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Art Gallery Debuts on 52nd Floor of New Skyscraper (December 17, 2003)

Ito Jakuchu (1716-1800), Imaginary Birds and Animals. Edo period, 18th century. Pair of six-fold screens. Ink and color on paper.
Never in Japan's art history has so much fanfare accompanied the opening of an art museum as the launching of the Mori Art Museum on October 18, 2003. Perched on the fifty-second and fifty-third floors of the spectacular new Mori Tower in Tokyo, MAM hovers 250 meters above sea level. With 2,900 square meters of floor space, it is also one of the largest in Asia for contemporary art.

MAM is open until 10 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and until midnight on Sundays, Fridays and Saturdays. Those who visit after dark can enjoy not only paintings, statues, and other objects of art but also the breathtaking nighttime skyline of downtown Tokyo.

The museum is the cultural centerpiece of the Roppongi Hills development project, built around the 54-story Mori Tower and housing movie theaters, a hotel, and over 200 shops and restaurants. Roppongi Hills is a commercial, residential, and cultural complex that has become one of Tokyo's most talked-about attractions. More than 26 million people have flocked there in the first six months after its opening on April 25, 2003.

Museum cone, Mori Art museum

Happiness Is . . .
The inaugural exhibition, called "Happiness: A Survival Guide for Art and Life" (through January 18, 2004), features 250 works by 180 emerging and renowned artists from Europe, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere. Among the highlights are masterpieces by Claude Monet and Henri Matisse, a statue by Jeff Koons, a folding screen by Ito Jakuchu, and video footage of John Lennon taken by Ono Yoko. The exhibit attracted more than 9,000 visitors on opening day.

"Happiness" was co-curated by MAM Director David Elliott—the first non-Japanese museum director in Japan—with Italian guest curator Pier Luigi Tazzi and Yamashita Yuji of Meiji Gakuin University. The works on display were gathered from 150 museums and collections around the world. Preparations took two years, as the co-curators discussed the theme, met with the artists, chose the works to be displayed, and organized the layout.

Beacon of Art
British-born Director David Elliot hopes that MAM will shine out "like a beacon from one of the city's tallest buildings," focusing "not only on contemporary art but also on photography, film, design, media art, fashion and architecture." Elliott was named director of Modern Art Oxford when he was just 27 and later became the director of the Modern Museum in Stockholm and president of the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM).

"We hope to make the Mori Art Museum a leading and world-class cultural center on a par with the Louvre in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York," says Mori Minoru, president and chief executive officer of the Mori Building Company and developer of Roppongi Hills. He and his wife, Yoshiko—the chairperson of the museum board—have been longtime supporters of the arts and have been visiting museums around the world since plans for MAM were first drawn up 15 years ago.

"MAM will not put on prepackaged exhibits or simply display artifacts in its collection," adds Mori Yoshiko. "By developing our own concepts and themes, we can become the source of art trends around the globe."

The ¥1,500 ($13.63 at 110 yen to the dollar) museum admission price includes access to the observation deck on the fifty-second floor. Such revenues will by no means be enough to cover the cost of operating the museum, but through new ventures, such as a tie-up with the Museum of Modern Art in New York, MAM is expected to emerge as an important forum for the contemporary art movement in Japan and the rest of Asia.

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Mori Art Museum
Roppongi Hills

Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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