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Sleeping: Life with Art – From Goya and Rubens to Shiota Chiharu in The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

Sleeping: Life with Art – From Goya and Rubens to Shiota Chiharu is being held at The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. In this exhibition, you may enjoy about 120 wonderful works by 33 artists from all over the world, ancient and modern, on the theme of “sleep” from the collections of National Museum of Art in Japan.
“Sleep” is such a fundamental activity for human beings that you may not have much opportunity to think about it in your daily life. The exhibition consists of seven sections including an introduction and a conclusion, and asks questions from various perspectives, you will have many insights into sleep. It will be an art experience that will make them think again about “living” through “sleep”.

Sleep brings a different perspective from when you are awake.
In “Introduction: Closing Your Eyes”, you will be reminded through the work that sleep begins with closing your eyes and what it means to a person. The children depicted in Rubens’ “Two Sleeping Children” is adorable, but also very vulnerable. From other works by Goya, Redon, and Tsuguharu Fujita, we can also see that closing our eyes means facing our inner selves.


“Section 1: Dream or Reality?” is composed of works that capture sleep as a connection between dreams and reality, or unreality and reality. Asako Narahashi’s photographs, in which the shutter is clicked just above the surface of the water, expressing the theme of this section very well, inviting us to view the world in a comfortable way, with the feeling of “drowning” as in a dream, but not in a painful way.

Life and death – the background of sleep and its relationship to death
As death is described as “rest in peace”, rest through sleep is necessary for life, yet has a strong relationship with death. “Section 2: The Sorrow of Life” is composed of works that contain positive connotations of trying hard to live despite the anticipation of death. The video work of Chiharu Shiota “Falling Sand”, in which a somewhat depressed woman and falling sand appear in a room with dazzling light, conveys a decadent image but also a certain will to live.


“Section 3: I am Not Merely Sleeping” depicts sleep, but by considering the historical background of the time and overlapping it with the situation of today, a different meaning is revealed..
Gosei Abe’s oil painting “Farmer’s Midday Nap” seems to add an anti-war message by depicting not the soldier himself, but his family. It is also interesting that the adults seem to be asleep, but only the baby is awake and looking for his/her mother’s breasts.


“Question” to us that continues even after the appreciation is over
“Section 4: Waiting to wake” which anticipates future awakenings, and “Section 5: Kawara On: Sleep as Proof of Existence” which explores the relationship between sleep and awakening, life and death through the works of On Kawara, further deepen the inspiration gained in the previous three sections.


“Myobon” by Kim Myung-Sook, which concludes this exhibition and “Conclusion: Closing Your Eyes Again” is a work that seems to suggest what we should do after appreciating this exhibition. The face depicted in the work looks as if it is meditating with its eyes closed, and the expression is soft and beautiful, but the clearly elongated nasal line gives a strong sense of will and brings a pleasant tension.

The joy of appreciating and being moved by works does not end inside the museum, but it is an amazing art experience that will bring back the awareness of the “questions” that you have been asking yourself even a few days after appreciating this exhibition.


Title Sleeping: Life with Art – From Goya and Rubens to Shiota Chiharu
Period November 25, 2020 – February 23, 2021
Venue The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Art Museum Special Exhibition Gallery (1st floor)
Address 3-1 Kitanomaru-koen, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8322
Official Website https://www.momat.go.jp
Opening Hours 10:00-17:00 ( Fridays and Saturdays open until 20:00 )
*Last admission : 30 minutes before closing.
Closed Mondays (except January 11, 2021) , from December 28 to January 1, 2021, and on January 12, 2021
Admission Advance ticket is recommended to avoid lines forming at the entrance.
Online purchase: 【e-tix】(click here)
Tickets can be purchased on site at the ticket counters, subject to their availability.Adults: ¥1,200( 1,000 )
College / University students: ¥600( 500 )
*Including the admission fee for MOMAT Collection.
*Admission in the parentheses is for groups of 20 persons or more.
*All prices include tax.
*Admission is free for high school students, under 18, and those with Disability Certificates and one caregiver accompanying each of them. Please present ID at the entrance.
*Admission is free for students and staff members of schools participating in the Campus Members Program. Please present ID at the entrance.