Dreams of Life Connected by Modern Design

Dreams of Life Connected by Modern DesignDreams of Life Connected by Modern Design

General Information

Jan. 11– Mar. 22, 2020
【Notice: Extension of temporary closure】
Our temporary closing period will be extended until March 22 (Sun), as a measure against the further spreading of the coronavirus. And the “Dreams of Life Connected Modern Design” exhibition will be closed. We apologize for any inconvenience and we appreciate your understanding.
10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Admittance until 5:30 p.m.)
* Open until 8 p.m. (admittance until 7:30 p.m.) on Feb. 7 and Mar. 6
Adults: ¥800
Visitors aged 65 or over carrying proof of age: ¥700
Students (College): ¥600
Students (High / Middle school): ¥400
Admission is free for children in primary school and younger. Groups of 20 or more will receive a ¥100 discount per person (not including those aged 65 or over).
Admission is free for disability passbook holders and up to one accompanying adult.
Panasonic Shiodome Museum of Art
Embassy of the United States of America, Embassy of the Czech Republic in Tokyo, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Goethe Institut Tokyo, Architectural Institute of Japan, Japanese Society for the Science of Design JSSD, Japan Industrial Designers’Association JIDA, Japan Interior Architects / Designers’Association, The Japan Institute of Architects, Minato City Board of Education
Planning support
Curators Inc.
Exhibition design
Naotake Maeda

Exhibition overview

In 1928, the Industrial Arts Institute was built in the northern Japanese city of Sendai, marking the establishment of Japan’s first national advisory for design. Five years later, the German architect Bruno Taut (1880 - 1938) was invited to join the institute as an advisor. There, he offered advice to Isamu Kenmochi (1888 - 1976) and his colleagues. That same year, the architect Antonin Raymond (1888 - 1976) and his wife, the interior designer Noémi Raymond (1889 - 1980), met the businessman Fusaichiro Inoue (1898 - 1993). Inoue was a patron of the arts scene in Takasaki, a city known for its traditional craft cultures. In 1934, Inoue invited Taut to visit Takasaki—an encounter that led to crafts designed by Taut being sold at a furniture shop called Miratiss. These exchanges symbolized a growing movement throughout Japan and worldwide of designers connecting to discuss how modern design could enrich lives in unprecedented ways.

Modern design was characterized by mass production—made possible by developments in industry and science—which allowed for a design philosophy prioritizing functional elegance over decorative beauty. While Japanese craft artists and manufacturers attempted to adapt this global trend to Japanese lifestyles and customs, architects and designers from around the world were simultaneously uncovering the modern aesthetic already residing in Japanese architecture and craftsmanship. It was the intertwining of these two trends that led to the birth of aesthetically stunning products that could not be defined purely by functionalism.

This exhibition introduces the works of Taut, Inoue, the Raymonds, and Kenmochi, as well as furniture designer George Nakashima (1905 - 1990) and sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904 - 1988), through 160 items including crafts, furniture, architectural designs, scale models, and photographs dating from the 1930s to the 1960s. Together, the items will convey how the designers developed their dreams of a better world following the Second World War, and how they communicated those hopes to the next generation.

I. Bruno Taut, Fusaichiro Inoue, and Miratiss

Taut came to Japan in 1933 after accepting an invitation from the Japan International Architecture Association, which included members like Isaburo Ueno and Seigo Motono. He had made this decision in part to flee the rise of Nazism in his native Germany. Taut spent three-and-a-half years in Japan before leaving for Turkey. During this time, he taught craft art design—first in Sendai, then in Takasaki—and published books on the subject, greatly influencing the Japanese intelligentsia. The displays in this section include household products designed by Taut and sold at Miratiss—the legendary shop that Inoue opened in Tokyo’s Ginza district and the resort city of Karuizawa—as well as a 1934 book he wrote on the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto. Visitors will also be introduced to the old Hyuga Villa, a Taut-designed building that was constructed while he was in Japan.

Square cigarette case with egg shell inlay, 1935, Gunma Prefectural Museum of History

II. Antonin and Noémi Raymond

The section delves into Inoue’s other famous relationship: that with Czech-American architect Antonin Raymond—whose self-designed Tokyo residence, built in 1924, was the world’s first béton brut house—and his wife, the French interior designer Noémi Raymond. The couple’s joint projects included wood houses that embodied what came to be known as the “Raymond style”: wide, flat surfaces providing great spatial freedom, innovative approaches to courtyards, and the incorporation of traditional Japanese architectural elements. These elegant structures received widespread acclaim and admiration. In this section, the Raymonds’ best-known works—including their Tokyo home, a replica of the home that is the former Fusaichiro Inoue House, and their Karuizawa studio—are presented with beautiful architectural drawings produced before the Second World War, as well as several pieces of furniture.

Antonin Raymond, New Studio in Karuizawa, completion 1963, Photo: Sadamu Saito

III. Isamu Kenmochi and “Japanese modern”

Kenmochi was working at the Industrial Arts Institute when Taut arrived there as an advisor in 1933. From Taut, Kenmochi learned the origins of furniture design. In his interactions with designers around the world following the Second World War, Kenmochi began to espouse something he called “Japanese modern”—a design style best suited to modern Japanese lifestyles, industries, and handcrafting techniques. He gave shape to this concept in his work through the exploration of new materials and the incorporation of tactile pleasure, bold designs, and fine details. In 1955, Kenmochi opened his own design office. He set up a shop on the first floor, which he designed to look like a living room furnished with his own products—an acknowledgment that the products were designed to be functional and to add something new to one’s lifestyle. This section will introduce visitors to Kenmochi’s furniture designs, as well as the major projects he undertook later in life with architects and artists.

Isamu Kenmochi, Kashiwado Chair T-7165, 1961,

IV. George Nakashima and the Sanuki Minguren

After studying architecture in the U.S. and France, George Nakashima, a 2nd-generation Japanese American, traveled to Tokyo in 1934 and worked for five years at Antonin Raymond’s architecture office. During this time, he served as on-site director for the St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Karuizawa and the Golconde Dormitory in Puducherry, India, which was designed for the yogi Sri Aurobindo. Nakashima then left architecture and turned his attention to furniture. By overseeing every step of the process from brainstorming to production, Nakashima successfully developed an industry model for handcrafted furniture. His Conoid Chair (1960) was revolutionary for its sculpture-like design, featuring intricate angles and a seat supported at only one end. In 1964, Nakashima joined the Sanuki Minguren, a group of artists and craftsmen based in the southern Japanese city of Takamatsu and who specialized in traditional tools. This section includes a display of the Minguren series of furniture Nakashima produced in Takamatsu through a streamlined woodworking process.

George Nakashima, Conoid Studio, completion 1957, Courtesy of Nakashima Foundation for Peace

V. Isamu Noguchi’s Banraisha and his Akari light sculptures

Born to the Japanese poet Yonejiro Noguchi and an American mother, Isamu Noguchi spent his life exploring his identity through his sculptures, as well as his stage set, garden, and furniture designs. This section will introduce visitors to Noguchi’s early 1950’s work in Japan. Thanks to an introduction from artist Genichiro Inokuma, in 1950 Noguchi met Kenmochi, who was then working at a temporary workshop in Tokyo operated by the Industrial Art Institute. Kenmochi provided Noguchi with a workspace, where he produced furniture and sculptures. The following year, Noguchi designed the interior and garden and produced outdoor sculptures for the Banraisha, a building designed by Yoshiro Taniguchi for Keio University (where Noguchi’s father taught). This section will focus on the Banraisha, as well as the Akari series of light sculptures that Noguchi modeled after traditional Gifu paper lanterns. Through these displays, visitors can appreciate how Noguchi’s observations of Japanese culture and his approach to space influenced his views of sculpture, an artform he began to see as inextricably tied to lifestyle.

Isamu Noguchi, Akari Light Sculpture 33S (BB3 stand), 1952, Hida Earth Wisdom Center