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Opening Up The World Of Modern Art

Making the Exhibition Space Part of the Experience


Courtesy: 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa.

The world of modern art surprises viewers with its novel ideas and modes of expression. Just as modern artwork continues to shatter existing boundaries, there is also growing experimentation in the design of art museums and exhibition spaces. Museums are displaying more hands-on artwork, moving their exhibits to outside venues, and designing their premises to be an integral part of the city outside their walls.

Listen, Feel, Step in to Art
People tend to think of museums and galleries as places to "view" works of art, but more and more facilities are offering visitors the chance to "experience" art. At an exhibition that ran through January 2008 at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo's Roppongi district, for example, works by 36 Japanese modern artists were on display, including pieces by Yotsuya Simon and Ito Gabin. Performance works that couldn't be displayed in the museum were presented on a stage. A club event featuring performances by the artists was also held, enabling guests to physically experience music- and video-based art.


©Leandro ERLICH, The Swimming Pool, 2004.
Collection: 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa.
Courtesy: 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa.

The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa features modern artwork from around the world. Hands-on works of art are located in various places both in and outside the walls of the museum. One such work, entitled "The Swimming Pool," appears as nothing more than a swimming pool of ordinary depth when viewed from above. Proceed downstairs, though, and you'll see an entrance that allows you "inside" the pool. If you look up from here, you can see the faces of other guests staring down at you through the water's surface. This is a fun piece of artwork that lets people interact using water as a medium.

Exit into the museum's spacious grounds and you'll see another work that features 12 tuba-like pipes connected in pairs. By talking through one end of a pipe, you can communicate with the person standing far away at the opposite end; this work of art is a big hit among children.

A Museum at One with the City
The Towada Art Center opened in Towada City, Aomori Prefecture on April 26, 2008. This museum features 22 works of art designed to exist in harmony with the surrounding city, created by 21 of the world's foremost modern artists. One example is Ono Yoko's "Wish Tree." In this hands-on work, strips of white paper called tanzaku are provided to museum guests, on which they can write their wishes and hang them from the apple tree in the center of the exhibit room in the hope that their wish will come true. Apples have always been a significant motif for Ono, but another reason this artwork was selected is Aomori Prefecture's reputation for having the highest production of apples in Japan.


Towada Art Center. ©Towada City

Exhibit rooms were constructed in various shapes and sizes in order to suit the artwork they contain; similarly, museum buildings of varying sizes have been integrated into the surrounding environment. The exhibit rooms were also built facing different directions and employ an open design with large glass windows, allowing the artwork within to be shown to the city outside.

The designer of the Towada Art Center, Nishizawa Ryue, also co-designed the aforementioned 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. This museum, which opened in October 2004, was designed in the shape of a circle without a specific front or rear entrance, allowing the building to be entered at any point, by anyone, at anytime during the opening hours. In addition, glass was used for many of the interior and exterior walls of the museum, making it clear, bright, and open, quite unlike the confined, exclusive air of conventional art museums. (August 2008)