Message Regarding the Closure of the Museum

On March 1, 2021, the Yokohama Museum of Art will close for a period of over two years as a large-scale renovation project gets underway. The museum is scheduled to reopen in fiscal 2023.

It was in 1989 that the museum opened as a full-fledged center for the enjoyment of art in Yokohama with the vocal support of local residents. As one of the first buildings to be erected in Minato Mirai 21, an area that had just begun to be developed, the museum was still surrounded by a vast expanse of open land when it opened. The building was designed by one of Japan’s preeminent postwar architects, TANGE Kenzo. Since that time, the museum has continued its activities based on the three pillars of “looking” (i.e., exhibitions and other projects), “creating” (the Children and Citizens’ Workshops and other programs), and “learning” (the Art Information and Media Center, which houses a collection of approximately 110,000 books). In addition, by serving as the main venue for the Yokohama Triennale since 2011, the museum has welcomed a large number of visitors from other countries. On the occasion of the museum’s 30th anniversary in 2019, many people provided us with memories of important milestones in their lives that were related to the facility. This is the first time in 32 years that the museum will be closed for an extended period.

There are two points that I would like to consider in regard to the museum renovation.  

First, the museum’s air-conditioning system will be updated. Air-conditioning is one of the most important concerns for a museum, whose mission is to preserve works of art that are valuable cultural properties, and pass them on to future generations. The temperature in the building is set at 22 degrees Celsius (plus or minus two degrees) with 55 percent humidity (plus or minus five percent). These conditions are finely adjusted according to the exhibition, but for the most part they are standard levels in the galleries. If the levels vary widely due to an equipment malfunction, it may cause the canvas or paper used in the works to ripple or stretch. Moreover, the paint, ink or developing solution used in the work has the potential to crack or peel. Changes in temperature and humidity can also affect wooden works. To help avoid such a situation, the renovation project will restore the facility and ensure that that the museum will be able to operate flawlessly in the future.

Secondly, I would like to point out that the project will enable the museum to engage in a more open relationship with the town. Grand Mall Park runs in front of the museum, leading from Minato Mirai Station to the east exit of Yokohama Station. The park is a pleasant place that is inevitably filled with children’s joyous shouts. At the time that TANGE Kenzo designed the building, he placed a special emphasis on a close connection between the park and the museum. To carry on TANGE’s idea, we are planning to create an entrance that will lead directly from the park into the Art Information and Media Center, and turn the area that abuts the park into a new gallery. When visitors enter the building from the park, they will encounter the Grand Gallery, an expansive space that is one of the museum’s special features. While carefully maintaining this design, a key element in TANGE’s work, we will create a barrier-free environment to provide a wide range of visitors with a comfortable viewing experience. 

It is also important to stress that while the building itself may be closed during the renovation period, the museum’s activities will continue. Among the projects we are planning is an effort to undertake detailed research, organize data, and make public information about the museum collection which, with approximately 13,000 items, ranks among the largest in the country. In addition, the education programs will be organized in a temporary office, and outreach activities are also planned throughout the city. By taking advantage of this situation and approaching things from a slightly different angle, we hope to continue conveying the pleasure and profundity of art.

Thank you for the last 32 years. We’re looking forward to spending the next 30, and the 30 after that, with you.

Director, Yokohama Museum of Art
March 1, 2021