Friday, April 20, 2007

Monet in Tokyo

I had a morning to kill before catching my flight out and was quite thrilled to discover that there is a major Monet exhibit going on in Tokyo right now. Over 90 of his works are on display at the National Art Center, so I made my way over to catch it first thing when the museum doors opened.

There was already a line of people waiting to get in (I was the only gaijin in line), so I was worried that the place would be too crowded to enjoy. However, the Japanese were true to form and had to do the experience "right". They all ran into the museum and got one of those audio tour phone-things and ended up all bunched together around the first painting as they followed the audio tour. There must have been 50 people all clustered together. They didn't have audio guides in English - and I wouldn't have used one anyway - so I just went to the next painting and ended up enjoying the exhibit by myself by staying one or more paintings ahead of the group.

The exhibit is divided up into sections that cover different aspects of Monet's technique: color, light, reflection, and so on. Then in each section they have side galleries of other modern artists which punctuate these themes. For example, in the "Brushwork" side-section they had a Pollock (didn't he splatter more than "brush"?) and in the "Light" side-section they had a Seurat (another artist I enjoy).

They had several of his Haystack, Waterloo Bridge and Cathedral series, which individually don't do anything for me, but taken together (as they are meant to be) convey the differences in light and other nuances he was trying to capture. I don't remember seeing a series like this at the Musee d'Orsay, so I either missed it, don't remember, or they don't have enough to exhibit this way (the exhibit is taken from several collections, including the d'Orsay).

I tried to pick out my favorite in this exhibit and it was a hard call. There were dozens that moved me and which are true masterpieces. If you have a few hours to kill in Tokyo the exhibit lasts until right around the U.S. July 4th holiday, which must be why they have this painting:

Oh, wait. Those are French flags, aren't they?

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