Tokyo Art Galleries
By Darren Gore on 11 Sep 2017
Tokyo boasts one of the most vibrant art scenes of any major world city: boldly innovative, often challenging, and always inspiring. But where should art lovers begin checking out what Tokyo has to offer, in a city that is home to literally hundreds of galleries? Here LoveInn Japan gives the lowdown on six must-visit Tokyo exhibition spaces.
Mori Art Museum
The Mori Art Museum, which sits at the top of the Mori Tower dominating the Roppongi skyline, offers consistently compelling exhibitions and is a tourist attraction in its own right, thanks to the stunning views across the city from its 53rd floor location (you can also walk on the tower’s rooftop for an additional fee). Art-wise the Mori focuses mainly on modern art from across the globe, mixing solo shows from such revered names as Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei with group exhibitions embodying some highly original and thought-provoking concepts. Also look out for the giant spider sculpture, by French artist Louise Bourgeois, that flanks the Mori Tower.
Roppongi Hills Mori Tower 53F, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Access: Roppongi station
Open: 10:00~22:00 (Tues 10:00~17:00)
21_21 Design Sight
This gallery devoted to contemporary design in all its forms, from graphics through to product design, is one of Tokyo’s must-see buildings. Architect Tadao Ando, who also designed the landmark Tokyo Skytree, conceived the semi-subterranean construction. As a tribute to the work of legendary Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake (who also helps run 21_21 Design Sight), Ando has given the gallery a stunning steel roof which gives the impression of giant upended triangles rising out of the green grass bordering the Tokyo Midtown complex.
Tokyo Midtown, 9-7-6 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Access: Nogizaka or Roppongi station
Open: 10:00~19:00 (closed Tues)
National Art Center, Tokyo
This striking building (both inside and out) is the very largest art exhibition space in all of Japan and is currently celebrating its tenth anniversary. Instead of amassing a permanent collection, the National Art Center instead concentrates on putting together world-class exhibitions from renowned artists both Japanese and international, including Salvador Dali, Yayoi Kusama, Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso to name but a few.
7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Access: Nogizaka or Roppongi station
Open: 10:00~18:00 (Fri 10:00~20:00; closed Tues)
Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
Photography is a major part of the Japanese art scene, and Ebisu’s Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (also known as the TOP Museum) is the country’s largest gallery devoted exclusively to the medium (including film and multimedia as well as still photography). Having recently undergone a major renovation, the TOP Museum now boasts no less than four gallery spaces, plus a bookshop and a bakery-café run by Daikanyama’s fashionable Maison Ichi. Recent exhibitions have included a show by the notorious Nobuyoshi Araki, one of Japan’s most internationally-successful photographers.
Yebisu Garden Place, 1-13-3 Mita, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Access: Ebisu station
Open: 10:00~18:00 (Thurs & Fri 10:00~20:00; closed Mon)
Hara Museum of Contemporary Art
This is a charming venue at which to get intimate with contemporary art, originally a residential home and drawing architectural influence from the European modernist school of the 1930s. Arcing around a garden dotted with sculptures and conceptual installations, the Hara Museum also houses a terrace café that is among Tokyo’s most pleasant spots for outdoor lunching. Along with frequently changing exhibitions, the museum also displays a small permanent collection including a room decked out by Yoshitomo Nara.
4-7-25 Kita-Shinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo
Access: Shinagawa station
Open: 11:00~17:00 (Weds 11:00~20:00; closed Mon)
Mizuma Art Gallery
This is the smallest gallery on our list, but one that is hugely influential in the Japanese art world. Mizuma represents some of Japan’s foremost contemporary artists, including Makoto Aida whose often-controversial work incorporates elements of both manga and traditional Japanese painting, and any exhibition seen here is guaranteed to be one that makes an impression.
Kagura Bldg. 2F, 3-13 Ichigayatamachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Access: Ichigaya or Iidabashi station
Open: 11:00~19:00 (closed Sun, Mon, public holidays)
Darren came to Japan to study 11 years ago, and never made it back home to the UK. Since then he’s built up a detailed ‘mental map’ of Tokyo by intentionally getting himself lost, and loves taking visiting friends way off the well-beaten tourist track. In his free time Darren can usually be found in the backstreets of Koenji or Asagaya, with camera in one hand and a yakitori stick in the other.