When the Yokohama Museum of Art opened its doors in 1989, its location was in flux – a former shipyard, building the boats carrying goods, people, and ideas across the oceans and back, transforming Japanese culture and society through their motions. The site had been ambitiously renamed as the “Minato Mirai” district – “minato” meaning “harbor,” and “mirai” meaning “future.”
The architecture by Tange Kenzo, known as the architect behind the Yoyogi National Stadium and the Hiroshima Peace Center. The Museum was one of the first buildings to stand in the Minato Mirai, and for a long time after its opening, the land around it remained under construction. Looking at the bustling city today, it is hard to believe that those days ever existed.
As the Museum planning began, long and active discussions pondered the core question: what should be the unique purpose and characteristics of the Yokohama Museum of Art? Museums are not only built to harbor and showcase the past – especially so with this one, which would be located in Minato Mirai, on a historical shipyard very much oriented toward “the future.”
In the end, the Museum was born to be comprehensive and dynamic. Its philosophy would be rooted in actions of “seeing,” “creating,” and “learning.” Each of these principles guided both the design of the space itself and the planning of activities. Seven exhibition rooms flanking a corridor around the atrium of the Entrance Hall would create a unique space to travel through art experiences. The library would house books, videos, and research materials to allow general visitors and scholars alike to dig deep and discover new connections with the past – new knowledge and relationships with art that can refresh our thinking and help us build a brighter reality from today on into the future. And the Workshop Studios would make possible all kinds of creative activities for local creators of all ages to enjoy.
These three pillars have not changed over the past 30 years.
Since 2011 the museum has also served as the main venue for the Yokohama Triennale, an international exhibition of contemporary art.
In February 2021, the museum took a long break for the first time since its opening to refresh the air conditioning system and other parts of the building. The work is now complete, and the museum is scheduled to reopen in March 2024 for the 8th Yokohama Triennale.
We took advantage of the closure for two big things: first, to install improved ventilation systems and do an architectural refresh, and second, to reflect: what should the new Yokohama Museum of Art be after the renovation?
As a trading port open to the world, Yokohama attracts a wide variety of visitors, bringing new culture and information. So we’ve planned new ways for the Museum to serve as a place where people can encounter new things through art, where everyone can be themselves by accepting each other, and where everyone can gain the strength to live through such encounters.
In order to fully express our new philosophy, we pooled the wisdom accumulated through the activities of the See – Create – Learn philosophy, and prepared furniture and fixtures, reconsidered the rules of operation, and reinvented our programs.
This means the Museum that opens a new here in Yokohama is one that is especially proud to welcome people of all ages, genders, backgrounds, and abilities. There is a way to find joy and inspiration, whether you like your Museum to include peaceful places to sit, rest, and contemplate between adventures through the gallery exhibitions, or you need a place for children to laugh, run, jump and maybe even cry – as some of our youngest visitors do.
The restarting of the Museum’s activities in March 2024 is just months away, and its spirit infuses our reopening! We are ready to welcome you with new smiles, new insights, new experiences. These spring from the individuality we have cultivated over the past three decades, from our excitement about our community, our visitors, and the power of art itself.
Director, Yokohama Museum of Art