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How do museums use archives? “National Center for Art Research International Symposium and Workshop 2023” Report #1|Tokyo Art Beat

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“National Center for Art Research International Symposium and Workshop 2023” brought together a diverse group of artists, curators and researchers to share insights and discuss a range of art-related topics. Five reports describe the various sessions and workshops that took place during the event. (Translated by Alena Heiß)

The National Center for Art Research (NCAR), which aims to be a new hub for promoting art in Japan with the mission to “connect, deepen and expand the arts,” held the “National Center for Art Research International Symposium 2023 – Museum and Research: What does it mean to ‘deepen’ art?” at the National Art Center (Nogizaka, Tokyo) on March 22, 2024.

The first preliminary workshop session, held on March 21, focused on the theme ‘Museums and Archives’. In the first half, panelists from domestic and international museums presented examples of collecting and archiving practice and asked questions about archiving works of art and materials. In the second half, participants shared the difficulties of accepting donated works and provided examples of archival use.

◎ Panelists:
Maiko Hara (Curator, Mie Prefecture Art Museum)
Daniel Muzyczuk (Head of Modern Art Department, Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź)
Yuka Egami (Curator, Hyogo Prefecture Art Museum)

◎ Moderator:
Yuri Mitsuda (director, art archive center Tama Art University)

From left: Maiko Hara, Yuri Mitsuda, Daniel Muzyczuk, Yuka Egami Photo: Ken Sengoku (.new)

Maiko Hara: donation and use of works of art by Miho Akioka

Contemporary artist Miho Akioka, who passed away in March 2018 at the age of 65, spent the last part of her life in Mie Prefecture. After being contacted by Akioka’s relatives, the Mie Prefectural Art Museum examined and categorized more than 100 works left behind by the artist. Based on this data, approximately 40 works have been collected by 13 museums in Japan with a connection to Akioka (as of March 2024).

On the third anniversary of Akioka’s death in spring 2020, the Mie Prefectural Art Museum held an exhibition showcasing the entire collection, and the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, which also owns Akioka’s works, held an exhibition in fall 2020 special exhibition. In addition, the museum occasionally received questions from other institutions about the exhibition, storage and framing of works of art.

Maiko Hara (Curator, Mie Prefecture Art Museum) Photo: Ken Sengoku (.new)

Considering the above, Hara raised two important points:

1. It is essential to create a network that supports the exchange of information about works and exhibitions so that the museum can overcome the loss of the artist or the curators who collaborated with them. It is crucial that museums are open to visitors and curators and that information is accessible everywhere.

2. Local museums are important for local artists. While collecting the works of a single artist in one museum is valuable, a structure in which the works are distributed to museums in different regions and stored and exhibited collectively would be a useful mechanism for future research and exhibitions. To achieve this, however, it is crucial that a museum acts as a hub.

Workshop view Photo: Ken Sengoku (.new)

Daniel Muzyczuk: archiving and reproduction of exhibitions under the socialist regime

Located in Łódź (pronounced “wooch”), Poland’s second largest city, Muzeum Sztuki specializes in modern and contemporary art, with an emphasis on the history of avant-garde art, mainly from Central and Eastern Europe. After World War II, Poland fell under the influence of the Soviet Union and the socialist regime, resulting in a period when most abstract paintings were excluded from exhibitions. However, since the 1960s, the Muzeum Sztuki has been working to reproduce and exhibit the destroyed works, using archival materials such as photographs taken at the time of the work’s creation. Muzyczuk also noted that it is essential to use archives to approach art.

Daniel Muzyczuk (head of the modern art department, Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź) Photo: Ken Sengoku (.new)

In addition, Muzyczuk mentioned the possible unprecedented influences and connections between post-war Japanese art and the Muzeum Sztuki. For example, in the mid-1960s, when trips abroad were still rare, art critic Yusuke Nakahara (1931-2011) chose Poland as his first destination, allowing him to experience abstract art. In addition, the museum’s former director, Ryszard Stanisławski, often visited Japan and offered the facility as a location for tours of Japanese art in Europe.

Workshop view Photo: Ken Sengoku (.new)

Yuka Egami: Contemporary Art in the Kansai Region and “Shinanobashi Gallery” Archive.

The Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, formerly known as the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, was first opened in 1970 and reopened at its current location in 2002 as a symbol of cultural reconstruction after the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. art information center (library) next to the museum is described as one of the largest in the Kansai region, providing access to more than 120,000 books and materials.

Yuka Egami (Curator, Hyogo Prefecture Art Museum) Photo: Ken Sengoku (.new)

As a representative case, Egami introduced the research and cataloging of the materials related to the Shinanobashi Gallery, a contemporary art rental gallery that operated in Osaka from the 1960s to 2010. The gallery owner donated approximately 3,900 items, including artwork and direct-mail postcards for exhibitions. and visitor data from the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art. Using these items, the museum held the “Shinanobashi Gallery Collection” exhibition featuring gallery exhibition photos and interviews with the artists. In particular, Egami noted that interviewing people involved with the gallery was “an attempt to preserve things that were not originally included because they were so ordinary and mundane.”

In addition, Egami introduced the management of paper materials and “artist files” collected since the days of the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Modern Art. She went on to say that a fundamental question for a museum with a collection is how to capture the “very personal experiences of ordinary viewers” associated with the works, which are not written down but are essential to capturing the reality of the details to set.


The second half of the session consisted of discussions with questions from the audience. For the first question, an audience member with experience teaching at art universities in Japan and Britain addressed the current reality in which even students of art history limit their research to easily accessible digital sources and often avoid visiting libraries, and wondered how archives can be used. and made more interesting.

Yuri Mitsuda (director, Tama Art University Art Archive Center) Photo: Ken Sengoku (.new)

Based on her experience as director of the Tama Art University Art Archive Center, moderator Yuri Mitsuda pointed out that “today’s students may not have the sense of being part of history, starting with Marcel Duchamp, or the experience of to think about the relationships between themselves. and the works of others.” For example, Mitsuda shared the exhibition of an artist’s book at the Archives Center previously owned by the poet and art critic Shuzo Takiguchi (1903-1979). She concluded: “We try to create ‘experiences’ from information that would otherwise would simply disappear online.”

Egami noted that when she taught a course to students majoring in video games and animation, the students showed great interest in the art infrastructure surrounding young artists of the 1980s and how they used art galleries to exhibit their work. She added: “We need to be creative in connecting and presenting archives based on users’ interests.”

Workshop view Photo: Ken Sengoku (.new)

A second questioner asked what could be done to make the things not in the archives accessible to viewers and what role curators should play in this process.

Muzyczuk spoke about the blank period in the archives, which took place when Poland was divided by war and socialism. In the 1950s, at the artists’ suggestion, an initiative was launched to reproduce paintings from the 1930s using preserved materials. Muzyczuk also quoted memorable words from the artists: “The reproductions embody the originals.”

Egami pointed to the fact that works by young Kansai artists were rarely sold in the 1980s and many were thrown away at art universities. She concluded: “It is critical for curators to archive the process of exhibiting contemporary artworks, especially installations, so that it can be accessed as open information.”

Workshop view Photo: Ken Sengoku (.new)

Although the backgrounds, environments, activities and circumstances differed, the cases illustrated each museum’s unique approach and stimulated lively discussions throughout the session.