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Exploring Osaka's Culture

Nakanoshima's Art & Culture:
Full of Appeals Both Old and New

The striking exterior design

Another strength of the Nakanoshima district is its concentration of cultural venues found nowhere else in Japan. One fine example would be the National Museum of Art, Osaka (NMAO), which draws attention both at home and abroad for creative exhibition of a collection focused on contemporary art. Also notable is the Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library, a public library housed in a century-old neo-Renaissance style building that retains its original appearance. As major forces behind the artistic and cultural riches that Osaka prides itself on, both are must-see destinations.

Encountering Contemporary Art at a New Icon, NMAO

We asked Mr. Akira Tatehata, the Director of NMAO to introduce us to some of the highlights of the museum

The entrance bursting with natural light. The architecture is by Cesar Pelli, who has been selected as one of “the ten most influential living American architects” and has won a number of prestigious awards.

NMAO opened in 1977 at the site of the Japan World Exposition 1970 in Suita City, in the northern part of the Osaka Prefecture. Later on, due to factors such as the age of the building, Nakanoshima district with its excellent public transport access and concentration of cultural venues was chosen as the new home for the museum. In 2004, the museum reopened, having been remodeled as a fully subterranean structure.

We collect, store and exhibit works of art as well as conduct research into both Japanese and international contemporary art. We are also active in efforts to bring about widespread awareness of global trends in contemporary art. Since our inception, we have been known and loved as a place to enjoy contemporary art up close and personal.

Objet That Kindles the Creative Spirit

The first thing that visitors see is the unique building designed by the American architect Cesar Pelli. The massive objet sculpted of stainless-steel piping was designed to express both the vitality of bamboo stalks and the idea of development and growth of contemporary art.

Visitors claim that the structure looks like a sailboat or even rabbit ears. The formal beauty of the objet excites the creative spirit of those who regard it, and has become a symbol of the museum.

The building, one of the few in the world that opts for full subterranean construction, consists of 1 story above ground and 3 below, with exhibits on display in the underground levels.

Because no natural light enters the exhibit space, the environment is suited to conservation of the exhibit pieces. However, the upper public space is designed to take in plenty of light, giving the whole structure an airy feel that often makes visitors forget that they are underground.

World-Class Works of Art in the Collection

Wassily Kandinsky, “Picture within Picture,” c 1929. Collection of the National Museum of Art, Osaka. The work will be displayed as a part of the “Dream Museum: The Osaka Collections” exhibition.

The museum has over 5,000 works of art, the majority of them dating after 1945. The works are exhibited in rotation within the permanent collection display according to changing themes.
First, visitors walking down the staircase from the entrance are greeted by Joan Miró’s massive ceramic mural “Innocent Laughter.” The museum’s collection includes other works by artists considered to be masters of modern art, such as the “Comedian and Child” by Pablo Picasso and “Preparations for a Banquet” by Paul Cezanne.
Among works by Japanese creators, there are a number of pieces by artists with ties to Osaka, such as Yasumasa Morimura, a leading presence in Japanese contemporary art and an artist of international renown, and Jiro Yoshihara, the founder of Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai (Concrete Art Association), an avant-garde art group of international repute.
The museum is also home to works by Lee U-Fan, a Korean-born artist who makes his home in Japan. A founding member of the “Mono-ha (School of Things)” contemporary art movement, he is a figure of tremendous influence and a focus of much attention, and is active in the world art scene.
In the future, we hope to provide greater emphasis to exhibitions planned around a new generation of artists and to introducing Korean, Chinese and other artists from greater Asia.
*Not all works in our collection are on display at all times. Since the permanent collection exhibit is also refreshed from time to time, we ask visitors to be mindful of the fact that they may not be able to view every work they are interested in.

An Array of Intriguing Exhibitions Are Being Planned

2007 marks the 30th anniversary of the museum's founding, and a series of appealing projects are scheduled. Of these, “Dream Museum: The Osaka Collections,” slated for January 16 (Tues) through March 25 (Sun) is attracting special notice.
“Dream Museum: The Osaka Collections” gathers together the great works of 20th century art in Osaka's 3 major fine art museums – our own collection as well as those of the Osaka Municipal Museum of Modern Art (tentative name) which is currently under development, and the Suntory Museum [Tempozan]. The exhibition will feature works by Picasso, Modigliani, Dali, Magritte, Warhol, Richter and Basquiat, among others. In addition, the museum's calendar for 2007 is full of other exciting projects.
The museum also offers a great lineup of secondary facilities, including the museum shop, restaurant and kids room. We hope to continue pursuing a wide range of activities in the future, exploring every possibility including, first and foremost, holding events that think outside the “fine art museum” box.

Relaying the Idea of Osaka, the Art City
Mr. Akira Tatehata Director of the National Museum of Art, Osaka

Osaka has many enticements, including product creation, food culture and entertainment, but I would love to have people all over the world know it also as an “art city” that has produced a number of well-known artists and has an accessible and diverse arts culture that anyone can enjoy. Please, come and experience for yourself the artistic energy that the Museum is helping to spread to the world from Osaka.


Akira Tatehata
Mr. Akira Tatehata is a fine art critic and poet, and formerly a professor at the Tama Art University. He has been the Director of NMAO since 2005, and also acts as the chairperson for the art sector in organized efforts to promote the strength of “Brand Osaka.”

The National Museum of Art, Osaka

Hours open

(Admission allowed until 4:30PM)

Days closed

Mondays (or the following Tuesday when a Monday is a national holiday);
December 28 - January 4
*The museum may undergo temporary closures from time to time.


- Special Exhibition: Varies according to event
- Permanent Exhibition and Thematic Exhibition:

  Individual Group
(more than 20 persons)
Adults ¥420 ¥210
College Students ¥130 ¥ 70
High School ¥ 70 ¥ 40
Elementary and Junior High Free Free
* International travelers with valid passport are eligible for discount.
4-2-55 Nakanoshima, Kita-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka Prefecture
Phone: +81-6-6447-4680

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