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  4. Timeless Conversations 2020: Voices from Japanese Art of the Past and Present in The National Art Center, Tokyo

Timeless Conversations 2020: Voices from Japanese Art of the Past and Present in The National Art Center, Tokyo

This exhibition deeply immerses into the mature environment that creates the basis of Japanese art and conveys its charm through the new concept of showing the contrast between old-age and contemporary arts. By exhibiting paintings, Buddhist artworks, masterpieces of pottery and swords of the time before the Edo period, together with the works of eight contemporary artists, eight dialogues of timeless art are unfolded in the same room.

The brilliance of this idea of contrasting the old times with the present is expressed in the discovery and reawakening of the spirituality and aesthetic sense of the Japanese people, which remains unchanged since the past. It can be also seen in the fact that it is easy to see the originality and creativity of the artists raised in Japanese culture. Such appeal of Japanese art that has revealed in this way, will inspire visitors in many ways. This exhibition will give you a unique chance to experience the old and new Japanese art in the scale never seen before.


Fascinating 8 pairs of “Timeless Conversations”

As a point of view for determining the 8 pairs, this exhibition focuses not only the similarity between the artworks of the past and modern artist’s modeling and production method, but also the spiritual nature such as the world view and the theme each of them has.

In addition, the past artworks presented in this exhibition were at the forefront of their time. One of the things they have in common is that the eight contemporary artists selected this time, are considered to be the avant-garde of nowadays.

The relationships between the artworks of the past and the artists of today is different for each pair. For example, some artists have been inspired by past painters and their artworks for over 50 years. On the other hand, other artists first encountered the artists and artworks of the past and could find a commonality after it was decided to be a pair at this exhibition.

Sengai X SUGA Kishio
Flower-and-Bird Paintings X KAWAUCHI Rinko
Enku X TANADA Koji
Swords X KONOIKE Tomoko
Buddhist Statuary X TANE Tsuyoshi
Hokusai X SHIRIAGARI Kotobuki
Kenzan X MINAGAWA Akira
Shohaku X YOKOO Tadanori

*in order of appearance

Experience and make yours keywords from Japanese culture throught the lenses of both the past and the present

This exhibition is also one of the “JAPAN CULTURAL EXPO” promoted by Agency for Cultural Affairs, that was originally planned for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics Year. With “JAPAN CULTURAL EXPO” as its theme, it follows it basic concept to convey the art of Japan to not only foreigners but also children who will bear the next generation, under the general theme “Humanity and Nature in Japan”.

Therefore, the captions on display conveying the art of Japan are really good. You should pay attention not only to the exhibition’s captions on past masterpieces, but also comments from each contemporary artist in pairs to the masterpieces.

Also, because the same keywords from Japanese culture are associated with art from both the past and the present, there is a possibility that you may experience them more deeply. For example, Ito Jakuchu, who paints flowers and birds, has a famous episode, “Jakuchu kept chickens in the garden and when he detected “SHINKI” (a life force, force of God), his paintbrush started to move”. You may think you know what “SHINKI” is, but if you can feel the same “SHINKI” in the works of Rinko KAWAGUCHI, who was paired with Jakuchu, you will be able to experience and understand that “SHINKI” has not changed in the past and in our time. If you can experience the same thing in the other 7 exhibition rooms, as in this example, it may be more enjoyable for your art appreciation.

Guidebook and exhibition catalog also worth checking out.

The National Art Center Tokyo has its guidebook “The NACT Guide Vol.9 Door to Contemporary Art X List of Works (English version available)” near the entrance of the Special Exhibition Gallery 2E which can help you to deepen your understanding. We recommend you will read this book while going around the exhibition rooms. This guidebook is a part of the concept of communicating the art of Japan to the next generations and is written simply so that it can be understood even in the upper grades of elementary school so of course it is understandable for adults.

There is also a special edition of the exhibition catalog, which is a set with a photobook of the exhibition installation views, so please take a look at them in the shop. The exhibition will close on August 24, so if you haven’t seen it yet, we recommend that you do not miss this precious opportunity.



Timeless Conversations 2020: Voices from Japanese Art of the Past and Present


June 24 (Wed.) – August 24 (Mon.), 2020
*Dates Changed


The National Art Center, Tokyo,
Special Exhibition Gallery 2E


7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-8558

Official Website


Opening Hours

(Last admission 30 minutes before closing)


Closed on Tuesdays


1,700 yen (Adults), 1,100 yen (College students), 700 yen (High school students)

In order to ease congestion, this exhibition requires everyone – including those who already have exhibition tickets- to make an online reservation for a “specified date/time ticket”.
Please check here for details (in Japanese only). https://kotengendai.exhibit.jp/ticket.html
*To prevent the spreading of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), it has been decided that Group Tickets will not be sold for this exhibition.
*Visitors who are junior high school students or younger, and disabled persons (along with the one assistant) will be admitted for free but online reservation for a “specified date/time ticket” is required.