Araki scrap

In 1993 Setagaya Art Museum held an exhibition of work by Kuwabara Kineo and Araki Nobuyoshi titled ラブ・ユー・トーキョー (Love you Tokyo). The museum has been acquiring work by Araki since. It’s closed (for nine months, until the end of March), and a two-stage exhibition of post–Love you Araki acquisitions is running at what TAB calls the Miyamoto Saburo Memorial Museum.

The museum is actually Miyamoto Saburō kinen bijutsukan (宮本三郎記念美術館). I don’t know what its true English name is, if it even has one: the building itself only carries a Japanese name and the only words on its website that aren’t in Japanese seem to be “PDF” and “Acrobat Reader”. Anyway the museum is between Okusawa station (Meguro line), Den’enchōfu station (Meguro and Tōyoko lines), Kuhonbutsu (Ōimachi line), and Jiyūgaoka station (Ōimachi and Tōyoko lines). Here’s a stylized map (only in Japanese, of course) of how to get there, and for a detailed stylized map (north at the foot!) of how to get there from Jiyūgaoka station, try this PDF (again, only in Japanese, of course).

What you get:

  1. dozens of small prints of photographs of the sex business
  2. some photographs of flowers
  3. some paintings of flowers
  4. some pairs of nudes with townscapes and so forth
  5. three very large scrapbooks of photographs, each open and in a cabinet
  6. three video monitors, each showing the full content of a scrapbook

The flowers are forgettable. The nudes and the photographs that go with them (I think first published in Tokyo Nude, 1989) are interesting, though I could never see how the one photograph helped the other: the pairing seemed pointless. (Actually I feared that there was some banal “point”, such as the contrast between vitality [and sex] versus lifelessness.) They’re good-sized, handsome prints.

Looking in the best direction:

Araki show, October 2011

On the wall, “Tokyo Lucky Hole”. It’s Araki’s mid-’80s exploration of the sex business (first published as a book in 東京ラッキーホール = Tokyo Lucky Hole, 1990). Nothing here is particularly arresting, but they are amusing.

One of Morooka's books of photographs of Ginza -- NOT on showIn the glass case, one of the scrapbooks: “Ginza”, from 1967. The other two are “Satchin to Mābo” (1963) and “Onna” (1965). Each of these scrapbooks seems to collect contrasty prints exhibited earlier in some small show. The “Satchin and Mābo” photographs, of two young boys, are well known: they’ve appeared in books (starting with Satchin, 1994), which are worth looking out for: the museum sells the latest, modestly priced book of these. “Onna” doesn’t really take off. The most interesting to me was Ginza, in which serious or glum people walk around Ginza. Their clothing tends to be either for work or somewhat dowdy, and the girls are on the doughy side — it’s quite a contrast from, say, Morooka Kōji’s portrayal of Ginza. (銀座残像 = Remembrance of Ginza is a collection of these photographs by Morooka.) I’m no expert in Araki’s published output but I haven’t noticed these early photographs of Ginza in any book; surely they merit a book, and some arty publisher could milk the nutball collector trade with a stratospherically priced “limited edition” of a facsimile of the original, which could reasonably be termed an elephant folio.

All in all it’s an odd exhibition. I easily got my ¥200-worth, but the best part was standing in front of a monitor watching a video. I’d rather see each video on a computer, with my cursor ready over a pause button.

The content changes on 14 January, after which I’ll go along again.

I’ve no idea how much all of these acquisitions cost Setagaya-ku, but it’s not obviously an unreasonable use of taxpayers’ money. Setagaya’s museum possesses a lot of good stuff. It has a great quantity by Morooka, for a start. Much of Morooka (師岡宏次)’s published work may be humdrum, but if carefully selected and well reproduced it merits a look: none of his books is satisfying and by contrast the best collection I know of is the twenty or so pages he gets within the excellent 1993 exhibition catalogue モダン東京狂詩曲 = Rhapsody of Modern Tokyo. He’d merit a small show in the refurbished museum. The museum also possesses a number of paintings by Anthony Green, whose work doesn’t seem to have been collected in a major book since the bilingual (Japanese/English) catalogue that accompanied an exhibition that toured Japan (including the Setagaya museum) in 1987–88. Time for an updated retrospective of Anthony Green, Setagaya!


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