Marcel Duchamp and Japanese Traditional Arts and Crafts

Updated: Dec 10, 2018


Marcel Duchamp and Japanese Art

Marcel Duchamp and Japanese Art:

Collaborative Exhibition Project between the Tokyo National Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Heiseikan Special Exhibition Gallery 1 & 2

October 2 - December 9, 2018


After Tokyo show, this exhibition will travel National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, Korea, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia in 2018-2019 Announcement of Philadelphia Museum of Art

This exhibition project, an exchange between the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the USA and the Tokyo National Museum, explores the meaning of Japanese art and the aesthetic values it embodies. It also proposes new ways of appreciating the beauty of Japanese art before modern eras, which was created within a society very different from that of the West, by contrasting it with the achievements of the French-American artist Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), who challenged the values of Western art much later.
It seems that now, approximately 150 years after the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the aesthetic values and spirit originally found in Japan are disappearing from the hearts of contemporary Japanese, and that many of them, when visiting museums, view Japanese paintings as they would works by Western artists such as Van Gogh or Monet. By becoming familiar with the traditional aesthetics nurtured in Japan, however, one can begin to appreciate the beauty of Japanese art on a deeper level.
This project will enconrage visitors to take a fresh look at Japanese art by presenting two exhibitions together. One is The Essential Duchamp, organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which will introduce the creative activities of a figure now widely seen as the "father of contemporary art" by showcasing Philadelphia’s definitive collection of his works. The other is Rediscovering Japan through Duchamp, and consists of Japanese art in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum.
Duchamp challenged the values of traditional Western art by exhibiting mass-produced industrial products as “art.” 400 years earlier in Japan, a tea master Sen no Rikyu (1522–91) found beauty in simple dishes or bowls made for everyday use. This is just one example of unexpected congruity between the fruit of Duchamp’s creative pursuits, which comprised the creation of new artistic values, and the traditional aesthetics qualities of Japan.
While exploring in an accessible manner Duchamp’s creative pursuits together with his life, this ambitious exhibition project will also highlight the unique qualities of Japanese aesthetics, such as finding beauty in everyday implements and attributing value to deformed and distorted forms, as seen in the art of the Momoyama period around the late 16th century. It is our sincere hope that even art lovers whose major interest may not be traditional Japan will be inspired by the aesthetics of Japanese art through the "essential Duchamp".

special site of the exhibition Tokyo National Museum


Timothy Rub,CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art


Matthew Affron, the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art