Art is an Explosion! Experience Art in Aoyama Tokyo at Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum
“Art is an explosion.”
Artist Taro Okamoto is famous for leaving this phrase. His style of copiously using primary colors and his unconventional imagination has been continuously inspiring many creators even today.
The other day I visited “Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum”, which Taro Okamoto used as his home and studio in his final years.
The museum is located in Aoyama, Tokyo. It is an 8 minute walk from the Omotesando Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Chiyoda Line, and Hanzomon Line. Or you can take a bus from the bus stop right outside of East Exit of JR Shibuya Station, either bound for “Shinbashi Station North Exit” or “Shibuya Station”. After getting off at “Minami Aoyama 6-Chome”, it is a 2 minute walk.
Taro Okamoto spent his time here from 1953 to 1996, engaged in his creative activities. His family had had an old residence here and he had been living with his cartoonist father, Ippei, and novelist mother, Kanoko. However, the house was burnt down by the Great Tokyo Air Raid in 1945.
After World War II, the family built a new house, designed by the architect Junzo Sakakura, a favorite disciple of Le Corbusier and Taro’s friend. The house has a unique design of having convex-lens shaped roof on top of a wall of stacked blocks, according to Okamoto’s request.
As it was originally a residence, visitors enter the museum by taking off their shoes. Fees are 620 yen for general admission, 310 yen for elementary school children, and free for pre-school children. Visitors are free to take photos in any place.
Taro Okamoto Himself Will Greet You!
When you enter the museum, surprisingly Taro Okamoto himself greets you. Actually it is a wax doll, but it is exquisitely lifelike and I flinched back momentarily. In what appears to be a living room, Okamoto’s works and photos are arrayed side by side.
These are cups and saucers. I took them for decoration, just object d’art, but when I looked at them carefully, they appeared to be designed for actual use in mind.
Studio That Preserves His Energy in Creating Works
This is his studio and canvases, paints, and object d’art created by Okamoto are neatly arranged. I couldn’t resist getting drawn into the powerful force of the huge painting on the easel.
Speaking of Taro Okamoto, he has expressed his opinion in his book “Jibun no naka ni doku o mote (To Have Poison Inside Yourself―Can You Discard Your Common Sense?)” as follows.
“First and foremost in my artistic expression I came out with a style that completely defied the commonly valued Japanese styles. Back then concepts such as “wabi, sabi & shibumi (simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty strongly influenced by Zen)” were dominant, and only what was expressed in dark, stagnant tones was considered elegant art. I struck against it by using primary colors such as brilliant red, blue and yellow, and I was pounded out by criticism, including that I was lacking in the sense of color.” Apparently Okamoto actually had had a hard time making a living in such a style. “But I defied authoritarianism in every aspect and dare said what other people wouldn’t and challenged beyond common sense.”
It is as if Okamoto’s spirit and vitality still remains in his studio from the time when he devoted all his heart and body into his artistic activities and challenges.
Special Exhibitions and Sale of Goods
Special exhibitions are held on the second floor. When I visited the museum, an exhibition titled as “Taro Okamoto’s Okinawa” was in session, displaying photos taken by Okamoto who visited the island for the first time before Reversion of Okinawa to Japan in 1972.
A part of the ground floor is a museum shop. New projects are being executed even today, including soliciting T-shirt designs featuring Taro Okamoto himself or his works. Okamoto’s strong influence is still felt even today, twenty years after his death.
When I stepped out into the garden, there were more works on display. I was surrounded by a charming exhibition that made me smile. It was a magical space.
Taro Okamoto continued creating unique works and always amazed the public. Many of his works are bright and powerful, reflecting his lifestyle and spirit to question and challenge common sense.
If you are ever feeling down and lacking in energy, we recommend visiting Taro Okamoto’s works that are full of energy and spirit, and have your spirit lifted by them.