This museum may surprise unassuming visitors with two distinctive features. One feature is its attractive building and the surrounding. The buildingt is designed not only to appear floating on the expanse of water pool (presumably to emphasize its adjacency to Lake Biwa, but also to emulate traditional Japanese timber building structure. The other feature is its exhibits. They are the works of only three Japanese artists, with each artist specializing in different art forms. If you happen to be a fan of any featured artist, you will certainly find the museum worthwhile to visit. However, I would say that, even for those whose visits are mere happenstances, it offers a rare opportunity to ponder upon artistry.
A typical museum displays a diverse collection of artworks produced by a variety of artists. As such, it can easily make typical visitors impressed by its overwhelming agglomeration of artworks, but it is not a conducive environment for anybody to appreciate the artistry of individual artists. Sagawa Art Museum has obviously taken a different tack from the norm, and it has narrowly focused on three featured artists who are all regarded as accomplished artists in their respective fields of artistry. Naturally, one can see a fair number of artworks by each featured artist, and that provides a rare opportunity for a visitor to appreciate his artistry and its characteristics, and also to ponder upon artistry in general.
Now let me share with our readers my own reflections, which are inevitably “biased,” on the three featured artists.
The museum’s champion of Japanese painting is Mr. Ikuo Hirayama. His fame largely stems from his painting of sceneries along the Silk Road. Evocative style of his painting has suited to the exotic image that many Japanese have of the Silk Road as the ancient cultural collider between the East and the West. His works in the museum clearly indicate that he was the first-class “writer” of travelogue in painting. However, his painting of ravaged Salayevo, entitled “the Prayer for Peace” reveals that he is no Picaso.
The champion of sculpture is Mr. Churyo Sato. The museum exhibits not only a fair number of his sculptures, but also his drawings as well as some of his thoughts on art. These exhibits have collectively given me the impression that he strived to prove, through his artworks, that the equation “natural”=”beautiful” holds true, and the exhibits have indeed made me feel comfortable with this theory.
The champion of ceramic work is Mr. Kichizaemon Raku, the 15th house-master of Raku-Yaki ceramic ware. This household has a long and illustrious history of producing ceramic ware for tea ceremony, and the museum exhibits the pieces made by the current house-master. Art of tea ceremony has always had some elements of unorthodoxy from its inception in the 13th century, which is typically represented by the unorthodox shapes and colorings of tea bowls, or in the minimalist characteristics of the setting (room, house, or outdoor). Raku ceramic ware has led this trend, and his contemporary work is no exception. The museum exhibits also suggest that unorthodoxy without sound philosophy runs the risk of degenerating to decadence.
Hopefully, the above personal reflections have increased the reader’s interest in visiting the museum. If not, my apology.
Incidentally, the museum is accessible by public transportation. Bus service to the museum is available from Katata station on the JR Kosei Line. Be aware that this station is located on the opposite side of Lake Biwa, and the bus crosses the bridge over the lake. Although the service is rather infrequent, one can adjust the timing to catch the bus from the museum, as the in-house café/restaurant serves tasteful coffee, and provides the place to ponder upon artistry.
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