Admiring a Monet at the Bührle Exhibition | Photo by Chris Kirkland

Hidden away in the back streets between Nogizaka and Roppongi Stations, as you approach the National Art Center Tokyo, it looms like a giant melting iceberg, its organic curves a stunning contrast to the perpendicular concrete boxes in the neighbourhood which surrounds it.

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Entering the museum grounds, don’t be fooled by the prominent ticket booth to the right.  Entrance to the museum itself is free.  They sell art exhibition tickets needed only for the ‘special exhibitions’ of which there are always one or two occupying the galleries on the ground floor of the complex. To be fair, the special exhibitions are usually of top quality, and if you’ve come this far and you have the disposable yen, they’d probably be worth checking out. When I visited, there were special exhibitions of works by Cezanne and a travelling collection from the Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg.  The entrance price for each was 1,500 yen.  While not bad value considering the standard of the art, if you visited each you’d be down 3,000yen – which is not a very ‘cheapo’ day out.

Photo by Chris Kirkland

The atrium also is a stunning airy space with restaurants perched on pedestals[/caption]

However, the great thing about the National Art Center Tokyo, is that there are almost always free shows occupying the galleries on the second and third floors which you are welcome to wander in and out of.  Free shows opening in June and July 2012 (and not documented at all on the English version of their web site) include shows on Black and White Ink Drawing from June 13th to June 25th, a Japanese Caligraphy Exhibition running from June 14th to June 24th, a Japanese ceramics exhibition from June 27th to July 8th and the International High School Students Art Exhibition from June 28th to July 8th.  Enquire at the information desk on the ground floor when you arrive as English guides and documentation are surprisingly incomplete.

Also free is a relaxation area with designer chairs on the basement level and entrance to the ‘Art Library’ on the third floor. Another cheapo tip is that there is a shady area with picnic tables in the neighbouring campus of the National Graduate Institute of Policy Studies.

The basement area is a cool oasis with designer chairs
The basement area is a cool oasis with designer chairs | Photo by Greg Lane

For Japanese master architect Kishi Kurokawa’s stunning architecture alone (both outside and in) the National Art Center Tokyo warrants a visit from tourists and locals alike.

Last updated: 2018-04-12

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