Nurturing culture and art with local citizens ”Yokohama Art Museum”

Nurturing culture and art with local citizens
”Yokohama Art Museum”

Yokohama – Center stage of opening Japan to the world!

Yokohama, Kanagawa is a port city which started the opening of Japan subsequent to the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the United States. In an era where every aspect of culture, such as ice cream, jazz, and fashion was modernizing at great speed, Yokohama was at the center of the movement. The art world was also changing greatly. Many foreign engineers and artists came to Japan on merchant vessels from abroad and introduced new ways of expression.
Yokohama Art Museum, which opened in 1989, features the historic background of the city. Its permanent collection consisting of both western and Japanese art from the late 19th century and contemporary pieces are displayed at this museum. We interviewed Eriko Osaka, Director as we took a tour through the exhibition.
”The portraits currently on display are influenced by western oil paintings. The perspective method also came from abroad. It was a mode of expression that did not exist in Japanese paintings.” You can see how Japanese artists learned from western art while western artists were also influenced by Japanese art. The museum’s permanent exhibit is changed 3 times a year. There are also four special exhibitions each year. The museum introduces new artists when they hold large scale contemporary art exhibitions. (*1: We visited in mid March 2012. For the latest information on exhibits, please refer to the museum’s website.*2: left picture by Yasuyuki Kasagi)

Observing the development of photography

Yokohama has close ties with photography. Photographic techniques were introduced to Japan by Dutch merchant vessels through Nagasaki’s Dejima at the end of the Edo era, but Yokohama is the location of the first photo studio. Yokohama Art Museum focuses on the development and artistic quality of photographic culture, and continues to add to its collection of photographs. Having an exhibition room solely for photographs is quite unique. At the time of our interview, the exhibit was made up of photographs taken 100 years ago at scenic sites within Kanagawa by foreign photographers. They were not just photographs, but pigment was applied on black and white photographs to make them look like colored photographs. Perhaps the photographer wanted to retain the colors of the scenery at time when colored photographs did not exist. The museum retains and exhibits photographs since the founding period of photography to contemporary photographic art pieces, and introduces the appeal of photography to the public.

A comfortable room, an atelier for children

Yokohama Art Museum has another aspect. Nakata had the chance to visit ”Citizen’s Atelier” and ”Children’s Atelier.” Citizens are able to engage in creative activity in ”Citizen’s Atelier,” a comfortable spacious work space surrounded by a high ceiling and white walls. Here, a work facility which would otherwise be difficult to privately own is open for citizens to use for various genres of art, such as print making, painting, sculpture, and ceramics. Assistance from the atelier’s instructors is offered as well as workshops by various artists. ”Children’s Atelier” has a multipurpose space where children can move around energetically, and is also used for various workshops for children.
Junichi Seki, the leader of the Creative Assistance Group told us, ”We opened 23 years ago so people who participated as children now bring their children.” It is important to see art pieces not just passively, but to actually experience art. Yokohama Art Museum is adored by many people as a museum that actively fosters cultural experience.


Yokohama Art Museum
3-4-1 Minatomirai, Nishi-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa