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Features of the Yokohama Museum of Art Collection

The Yokohama Museum of Art holds a wide range of artworks from the latter 19th century, when Yokohama opened its port, to the present day. Including works by artists closely associated with Yokohama as well as works by seminal modern artists such as Dalí, Picasso, and Magritte, as well as reference materials, with a collection consisting of over 14,000 pieces (as of March 2024).

In accordance with the Yokohama Museum of Art’s collection policy, the Museum has also kept a close eye on new trends in art and social movements in Japan and abroad, resulting in a diverse collection with many modes of allure.

Let’s take a look at some of our collection highlights.

*The art works in our collection on view will vary depending on the exhibitions.

1. Artists and Collectors Associated with Yokohama

Hara Sankei, the great entrepreneur who created Sankeien Garden, one of Yokohama’s most famous gardens, was also a well-known antique collector and arts philanthropist. Many of the artists he supported trained under Okakura Tenshin, a formative figure in Japanese letters and Yokohama native. The Yokohama Museum of Art actively collects works by key founders of the Nihonga (modern Japanese-style painting), inspired by Tenshin and supported by Sankei. In particular, our collection of Shimomura Kanzan is considered the world’s foremost in terms of both works and reference materials.

In addition, the Museum’s collection has been greatly enriched by the support of local philanthropists including Sakata Takeo, founder of Sakata Seed Corporation, who donated his collection featuring works by modern French artists such as Gustave Moreau.

2. Dada & Surrealism in Western Art

For many people, the Yokohama Museum of Art calls to mind the strength of its collection of Surrealist art, such as René Magritte’s remarkable paintings and Salvador Dalí’s enormous decorative triptychs.

The core of the Museum’s collection of Western paintings was formed prior to our opening through the partial acquisition of the collection of the Nagaoka Contemporary Art Museum which closed in 1979, including works by Magritte, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Delvaux.

Later, in tandem with acquisitions of sculptures and paintings by Constantin Brâncuși, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, and others, the collection gradually expanded to include art from the Interwar Period, with a particular emphasis on Dadaist and Surrealist art. In addition to paintings, the collection diversified through forms such as photography, sculpture, prints, and drawings, as well as works by artists involved in the Surrealist movement in Japan.

3. Enriching the Photography Collection

When photographic technology crossed the oceans to Japan, one its first ports of arrival was Yokohama. Yokohama became home to Japan’s first commercial photography studio, and since the rise in popularity of the art in late Edo Period, has grown into a major center of photography. This rich history is what is behind the Yokohama Museum of Art’s commitment to building a stellar photography collection, becoming the first in Japan to establish an exhibition room dedicated to photography.

The Museum’s collection of genre and landscape photographs, albums and hand-colored images which document the opening of the Port of Yokohama is a valuable contribution to the history of photography. Over 4,000 works, ranging from Surrealists, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, and other Western twentieth-century masters to domestic artists such as Kimura Ihee , Nakahira Takuma, and many more, are some of the pillars of the collection.

Our exhibitions have long sought to go beyond positioning photography and film within their historical frameworks, but also in the wider sense as artistic expression, with their own influential messages on culture and society.

NAKAHIRA Takuma Untitled, from the series “Degree Zero – Yokohama”

“Untitled, from the series ‘Degree Zero – Yokohama’”

ca. 2002-03 (printed in 2003) ed. 1/5

The second from the left is donated by the artist
©Gen Nakahira / Courtesy of Osiris

4. Artists with Diverse Cultural Backgrounds

Hasegawa Kiyoshi, a printmaker born in Yokohama and active most of his career in Paris, combined a view of nature rooted in Japanese tradition with traditional Western intaglio techniques. We began collecting his works before opening, and we have built up a collection of about 1,800 pieces, including Hasegawa’s favorite tools and other materials.

The Museum also holds an extensive collection of works by foreign painters and printmakers, such as Paul Jacoulet and Helen Hyde, who visited Japan from abroad and became active as “ukiyo-e” painters while gaining familiarity with the lifestyle and culture of the country.

Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi spent his life traveling the world, and his diverse creations include everything from sculpture to gardens, furniture, architecture, and stage design. Our collection includes six of his sculptures in a variety of materials and techniques that exemplify the diversity of his work.
The works of these artists, whose roots and footprints touch various cultures, offer a wide range of suggestions for considering the many ways of inhabiting our world and living the richness of human life through their diverse perspectives. This spirit of diversity is fundamental in our recent acquisitions.

5. Looking toward Contemporary Artists

Since the Museum opened, we have remained committed both to the study and collection of modern art as well as to perspectives of contemporary artists.

In 2001, Nara Yoshitomo’s first solo exhibition at a public museum in Japan was held at the Yokohama Museum of Art. In 2012, we held his second solo show, and we acquired one of the important works from the show for our collection. Other exhibitions we organized also became the occasion to expand our collection with works by artists including Saito Yoshishige, Morimura Yasumasa, Suga Kishio, Ishida Takashi, and Tabaimo. The Museum also collects works by Iwasaki Takahiro, Christian Jankowski, Kazama Sachiko, and other artists featured in the Yokohama Triennale, an international contemporary art exhibition held at the Yokohama Museum of Art since 2011.

In addition to the works shown at the exhibitions, the collection of works by today’s artists is also expanding in breadth and depth thanks also to the donation of nearly 200 works from the private collection of Kuniaki and Katsuko Ueda, who collected experimental works by young artists, as well as through the support of numerous private collectors who focus on contemporary artists.

Welcome to the renewed Yokohama Museum of Art

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