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From Home to the Museum: Tanaka Tsuneko Collection
Written by Takeshi HIRATA   
Published: December 11 2009

    Recently, I visited the art event entitled “KOMAZAWA MUSEUM × ART” [Note] in which modern art works were displayed in a housing exhibition hall.  This exhibition named “From Home to the Museum: Tanaka Tsuneko Collection” provided us with an opportunity to enjoy modern art works which had been kept at the collector’s home.  How did these exhibits, namely, the collections, which had been treasured by a collector, transform the impression of the museum?

    I was very surprised to hear that the collections were to be donated to the Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama, after the period of this exhibition.  The phrase, “From Home to the Museum”, included in the title of the exhibition means that the collections are to be moved from the collector’s home to the museum.  As a result of being donated to the museum, the collections which have henceforth lived only in a space at  the collector’s home will come to be shown to a number of viewers.  This means that the creations will get a chance to have a new time.  In other words, this “move” has a significant meaning for not only the residents of Wakayama prefecture but all the people living in Japan and overseas to be provided with an opportunity to view the collections.  I sincerely respect the will of Ms. Tanaka.

    Then, what kind of person is the collector, Tsuneko Tanaka?  She is a scholar specializing in the field of living places and has been teaching at Osaka Kyoiku University for a long time, propounding a “gracious” and “beautiful” living style.  Furthermore, to put her proposal in practice, she has been advocating a style of “living with modern art”. She has visited a number of galleries on her own volition to choose and collect these works over the last twenty years.  It is said that at the lastest count, the number of items in her collection is no less than a thousand, and that the number of artists who created them is approximately a hundred.

View from "From Home to the Museum: Tanaka Tsuneko Collection" exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama, courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama, copyright © The Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama

    Entering the venue, I notice that almost all the exhibits are small in size.  This helps the viewer form a friendly impression of both her form of living and the collections.  Throughout the exhibition, I felt as if I was enjoying looking around select shops (retail stores handling clothing sold under various kinds of brand names) and had made some discoveries. There were many humorous exhibits, such as tote bags created by Charles Worthen, Yoshiaki Kaihatsu and Hiroshi Fuji, and the Paramodel’s “Tommy Kushi” (2006), in which a kushikatsu (pork cutlet) was put on a miniature car produced by Tomica.

    Tanaka’s collections are characteristic in that they were made by artists most of whom engage in their creative work based in the Kansai area, such as Hajime Imamura, Keiji Uematsu, Kohei Nawa, Hitoshi Nomura and Paramodel.  Indeed, this would be due to the fact that the collector herself lives in the area, but this regional characteristic makes us realize that art exists as part of our daily lives.  In addition, it is notable that Tanaka purchased young artists’ works created in the early years of their careers.  For instance, Takashi Murakami’s “Mr. DOB” (1994) and Yoshitomo Nara’s “Donami Q-chan” (1993), both displayed in this exhibition, had been presented before either of the two artists became well-known internationally.  Satoshi Uchiumi’s “Black before the eyes” (2003) and Kohei Nawa’s “PixCell-Sheep” (2002) can also be cited as similar examples to those as mentioned above.  Tanaka has already collected the work entitled “Cycle Deer” (2008), made by Satoshi Someya (b. 1983), the youngest artist among the exhibitors.  In this way, Tanaka has been supporting activities of young artists by purchasing their creations.  I respect her attitude in this respect.  Furthermore, her good sense of judgement in objects of art must be due to her empirical values developed over the period of time she has spent for living with art.

    Museums collect artworks with the aim of locating artworks in the history of art, conserving them and handing down them for posterity.  Nonetheless, recently, we often find that private collectors’ exhibitions are held at museums, for example, “Tracks of a certain businessman collection - Place of Japanese art in postwar days” (Mitaka City Gallery of Art, 2003) and “Neoteny Japan - Takahashi Collection” (The Ueno Royal Museum and others, 2008-2009).   These exhibitions revealed each collector’s human nature.  We could say that exhibitions of private collections are held to revalidate the significance and role of collections by bringing an individual perspective into museums which are usually considered to be solely public spaces.

    Yes, most personal collections, except for a few cases, are different from artworks collected by museums to form art history in Japan (and the world).  Private collections are gathered more personally and frequently than museum collections.  As Tanaka’s collections, most of which are small in size, allow viewers to imagine the size of her living space and budget for purchasing art works, private collections are gathered dependant on each collector’s situation and interests.  You cannot help but feel Tanaka’s perspective and thoughts when viewing her collections.  Collections themselves clearly show us the viewpoints and characteristics of the people who gathered them.

    I have no personal acquaintance with Tanaka.  Nevertheless, it seems that, in this exhibition, I had an opportunity to spend time talking with her through her collections.  The atmosphere we feel behind the exhibition space must then be the representation of the humanity included in the “individual” - Tanaka - and her “home”.  Probably Tsuneko Tanaka brought into the museum not only her collections but the atmosphere of being “at home”.  I sincerely hope that the collections will continue to share time with a large number of viewers for many years to come.
(Translated by Nozomi Nakayama)

"KOMAZAWA MUSEUM × ART”: Komazawa Park Housing Gallery, 12/Sep/2009-27/Sep/2009

Related Exhibition
From Home to the Museum: Tanaka Tsuneko Collection
08/Sep/2009 - 08/Nov/2009
Venue: The Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama
Last Updated on November 02 2015

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