The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo
The National Museum of Western Art (Japanese: 国立西洋美術館), also known as NMWA, is a museum in Tokyo dedicated to European and (to a lesser extent) American art, housed in a building designed by Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier; it is one of the only four museums built after a design by the famous Swiss-French architect.
Above: an exterior view of the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo designed by Le Corbusier, photo 663highland (CC BY 2.5).
History and architecture
The museum was founded in 1959 by Japanese art collector and businessman Matsukata Kojiro (1865-1950) to publicly display his large collection of, mostly French, paintings and sculptures.
Matsukata commissioned the design of the museum’s building to Le Corbusier in 1955. The architect devised a three-story (two over the ground plus an underground storage level) construction, mostly made in reinforced concrete.
Raised over thin columns (known in French as pilotis), the building encompasses a total gross floor area of 17,369 square meters / 187,000 square feet and includes permanent and temporary exhibition galleries, a small auditorium, a restaurant, and a shop.
The NMWA was inaugurated in the Ueno Park area of Tokyo on June 20, 1959.
In 1979, the museum was enlarged through an expansion designed by Japanese architect Kunio Maekawa, who had previously collaborated with Le Corbusier in the design of the original building.
NMWA, photo by Kakidai (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Photo Xiquinho Silva (CC BY 2.0).
The museum’s lobby; photo Xiquinho Silva.
Two images of the gallery space of the National Museum of Western Art; photos Vince Lam (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Collection and activities
The permanent collection of the museum, which includes both pieces which were part of Matsukata’s collection and works acquired later by the NMWA, spans a period of seven centuries, from the 14th to the 20th century. Works on view include paintings, drawings, and sculptures by artists such as Lucas Cranach the Elder, Paolo Veronese, Tintoretto, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Guido Reni, Peter Paul Rubens, Jusepe de Ribera, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Johann Heinrich Fussli, Eugene Delacroix, Gustave Courbet, Edouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet (including one of his Water Lilies), Auguste Rodin, Aristide Maillol, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Fernand Leger, Joan Miro, and Jean Dubuffet, among others.
The National Museum of Western Art also organizes temporary exhibitions, lectures, talks, concerts, and family programs.
Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1916, oil on canvas; image Lluís Ribes Mateu (CC BY-NC 2.0)
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