the ‘eye’, was an important tool through which to perceive the world, perhaps it was a window that connected the world to himself.
He trusted the sensations of his hand, and treasured them.

‘Absolute beauty, consisting simply of lines and color to create a purely visual painting is barren.
We need something ‘palpable’, something with a feeling of reality to collide with objectively in our daily lives.’

In this exhibition we will present an overview of his works that use hands, feet or eyes as their motif.
We hope that you will be able to share Taro’s sensitivity that made him wish to comprehend the world.

10th Anniversary of the Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum
‘“Tower of the Sun” ― Gambling on the World Expo’

Exhibition Period: April 23, 2008 - August 31, 2008

In order to celebrate its 10th Anniversary, the Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum will present the Tower of the Sun ― Gambling on the World Expo’ exhibition. The Tower of the Sun, the monument which symbolized Japan’s 1970 World Expo, housed an exhibition on the theme of ‘Progress and Harmony for Mankind’ that was Taro Okamoto’s greatest sculpture. At this Exposition, in which the world’s leading architects competed to create the most modernist designs for their pavilions, Taro announced that he was going to ‘produce something outlandish’, the result being this tower that surpassed race, nationality and language to become a ‘festival’ of mankind. The interior contained a work entitled Tree of Life, which traced the evolution of life, the exhibits being divided into past, present and future, demonstrating that ever since life first appeared on Earth, its basic energy burst up through the present and into the future, offering a eulogy to life, on a vast scale. It can be said that its forms and visual display summed up Taro Okamoto’s artistic ideology and philosophy.

In addition to screening a contemporary film of the Expo that presents a comprehensive view of the Tower of the Sun, this exhibition will also show a documentary featuring recently discovered early sketches together with Taro Okamoto’s comments on the subject. Please experience for yourself Okamoto’s own thoughts as he devoted himself to the Expo.

‘MAYA MAXX’s Sayonara’

Open Studio: January 17-27, 2008
Exhibition Period: January 17 2008 - April 20, 2008

At long last, MAYA MAXX has finally set out on an endless journey. She has discarded everything she achieved up until now and set out afresh on a world trip, taking with her only a single cardboard box.
She is going to be MAYA MAXX until the day she dies. She will remain MAYA MAXX to the end. This is what she has undoubtedly resolved to do.

Hearing her, I felt that she resembled Taro. I recall Toshiko reminiscing with a smile, ‘Taro was not born Taro. He made his decision, prepared himself for the worst and became Taro,’.
‘It’s not my intention to create paintings that Taro would approve of. I just want to become the kind of person that Taro would not reproach,’ MAYA MAXX says.

I wanted her to confront Taro then send her out into the world from there.
She has responded to my request. This is not a ‘Solo Exhibition’. All the works to be put on exhibit will be painted here in front of our eyes.

We hope that you will come and experience MAYA MAXX’s spirit. We invite you to be attend a special moment that will never be repeated.

Let’s all drink to MAYA MAXX!