These are the twelve galleries and museums chosen for Art Space Tokyo. Some were chosen for their distinctive architecture or exhibition spaces, others for their historical importance or the role they play in the art world. One thing we can guarantee is that you'll find all of them fascinating.
Designed by Jin Watanabe and built in 1938, this former private residence of the Hara family was converted into a contemporary art museum in 1979. Its exhibition program is a litany of both major and lesser-known artists, and tucked away throughout its stylish interior are permanently installed works by artists such as Tatsuo Miyajima, Yasumasa Morimura, Nam June Paik and Yoshitomo Nara.
Internationally renowned, Gallery Koyanagi is one of the leading lights of the Tokyo contemporary art world since 1995. Its sleek, discreetly lit space is home to regular exhibitions by some of the world's top artists: Sophie Calle, Marlene Dumas, Olafur Eliasson, Mariko Mori, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Tabaimo, to name but a few.
Located in a serene residential neighborhood, Nakaochiai Gallery occupies a renovated Japanese house. Having passed through former incarnations as a garage, a store selling kakigori (shaved ice) and a Japanese sweets shop, the house was turned into a gallery in 2004. Its owners run a diverse range of contemporary art programs that engage with the local community.
Designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta and opened in 1990, Watari-um cuts a striking profile on the edge of Harajuku and Gaienmae. Although spread out over several floors, this museum's exhibition spaces all interlock with each other. The basement is also home to On Sundays, one of Tokyo's most revered art and design bookshops.
Designed and constructed in 1974 by Yukio Futagawa and Makoto Suzuki, GA Gallery is one of only two specialist architecture galleries in Tokyo. Its concrete-built space houses exhibitions that focus on the architectural process rather than the finished product. It also boasts a comprehensive architecture bookshop.
Opened in 2007, this sleek, angular Tadao Ando-designed building is now one of Tokyo's signature works of architecture. Directed by three of Japan's most famous designers — Issey Miyake, Taku Satoh and Naoto Fukasawa — its ambitious exhibitions, events and workshops strive to transcend preconceived categories of what design should be.
This bathhouse-turned-gallery stands where there has been a bathhouse for two hundred years. The current building, constructed in 1951 and converted into a contemporary art gallery in 1993, is an eye-catching combination of old and new architectural design. Its high-ceilinged and naturally lit space has seen exhibitions by internationally renowned artists such as Genpei Akasegawa, Louise Bourgeois, Anish Kapoor, Julian Opie and Tadanori Yokoo.
Opened in 1950 as Japan's first commercial contemporary art gallery, Tokyo Gallery has been at the center of the Tokyo art world for several decades and has continuously exhibited groundbreaking works by Japanese, Asian and Western artists. In 2002, it opened Beijing Tokyo Art Projects (BTAP) in the Dashanzi (798) area of Beijing, which has since become the epicenter of the booming Chinese contemporary art scene.
Gallery éf is located in a 140 year-old wooden kura warehouse, a building that has miraculously survived two fires, the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the firebombing of Tokyo in 1945 and the relentless urban regeneration of Tokyo in the postwar period. Since its opening in 1998, this gallery, which also has a great café, is the antithesis of the white cube: its wooden walls are home to inventive exhibitions in a diverse variety of media.
Occupying a former shipping company's warehouse, Aoyama | Meguro is one of Tokyo's so-called "next-generation" galleries that have opened since 2004. Their young directors have all worked for the major commercial galleries that were established in the 1990s. Aoyama | Meguro shows the work of young but increasingly well-known artists like Koki Tanaka and Junya Sato.
Run by Masato Nakamura and his nonprofit artist collective commandN since 1998, Project Space Kandada is one of Tokyo's key alternative spaces, functioning as a base of operations for activities that reach well beyond the gallery walls to engage with public space and communities in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan.
Opened in 2001, the Ghibli Museum is one of the most attractively placed art spaces in Tokyo, located in the woods of Inokashira Park in Kichijoji. Founded by Hayao Miyazaki in 1985, Studio Ghibli is the production company behind anime classics such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Howl's Moving Castle. Miyazaki's world of narrow spiral staircases, elevated walkways and stained-glass windows comes to life in this museum.