TOP Collection: The Illumination of Life by Death
Jun. 17—Sep. 25, 2022
- Jun. 17—Sep. 25, 2022
- Closed Mondays (except when Monday falls on a holiday, in which case the museum is open and closed the following day)
- Admission：Adults ￥700(560) / College Students￥560(440) / High School and Junior High School Students, Over 65￥350(280) *The prices in parentheses ( ) are discounted prices for holders of our movie tickets, and various card members. Please refer to Visitor Information for details on our discounts. Discounts cannot be combined with other discounts. *Admission is free for children in elementary school or younger; junior high school students living or attending schools in the Tokyo metropolitan area; holders of Japanese disability identification cards (shogaisha techo), along with up to two caregivers; and holders of the museum’s annual passport.
The TOP Collection exhibition features masterpieces from the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum’s collection of over 36,000 works.* This year’s exhibition on the theme of Memento mori presents around 150 photographs and related works that probe how people have lived resiliently in the face of death, seeding our imagination for how to move forward through difficult times. *As of March 2022
“Memento mori,” a Latin phrase meaning “remember that you will die,” was meant as a reminder that people’s daily lives unfolded in the shadow of death. As the plague ravaged the medieval Christian world between the 14th and 17th centuries, this trope became associated with images of the “dance of death” showing skeletons and humans dancing, and was widely depicted as part of paintings, music, and other works of art. Photography, as well, has often been described by critics as a medium that evokes death.
This exhibition reconsiders the intimate relationship between Memento mori and photography through prints depicting death and photographs by Eugène Atget, W. Eugene Smith, Robert Frank, Mario Giacomelli, and others spanning from the 19th century to the present.
Hans Holbein the Younger, Mario Giacomelli, Robert Capa, Kyoichi Sawada, Sebastião Salgado, Walker Evans, W. Eugene Smith, Lee Friedlander, Robert Frank, Shigeo Gocho, William Eggleston, Diane Arbus, Nobuyoshi Araki, Eugène Atget, Josef Sudek, Ichiro Kojima, Shomei Tōmatsu
Introduction: Memento mori and the “Dance of Death”
The origins of Memento mori are explored in the context of medieval times.
Images of Death: The Rich Images of Death: The Old Man Images of Death: The Pedlar
Hans Holbein the Younger, 'Images of Death', 1523-26, The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo
Section 1: Memento mori and photography
Numerous critics have remarked that photography is a medium that evokes death. The first part of the exhibition features works that reflect the relationship between Memento mori and photography, drawing on the writings of American critic Susan Sontag, and others.
Robert Capa, "Near Fraga (Aragon), November 7, 1938. Loyalist offensive along the Rio Se", 1938, Collection of Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
Section 2: Memento mori and solitude
Whereas some people confront death directly through unavoidable hardships such as war, famine, and disease, others feel a closeness to death despite not encountering such hardships directly. Perhaps this is especially true for those who have left their native lands in search of new livelihoods and feel solitude when separated from their spiritual homes. This part focuses on the relationship of Memento mori and the loneliness that lurks in people’s hearts.
William Eggleston, “Mississippi, Cassidy Bayou in Background”, 1972, Collection of Tokyo Photographic Art Museum ©XXXXXXXXX
Nobuyoshi Araki, From the series of 'Sentimental Journey', 1971, Collection of Tokyo Photographic Art Museum ©Nobuyoshi Araki
Section 3: Memento mori and happiness
In our daily lives, we become absorbed in the visible world, but facing our destiny of death may allow us to reconsider life and find peace of mind. The final part considers how artworks induce an emotional response in viewers, looking at photographic works that let us contemplate death.
Shinya Fujiwara, "The heart chooses at the time of death, whether to be wondering in darkness or filled with light." from the series of 'Memento-Mori', 1972, Collection of Tokyo Photographic Art Museum ©Shinya Fujiwara
Josef Sudek, "View of the nave and down - south side of the new part of St. Vitus Cathedral" from the series of 'St. Vitus', 1928, Collection of Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
Eugene Atget, "Cloître des Billettes, Archives Street", 1898, Collection of Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
Organized by Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum opareted by Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture