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Kanazawa’s 21st century Museum of Contemporary Art

Kanazawa’s 21st century Museum of Contemporary Art

Philippe Bourget - 2012-03-13

The city of Kanazawa with its reputation for being a repository of traditional Japanese culture is now also home to the 21st century Museum of Contemporary Art. With permanent installations by James Turrell and Leandro Erlich as well as temporary exhibitions, this institution has become one of the most prominent venues for modern artistic creation.

Located in Western Honshu Island in the heart of what is known as "Back to front Japan" due to its conservatism, Kanazawa is regarded by the Japanese as a very traditional "little Kyoto" (with its geisha district, its fine ‘Kaga’ cuisine, Kutani porcelain and kimono dressmaking.) Despite this traditionalism it’s the home of one of the most famous places of innovative creativity: the 21st century Museum of Contemporary Art.The building itself is completely circular, low-level and is surrounded by a glass facade that looks out onto on gardens where the permanent exhibits of international artists are found. This sober yet bold museum edifice, opened in 2004, was designed by the Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (aka the Sanaa architectural firm, Pritzker Prize winners in 2010.)The same duo has been commissioned for the future Louvre museum in Lens, France.

A Swimming Pool that isn’t one

Located in the heart of the city, in the famous Kenroku-en Park, the museum has become a place for excursions and visits for tourists and families alike. Facilities include a restaurant, shop and bookstore. The museum comprises an inner and an outer area called the "exchange" where half of the permanent installations have free and open access. In this way Blue Planet Sky (2004), designed by the American artist James Turrell, has become a place for meeting and meditation. Passersby can sit inside and observe the infinite variations of the sky and its colours through an opening in the ceiling. Another major perennial work here is the Swimming Pool (2004), by the Argentine Leandro Erlich. This is a replica pool where viewers above can peer through a strong glass panel covered with water to see guests walking around in the basement below. Stunning!

The museum also houses unique works by Jan Fabre, Olafur Eliasson, Florian Claar ... and a creation by the French botanist-designer Patrick Blanc - a 13 metre long ‘green wall’ of vegetation .

Pictorial Performances

The second main attraction of the museum is its exhibitions. One follows another successively throughout the year in the minimalist, bright, rather light and airy interior spaces. Most of them are devoted to contemporary artists of international repute. The French Monique Frydman, a painter and expert in mediums of glass and paper is featured until 20th March. Fourteen works, including three new installations, radiate vibrant colours against the white backdrop of the museum. England's Peter McDonald is also on display until 20th March with his VISITOR exhibition - a slightly psychedelic collection of paintings. Also on view until 8th April is the Silent Echoes Collection Exhibition II, with its ultra-modern installations of Japanese and Indian artists which includes video projections, ceramics and fiberglass works.
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