A Visit to Gunma Museum of Art, Tatebayashi
Located just over one hour from Tokyo in the large Tataranuma Park, the Gunma Museum of Art, Tatebayashi was opened in 2001 as a branch of the Museum of Modern Art, Gunma in Takasaki city. The focus of its collection is sculpture.
The main building was designed by Teiichi Takahashi for which he was awarded the 2004 Murano Togo architecture prize. Including an auditorium, workshop spaces and community galleries, it contains 4 exhibition galleries, the main sculpture gallery being lit naturally from glass walls overlooking the spacious lawn. It houses a permanent collection of modern and contemporary Japanese and international art.
The main gallery features ceramics and sculpture by American artist Jim Dine (b. 1935). Not so well known but worth viewing is the sizeable collection of Dine's botanical etchings. These sit very well alongside the botanical photography of both Karl Blossfeldt (1864-1932) and Chie Yasuda (b.1962). GMAT has curated a large collection of animal sculptures by French artist Francois Pompon (1855-1933), whose studio has been recreated in the grounds of the museum. His polar bear sculpture Ours Blanc (1923-33) is the museum's mascot. Pompon's works were curated by GMAT as his name sounds very like the words pon poko pon contained in the local folk tale The Magic Kettle. Other artists represented in the collection include Yasuko Iba, Kazumasa Nagai, Raoul Dufy and Marc Chagall.
Beside the broad entrance path into the main building is Barry Flanagan's Hare on Bell (1983). Temporary exhibitions include both Japanese and international contemporary artists such as Brazilian-Japanese painter Oscar Oiwa and French performance artist Maureen Colomar. Outdoor sculpture exhibitions take place in the summer.
The grounds are large and accessible. There are seats here and there and plenty of shade in the grounds near the Pompon studio. A wide stone-lined path leads to the main museum entrance and the pond features lotus blooms in the summer.
On the other side of access road to the museum and containing about 40 works, is a sculpture trail that winds through the forested banks of a canal, one of many in the area that flow into Lake Tataranuma, about a 30 minute walk from the museum. The many lakes in the area are home to Siberian migratory swans in the winter months.
The museum contains a good restaurant, a gift shop with items from local designers, plenty of car parking and the main building is barrier-free.
Train/bus – Tobu Isesaki line or Ryomo Express from Tobu Asakusa (Tokyo) station to Tatebayashi station - 60 minutes. From the station entrance take the bus “Tatara Junkai-sen” (多々良巡回線) to the museum entrance “bijutsukan-mae” (美術館前) -10 minutes.
9:30am – 5:00pm Closed Mondays.
Main collection is free. Temporary exhibition fees vary.