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Friday, March 18, 2011

Museums close to cope with earthquake damage and fallout

Museums assess damage and limit opening hours, as artists find ways to show their support and encouragement to quake and tsunami victims

Special to The Japan Times

The tragedy of Friday's massive earthquake and following tsunami in northeast Japan has shaken the nation. And as Japan attempts to assess the damage and send relief, the country's art world is attempting to recover and show support.

News photo
Visual support: Artists post images and messages of support to Twitter after the GEISAI art fair was postponed due to the Tohoku-Kanto Earthquake.

The Agency of Cultural Affairs announced on March 14 that more than 30 cultural properties in Japan had been damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. The Rokkaku-do, a villa built on the coast in Ibaraki Prefecture in the early 20th century by Okakura Tenshin, appears to have been washed away entirely.

In Sendai, the worst affected area, Sendai Mediatheque, though still standing, is currently deemed too dangerous to enter. "The windows were smashed and the ceilings of the higher floors fell down. The floors are also flooded by the sprinkler system," said a representative of the Life-long Learning section of the municipal government. He went on to explain that the severity of damage and the evacuation of the city meant that plans have not yet been made for its repair and reopening.

At Art Tower Mito in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, five pipes of a pipe organ installed on the second floor fell down. "A part of the ceiling of exhibit rooms also collapsed," the staff of Art Tower Mito commented. "The glass windows were damaged too." As a result, Art Tower Mito has already decided to close its doors until the end of May.

Other museums and galleries are following suit. Some are announcing temporary closures, others postponing events. The Tokyo National Museum and National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo (both in Ueno), had decided to close through March 18. Though the Tokyo National Museum is scheduled to reopen from March 19, it is limiting the number of exhibits and restricting its hours to save energy, opening 30 minutes later than usual and closing one hour earlier.

"Fortunately, our collections in the exhibit rooms and archive warehouses were undamaged," said a representative from the National Museum's public relations department.

Various art events have also been canceled or postponed, and some artists are now taking action to show their support.

Takashi Murakami, the chairman of GEISAI, postponed the bi-yearly Japanese art festival, which was set to open March 13, leaving a touching note of sympathy on the GEISAI homepage. He also proposed that artists upload messages and artworks expressing their support to Twitter, and attach the "#newday_GEISAI" hashtag. With a theme of "providing encouragement to the victims and those who have despaired in the quake's aftermath," Murakami asked GEISAI participants and any other artists or fans to tweet images and words of sympathy. Their ongoing activities are also being updated on the website ameblo.jp/geisai-net.

Japanese painter, Tadanori Yokoo mentioned on Twitter (@tadanoriyokoo) that "since the earthquake, I feel that something inside me was destroyed and a new thing was born," mentioning that "artists have started their art creation from destruction even in times of emergency."

Schedule changes for museums and events in the Kanto region

Schedules for the following museums may change. Please check their websites for further updates.

Tokyo National Museum: Closed through March 18. Limited opening hours from March 19. www.tnm.go.jp

National Museum of Nature and Science: Closed through March 18. www.kahaku.go.jp

The National Museum of Western Art: Closed through March 18. Further schedule to be announced. www.nmwa.go.jp

The National Art Center, Tokyo: Closed through March 18. Further schedule to be announced. www.nact.jp

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo: Closed through March 18. Further schedule to be announced. www.momat.go.jp

Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo: Closed through March 18. Schedule from March 19 to be announced. www.mot-art-museum.jp

Mori Art Museum: Main exhibition and MAM Project opening ceremony and previews have been canceled. Exhibition openings have been postponed till further notice. www.mori.art.museum/jp

National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation: Currently closed, reopening day is to be announced. www.miraikan.jst.go.jp

Edo-Tokyo Museum: Closed through March 18. Further schedule to be announced. www.edo-tokyo-museum.or.jp. Twitter @edohakugibochan Postponed events

GEISAI art festival has been postponed. Artists are posting messages and images of support on Twitter: #newday_geisai.

Roppingi Art Night: has been postponed. Visit www.roppongiartnight.com for more details.

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