Hideaki Shimamoto, curator of Brancusi exhibition in Japan: “I wish this exhibition will be an opportunity to provoke some new chances to present some essential works by Brancusi”

Oana Vasiliu 30/05/2024 | 17:06

The current exhibition of Constantin Brancusi’s work at the Artizon Museum of Art in Tokyo, Japan, marks a significant cultural milestone as it brings the pioneering sculptor’s creations to this country for the first time. This exhibition, which was meticulously planned and postponed due to the pandemic, highlights the museum’s dedication to expanding its collection of 20th-century modern art. The initiative stems from a deep appreciation of Brancusi’s contribution to abstract sculpture and a desire to fill the gap in Japanese exposure to his art, as we talked with Hideaki Shimamoto, the curator of the exhibition.

What’s your personal experience with Brancusi’s art? How did you discover his works?

I knew first his name through the book by Rosalind Krauss “Passage in Modern Sculpture”. So, my contact to Brancusi was just at theoretical level. The moment actually I met with Brancusi work was by chance at the visit to the Bridgestone Museum of Art, in short, predecessor of the Artizon Museum of Art, when I was university student.

What inspired the idea to bring Brancusi’s work to Japan for the first time?

To prepare the new museum after the closing of the Bridgestone Museum of Art in May 2015, we have started to enforce the collection of 20th century modern art, especially abstract art. In this context, we regarded Brancusi as oen of the most essential artist among the genre of sculpture. In addition, any solo exhibition of Brancusi’s sculpture has never been held in Japan at museum level. These are the reasons that we have organized this exhibition.

How does Brancusi’s art resonate with Japanese art and culture?
Simplicity.

Were there any key partnerships or collaborations that were crucial in making this exhibition a reality?
Fortunately we have had the exceptional cooperation by the Brancusi Estate with the intermediation by an Parisian independent curator, Jérôme Neutres.

How did the collaboration between Japanese institutions and international entities influence the development of the exhibition concept?
For example, Chimney Hook and Sign by wrought iron, and Portrait by oak, all from Brancusi Estate, have brought the diversity of the material of sculpture in the exhibition. In addition, Suffering from the Art Institute of Chicago helps well to understand the transition on the expression at early period of Brancusi.

Were there any particular motivations or goals behind introducing Brancusi to a Japanese audience?
This time can be said to be first time to present the outline and the main characteristics of Brancusi’s œuvre in Japan. I wish this exhibition will be an opportunity to provoke some new chances to present some essential works by Brancusi which couldn’t be included in this exhibition.

What challenges were faced in bringing Brancusi’s works to Japan?
As you know well, there is risk of earthwake in Japan. We need to prepare precise solutions along form and structure of each work to install them in the gallery. However, Japanese team, Yamato Logistics, Tokyo Studio and us, has professional technique and enough influences to present this type of artwork which requires so sensitive care. I had no concern to accept the works to our museum.

How did the organizers decide on the timing of this exhibition?
In fact, we had an intention to organize this exhibition in the spring of 2021. This was supposed to be a second retrospective -like exhibition for a single artist just after the museum’s start on 2020, following the one for Claude Monet. However, we were forced to postpone this to 2024 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How does this exhibition fit into the broader context of cultural exchange between Japan and Europe?
I think that Japan has already built historically the cultural relationship with western Europe. On this opportunity, we have had lots of interests and generous supports by Romanian institutions: The Embassy of Romania at Tokyo and the Romanian Cultural Institute. I wish that this good relationship can develop to the extent that other Romanian artist will be newly presented in Japan: for example, Victor Brauner.

Will this exhibition lead to more Brancusi exhibitions or related events in Japan?
I truly wish so. This is the first time to present the collective works by Brancusi in Japan. So, this could invite any further opportunity to update the presentation of Brancusi in Japan, I hope.

How might this exhibition impact the appreciation and study of Brancusi’s work in Japan and beyond?
Through this exhibition, Japanese visitors could grasp the outline of Brancusi’s œuvre and the characteristics of his creation, I wish. There is no room to doubt for the evaluation of Brancusi as sculptor. I have had lots of reactions on Brancusi as photopgrapher. So, I expect the development of the study not only on his sculptural works, but also on the significance of photography in his whole creation.

The exhibition is on display up until July 7, 2024 and more details are available here.

All photos courtesy of the Artizon Museum of Art

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