Art museum offers genuine Tokyo experience
July 29, 2007
As I entered The National Art Center, Tokyo, I noticed more and more of them. Not the various paintings, but the elderly Japanese women with various colors of hair.
Some sported purple ’dos. Others, shades of red.
And these colorful ladies were on a mission: To check out an exhibit on Monet loaned from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
As was I.
The exhibit, now closed, featured impressionist and abstract paintings, and it was packed. So busy, in fact, that I waited 10 minutes to get in.
Once inside the exhibit, featuring works by Monet and artists he influenced, memories of my 10th-grade art class kicked in. I actually recognized what I was looking at before I was within 10 feet of the paintings.
But before I could get that close, there was a battle for space. I was swarmed by locals trying to wedge themselves in for a peek at these paintings. A majority of the viewers were older Japanese women in groups, or with husbands in tow.
Among them were the women who looked like they were ensnared in a tragic Easter-egg coloring accident. All I can say is, beware of the purple hair.
At 6 feet tall and just over 200 pounds, I am a large man. But, I got kicked around by these women. I got more elbows and back checks in my hour at the National Art Center than I did playing hockey the week before.
But the exhibit was amazing, especially the pieces from abstract expressionists Jackson Pollack and Mark Rothko. It was like reading an art history book without turning the pages.
After my trip through the gantlet of brushstrokes and purple hair, I found myself enjoying a nice latte at the museum’s cafe, built on a pillar that offers a futuristic feel.
That feeling — and the visit in general — contained everything I think of as quintessentially Tokyo: Great art, dense crowds and, yes, purple-haired ladies.
Mori Art MuseumBut there was more art in store for me that day. Next, I ventured to the Mori Art Museum atop Roppongi Hills’ Mori Tower.
Mori has numerous exhibits, everything from movie art and comic books to traditional paintings. Each exhibit has an admission price of 1,500 yen per person.
I was interested in an exhibit on designs and art from the early 1900s, which included videos and models of houses of that period.
Unlike the recently opened National Art Center just down the street, the Mori museum was not cramped, and I breezed through the exhibit.
But the main attraction was the windows, included in the price of admission to an exhibit.
One of the tallest buildings in Tokyo, Mori Tower is centrally located on a hill, and the observation floor provides a breathtaking view of the city on a clear day.