Confronting the Tower of the Sun!

Exhibition Period: October 28 , 2015 - February 28 , 2016

Let’s make the most of this, the greatest roof in the world. That was what I thought as I looked at a model of the vast horizontal line created by this structure and I felt an overpowering impulse to smash through it. I wanted to challenge the graceful plain surface of the vast roof with something absurd.

‘The Tower of the Sun’ is not an ‘ordinary sculpture’, the kind that can travel around as an exhibit in art museums.
Seventy meters tall, it has an overpowering sense of presence, its interior contained a dense exhibition space, the process of its erection resembled construction and it failed to conform to the norms of sculpture in every way. However, its most prominent difference was that it ‘had a rival’.
That was the ‘great roof’ that had entered the ring first.
When Tarō Okamoto first began to plan his concept for the theme pavilion, the great roof had already been decided upon as one of the main features of the Expo’s lineup. This great roof, which was patterned on a high-rise city, symbolized the philosophy of the Expo, which was to present the culmination of modernism. Tarō destroyed this by introducing the opposite extreme; he created an air hole in the optimistic modernism that enveloped the Expo.
Half a century has passed since then and the Tower of the Sun, that was built to confront the great roof, now stands alone. However, what kind of structure or space could there be that is capable of confronting the Tower of the Sun? This is something we would like to ask young, talented people.
We are pleased to say that when we held an idea competition, we received one hundred and fifty entries that were judged by a talented panel consisting of Tarō Igarashi, Noi Sawaragi and Sou Fujimoto.
This exhibition will present all the works that were accepted and during its course, at the end of November, the final winner will be selected. We hope that you will enjoy this duel with the Tower of the Sun.

The ‘Trees’ of Taro Okamoto

Exhibition Period: June 17 - October 25 , 2015

I always think of trees as being the opposite of stone. A quiet, yet persistent battle is being waged between the inorganic and organic, the worlds of death and life. Stone bites but plants grow and continue to overthrow stone. Destruction and completion, balance and collapse, solace and terror.

Taro Okamoto felt a great affinity with ‘trees’. The sight of them reaching up to the heavens made him aware of the dynamism of life. He superimposed human ideals on the youthful spreading of their limbs and felt they represented a circuit through which people could commune with heaven.
That is why trees appear so often in Okamoto’s work.
The ‘Tree of Life’ which encompasses all forms of life, from single-cell organisms to humankind; ‘Tree Man’ presents a strange life form filled with vitality; the ‘Tree of Children’ shows various expressions on children’s faces that stretch out in all directions; ‘Tree Spirit’ which graphically reflects a primeval, magical power; the ‘Tree of Eyes’ bears bunches of countless eyes; the ‘Stone and Tree’ depicts confrontation and conflict between life and death…
For an artist like Taro Okamoto, who continually depicted ‘life’ in his work, ‘trees’ represented a critically important motif and this exhibition will introduce various examples of these ‘trees’ that were so common in his work.

Taro Okamoto’s ‘Life Forms’

Exhibition Period: February 18 - June 14 , 2015

Overall, the ‘Tree of Life’ Forms a Single ‘Life Form’

When he was planning the ‘Tower of the Sun’, Taro decided to build the ‘Tree of Life’ within it. A single life form composed of all living things, from amoeba to humankind. That was the ‘Tree of Life’. It formed the arteries and lymph flow that imbued the ‘Tower of the Sun’ with life.
What Taro was trying to express through the ‘Tree of Life’ was the ‘energy’ that is the source of vitality in all living beings and I think that this was a constant theme underlying all Okamoto’s art.
A Parisian street corner, a bowl of fruit, a reclining nude…these were all subjects that the western-style painters of the time liked to depict, but Taro never painted a single one. What he continued to paint was life and the grandeur of the energy that resides within it.
This exhibition will present an opportunity to see all the various examples of the ‘life’ that Taro painted. We hope that you will enjoy these ‘creatures’ that talk to us, sometimes impetuously, sometimes humorously.
In addition, during this exhibition we will also be presenting a special opportunity to see ‘KYUN-CHOME’, winner of the Taro Okamoto Award and ‘saeborg’, winner of the Toshiko Okamoto Award in the 17th Taro Okamoto Award for Contemporary Art. We hope you will enjoy both of these.

The‘Words’of Taro Okamoto

Exhibition Period: October 1 , 2014 - February 15 , 2015

During the course of his life, Taro Okamoto published a huge number of books and other writings. It is probably true to say that there has never been another artist who devoted so much enthusiasm to words.
Traditions, culture, the Jomon period, Okinawa, Mexico, skiing, the subtleties of men and women..... From serious discourses on art to witty essays, his writings covered a wide range of subjects but ultimately they all dealt with the serious question of “how people should live”.
‘Remain true to yourself, never hesitate to fight, adhere to your own philosophy, gamble on the negative.....’
Throughout his life, Taro continued to issue declarations on the subject of “how people should live”. Of course these were not mere theories or commentaries, rather he simply stated ‘this is what I would do’. The amazing thing about Taro is that he practiced everything he preached. He presented the lifestyle he believed in to the public unreservedly, embodying it in his own life.
He said what he thought and did what he said. Consistent in word and deed to such a degree that he appeared almost overly naïve.
It was so attractive that it was convincing.
Even today, Taro’s words go straight to the heart, and this is because he only ever spoke the truth. His mind contained only the true essence of things, their roots, and origins. Unselfish, free of all calculation and leaving no alternatives, his purity was extraordinary, his unshakeable conviction possessing an unparalleled strength.
There are no lies in Taro’s words, no cunning calculation, no irresponsible ambiguity. That is why they are so strong.
How would it feel to be enveloped in Taro’s words? It was with this thought in mind that we planned this exhibition.
It is a fact of life that everybody, no matter who, possesses a philosophy to which they want to remain true.
This is what Taro Okamoto said. Now it is our turn.

Taro Okamoto’s ‘Eyes’

Exhibition Period: July 2 - September 28 , 2014

‘The Face is the universe.
Eyes are the holes through which existence and the universe unite.’

Taro Okamoto did not paint still lifes or Mt. Fuji.
What he depicted was ‘life’ itself.
That is why so many of his works feature faces.
This was particularly true in his latter years when all he painted were faces.
Although described as ‘faces’, most of them consist only the eyes.
Glaring eyes, seething with vitality.
Towards the end of his life, Taro Okamoto painted nothing but eyes.
All of these paintings appear extremely rough and unfinished, and none of them can, even flatteringly, be described as great works.
Doubtless, he was not interested in painting them well or achieving a high degree of finish. To the contrary, he may not even have meant them to be seen by others.
Why was it that at a time when he should have been producing works that crowned a glorious career, he devoted himself to these childish paintings, and why should he have chosen eyes as his motif?
This is what we would like to consider, surrounded by these, ‘holes through which existence and the universe unite.’ That is the object of this exhibition.
We hope that you will enjoy coming into contact with all ‘Taro Okamoto’s eyes’, from his paintings to his souvenirs.

‘The Cradle of Creativity―Taro Okamoto's Studio’

Exhibition Period: March 15 - June 30, 2014

In 1954 Taro Okamoto finally realized his wish to open a studio on the site of the family home in Minami Aoyama where he had passed his childhood with his parents.
His objective was to create a base for a new art movement and so he named it the ‘Gendai Geijutsu Kenkyujo’ (Institute of Esthetic Research).
He tried to transmit the ‘spirit of 20th century art’ that he had experienced in Paris to Japan.
The design for the studio was carried out by a close friend from his Paris days, Junzo Sakakura, a leading Japanese architect who had studied under Le Corbusier. The construction was handled by Yutaka Murata who had been the final pupil to study under Le Corbusier. Although working within the restraints of a limited budget, these two architects succeeded in creating an original building perfectly suited to Taro Okamoto.
The completion of the studio allowed Taro to expand the range of his creative activities. Prior to this he had been known as Taro the painter, but inspired by this building, he began to pioneer work in a huge variety of genres, including murals, sculpture, pottery, product design, graphics, photography, etc.
He never moved from this site right up to his death in 1996. The ‘Tower of the Sun’, ‘Myth of Tomorrow’, ‘Tree of Children’… all of these great works were created here. It is a space that can truly be described as the ‘cradle of Okamoto’s aesthetics’
This exhibition will present the studio building and works that symbolize his subsequent creativity. In addition there will be a special corner where visitors can experience the ‘TARO space’. We hope that you will enjoy it.

‘Kayo (Flower Sprites) ― Taro Okamoto’s Literary Illustrations’

Exhibition Period: July 31, 2013 - December 27, 2013

When people hear the name Taro Okamoto, they tend to think of his large-scale works, such as the Tower of the Sun or Myth of Tomorrow, but in actual fact, he also produced numerous cover designs and illustrations for novels. This was particularly true of the years immediately following the Second World War when his work was used in a wide range of media, including books, newspapers and magazines. Returning penniless from prisoner-of-war camp in China he was forced to make a new start and these jobs provided him sufficient income to make a living.

Demobilized in June 1946, it was around November before Taro finally succeeded in finding a studio, situated in the Kaminoge district of Tokyo, where he could begin his creative activities in Japan. From February 1947 he began to produce illustrations for a serial novel that was published in a daily newspaper. This was Ango Sakaguchi’s novel, Kayo that was published in the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper. The series was discontinued unfinished after the 58th installment in May 1947, but all 58 of Taro’s illustrations expressed a tense creativity that was ideally suited Sakaguchi’s work.

This exhibition will be the first time that all the 54 extant illustrations for Kayo will be shown. Their location had long remained unknown, but the Foundation finally managed to obtain them last year. This is the first opportunity to view Taro Okamoto’s world of illustration through such a large number of works and although it presents a slightly different image of Taro, it is undeniably his work. We hope you will enjoy it.

『P A V I L I O N』

Exhibition Period: March 30, 2013 - July 28, 2013

We have never seen Taro or Toshiko,
In order to travel between these facts
We continue back and forth between
The house of memories and the scent of life
And the cemetery
Where death is buried like rubbish and put to rest.

In order to pick up and discard
The superfluities scattered in both

These are the things that pollute the present
But like the motivation to create language
Like the social problems that face those who nod,
They are what nourish art.

That is why we want to tell them not to kill all of these
Nuclear, waste, color, myths, oblivion, centuries, graves, peace, or war
The concept of names like Taro and Chim↑Pom and work
The inevitability of the existence of good or evil numbers or religion or society or ethics
Do not create any of them, that is what we want to say

It is the art that is born from these contradictions
That is the true opinion of being that ultimately knows nothing.
We ask it from the bottom of our hearts

We become
Rubbish, god and stones
We do not know what we want to say,
We just continue to look at bones

Chim↑Pom 2013

‘Excavating Taro’

Exhibition Period: Oct 31, 2012 - March 24, 2013

There are many paintings by Taro Okamoto that have long been lost. Photographs of them exist, but not the works. Records exist of them being entered into exhibitions, but not the actual works. They appear to have disappeared without a trace, as if spirited away.

However, they have not ‘disappeared’. Recent research has uncovered various facts. The majority of them were overpainted by Taro himself. This was not done merely to alter or correct the image, he changed them to such an extent that they took on a totally different appearance and could no longer be recognized.

Many of his valuable early works from the 1940s and 1950s were lost in this way. Moreover, the works that resulted from this overpainting were all roughly done and poorly finished. They can honestly only be described as being poor paintings. I wish they had been left as they were. That is my honest opinion. But why would Taro do such a thing?
The missing works share no commonality and there is no obvious reason for them to have been destroyed. After all, he had been proud enough of them to enter them into exhibitions. No matter how hard I think about it, I cannot understand his motive.

One thing we know for certain is the fact that these valuable works of Taro’s are buried in front of our eyes. I want to see them with my own eyes. It is a simple wish, to dig up a work that is buried underground and expose it to the sun once more. That is a true excavation.

Of course, they could be recreated from the original photographs using computer graphics. However, the results would lack presence, and fail to transmit the true atmosphere of the work. I want to see oil paintings as oil paintings. To this end, I have chosen five of the missing works and painted them afresh, using oils.

Some people may criticize my actions, saying that I should not be allowed to selfishly expose these works that the artist had chosen to hide, but I am prepared for this.

‘Once an artist has sent his work out into the world, it no longer belongs to him. It belongs to everybody.’ This is something that Okamoto himself said numerous times.

Through contact with ‘our works’ that have long been lost, I hope to be able to draw slightly closer to the true image of Taro Okamoto. It was with this ambition that I created this exhibition.

‘Taro Okamoto―Playing with Textiles’

Exhibition Period: June 27, 2012 - October 28, 2012

In 1951 Taro coated one hand in bright red paint then pressed it on the left breast of a beautiful fashion model. In this way, a white evening dress became decorated with successive handprints, one after the other. The dress was transformed from a practical object into art. It was the moment when Okamoto art met design.

In this way, Taro became interested in textiles and continued to play with fabric from that time on. Long-sleeved kimono, obi, yukata kimono, scarves, handkerchiefs, ties…even carpets and carp streamers, he reached out to a wide variety of textile objects, steadily enlarging the range of his design.

‘The age when art was confined to picture frames is past. Art must become part of the living environment. We need to move away from the restraints of stereotypes or formality and exercise a free, brightly-colored imagination. I want people to introduce this joy into their lives.’

In this exhibition we want you to see Taro playing with textiles. Art is not something that should be placed in a frame and worshiped. It should be allowed to exist in ordinary, everyday life. If you see this exhibition, you will understand Taro’s outlook on art.

Concurrent Exhibition:
‘Work by the winners of the 15th Okamoto Taro Memorial Award for Contemporary Art’
During this period new works by Kazumasa Chiba, winner of the ‘Taro Okamoto Prize’, and Kotaro Sekiguchi, winner of the ‘Toshiko Okamoto Prize’ in the ‘15th Okamoto Taro Memorial Award for Contemporary Art’, will also be shown. We hope that you will enjoy these, too.

‘Fifty Years of Taro Okamoto’

Exhibition Period: February 29, 2012 - June 24, 2012

Returning from prisoner-of-war camp in China in June 1946, Taro Okamoto set up a studio in the Kaminoge district of Tokyo in November of the same year and prepared to resume his career. For the next fifty years, until his death in 1996, he never paused in his creative activities.

More than one hundred years have passed since his birth and we have moved into a new century, but we wanted to create a direct experience of Taro Okamoto’s fifty years of creativity. That was the motive behind this exhibition. Starting with his monumental Lightning Bolt (1947), that is thought to be his first major work of the postwar years, to his final work, Thunder Man (1996) that he created immediately prior to his death, we will present an overview of the path his career took through his paintings.

What changed over this period of fifty years and what remained the same? Everybody is sure to make their own discoveries.

We will also present a video, entitled ‘Taro Okamoto’ that contains a wealth of valuable information on the artist. This video was created specially for the museum, and a single screening of it was presented at last October’s ‘Roll Over TARO’ event, which was held to celebrate Taro’s one hundredth birthday.