Tokyo Gallery Guide

How to navigate the galleries of the world’s largest city, while you’re there or from your armchair.

In a city as large and ever-changing as Tokyo there’s more galleries and art museums than one could ever cover in a life time. At the same time, this megalopolis hosts some of the most daring and cutting edge exhibitions in the world while also boasting the major art shows worthy of any city of its size. To save you the hassle of poring over countless tour guides and gallery websites to find the exhibition that catches your eye we’ve compiled a tried and tested list of some of the best galleries on offer, catering to all tastes and styles.

Mori Art Museum

This major art gallery would be at the top of almost any guide to Tokyo’s art galleries and it’s at the top of our list because it well deserves that position. On display at this gallery are major installation works from both Japanese and international artists. Expect size and wow-factor at these shows, which is fitting as it is located at the top of the Roppongi Hills development, an ultra-slick luxury complex. Entry to the art museums also includes admittance to Tokyo City View, so come in the late afternoon or early evening (the gallery is open until 10 pm) to make the most of the impressive view over the city skyline.

Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum

While the Mori Art Museum may embody the young slick and wealthy side of Tokyo, the Teien Art Museum showcases the older, more refined, but no less uncultured side of the city. This gallery is encased within the former residence of Prince and Princess Asaka, an art-deco mansion built in the 1930s. As such, the gallery is worth a visit if only for the building itself, which is set in lush, well-manicured Japanese gardens. However, this does not mean the exhibitions themselves should be overlooked. The gallery hosts exhibitions which engage with the current and contemporary dialogue between Japan and the West, which has often taken the form of artistic exchange.

SCAI The Bathhouse

Also encased in a structure worthy of note, SCAI The Bathhouse presents cutting edge visual art in a renovated Japanese bathhouse. Unlike the Mori and Teien art museum’s the space at SCAI is much smaller and the gallery plays host to more avant-garde and understated works, ones that require contemplation and engagement, rather than a simple wow on first sight. This by no means makes the gallery insignificant as it has exhibited works by world-renowned artists such as Lee Ufan and Anish Kapoor.

Hara Contemporary Art Museum

Located in a heritage Bauhaus-inspired building in a leafy quarter of Tokyo, Hara Contemporary Art Museum provides a space for both major seasonal exhibitions as well as an impressive permanent collection. The art displayed at this gallery often makes the most of the structure it is in, utilising nooks and crannies inside for unexpected installation works as well as a small sculpture garden in the space created by the bend of the main building. However, it is worth noting what exhibition is currently on show as this takes up the overwhelming majority of the gallery.

Also worth checking out
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