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Monday, Oct. 8, 2001

Watari-um, where the world of art is accessible to 'ordinary people'

Staff writer

Stop and feel the art in the space, like relaxing in your living room. Watari-um, or the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, offers something both imaginative and familiar to everyday life.

The museum displays works, many from overseas, produced from the beginning of the 20th century to today.

The name Watari-um is a contraction of its founder, Etsuko Watari, and the word museum. Watari said her venue aims to change the public's image of art and make museums more open and flexible.

"Museums in Japan in general have been formal," Watari says. "I wanted to make a museum for ordinary people, not just for devotees of art."

It features four to five different artists or themes a year.

Currently, an exhibition of French artist Fabrice Hybert is on display until Nov. 25. Hybert has actively produced art in various media, including drawings, paintings, objects, sculptures and videos.

His "POF," or "Prototype of Functioning Object," now at the museum is a series of works made of goods from daily life, including bowls, ropes, tree pots, stairs, soccer balls and dresses.

These goods have been transformed into art with Hybert's humorous and unique sense. He created the objects so visitors can see, touch and play with them, Watari said.

For example, visitors can put on the dresses, pile up different-colored bowls and create sounds by touching glassware. Various ways to enjoy the exhibits are demonstrated in videos shown on the exhibition floor.

One of the POF, titled "Water in head, 2001," consists of a big globe hanging from the ceiling and 330 types of spring water bottles from all over the world on racks. Visitors can see the work, and also sample the spring water.

"It is interesting that (the artist) turned his attention to water. I enjoy this space where sun shines beautifully through bottles of cold colors," said one visitor looking at Hybert's work.

The artist hopes to raise awareness of the global environment by looking at the work and drinking the water, which came from land with tens of thousands of years of history, according to Watari.

She hopes her museum's exhibitions shorten the distance between art and people who feel art is difficult to understand.

Watari-um organizes lecture series and workshops under such themes as the history of the Japanese garden, modern art, education and philosophy. Watari explained that the lectures are part of a process to help people understand art by learning the ideas behind the works.

Once visitors pay the entrance fee, they can come back for free while the same artist's works are on display. Watari said this is because she wants people to return if they like the artist.

Watari-um is an eight-minute walk from Gaienmae Station on the Ginza subway line. It is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and on Mondays that fall on a national holiday. For more information, call the museum at (03) 3402-3001 or go to the Web site at www.watarium.co.jp

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