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No.162 (4/23/10)

Aomori Museum of Art: A Day at the Big White Box

By Mary Smedes Pozniak
Staff Writer

Sometimes you just need to get out of town. That's what I was thinking when I recently decided to take a day trip to the Aomori Museum of Art in Aomori City. Being an art history major, I frequently say to myself, “I should really go to the museum more often.” Well, since April 10 marked the opening day of Aomori Art Museum's newest exhibit: Relics of the Ancient Roman Empire: The Glory of Rome and the Tragedy of Pompeii, it was the perfect opportunity!

As the long and unwieldy title suggests, the new exhibit features a seemingly random assortment of Roman Empire-era artifacts selected from various locations and esteemed collections around Italy -- items from Rome, Naples, Pompeii and other historical sites comprise the exhibit. The pieces range from large marble sculptures to colorful frescoes to tiny gold coins and jewelry, and combined as an exhibit they give a quick but telling glance at the wealth, glory and self-righteousness of the Roman Empire in its heyday. Most of us have, at some point in our formative education, studied the Roman Empire -- its glory days and its tragic ruin. Art and artifacts recovered from this era are of particular interest due to their decadence of design, their elaborate craftsmanship and the mastery of materials needed by each artist to wield such impressive works.

The current exhibit has a nice variety of artifacts including gold jewelry and coins, bronze tools and household wares such as candelabras and water vessels, and surprisingly well-preserved frescoes. But by far the most impressive are the giant marble sculptures. The detail and life-like precision of the drapes and folds of carved fabric and the shiny smoothness of the marble skin is awe-inspiring. Furthermore, I have no doubt you (and your kids) will leave wondering how on earth they transported those huge statues halfway across the globe from Italy!

If for nothing else, you've got to check out the Aomori Museum of Art simply to see its stunning architecture. Designed by Jun Aoki and built in 2007, the spanking new, modern white box stands in strong contrast to Aomori City's typical dilapidated urban architecture. The museum complex lies far enough outside the city center to allow for a foreground of expansive grass lawn that's perfect for a picnic when weather permits. Inside, the stark, clean, minimalist “White Cube” aesthetic serves to draw the art into focus. Giving a nod to the nearby Sannai Maruyama Historical Excavation Site, the building's underground floor plan is intended to mimic the carved trenches of an archeological dig site. Space is plenty -- something you can't often say about the interior of buildings in Japan. Ceilings of exaggerated height and interspersed geometric alcoves set the perfect stage for featuring the most prominent pieces of any occupying exhibit.

A day trip to the Aomori Museum of Art can take shape easily if you're prepared. A short train ride to Aomori Station will land you in the perfect position to hop on a free shuttle bus to the museum. Heading to the museum by car, however, can be a bit more confusing. Due to poor signage, it's easy to get lost. So if you prefer to travel by car, I recommend driving to Aomori Station, finding a parking lot nearby, and then hopping on the museum shuttle from the station. If you prefer to drive directly to the museum, you can consult the map on the museum’s website.

Be sure to embark on your journey early enough to arrive at the museum in time to take advantage of all the sites and amenities, including the Kids Room, which closes at 3:00pm. Yes, for a much-needed break from the kids, you can drop them off at the Kids Room while you wander the exhibit halls and even grab a bite to eat at the museum's cafe, Los Cuatro Gatos (last order at 4:00pm). The Kids Room is hard to find, so inquire at the Information Desk upon entering the museum. And be sure to leave time to pop into the Gift Shop for a unique souvenir!

If this all sounds good to you and you're ready to make the trip, contact the Misawa Insider for a first-come first-serve pair of free tickets! (Five pairs available.) Relics of the Ancient Roman Empire: The Glory of Rome and the Tragedy of Pompeii exhibit runs through Sunday, June 13th. More information about the Aomori Museum of Art can be found at

Free ticket giveaway!
Ten free tickets are available for readers of The Insider on a first-come, first-served basis. Send and email to editor.insider(at) for entry. Two tickets will be given per winning person.

Driving Direction:
From the main gate, go straight and turn right at the city office. Turn right at a church past City Hospital. When you hit the T, turn left. Soon afterwards turn right and go across railroad tracks. You are now on Rt. 8. Proceed about 17km, and at Circle K on your right turn left at the traffic light and go across the bridge. Turn right where you see a sign “to Michinoku Toll Road/ Aomori.” After 6km, you will hit Rt.4. Go straight and the road becomes Michinoku Toll Road. At the tollgate, pay 840 yen and keep going. At the T, turn left onto Rt. 7. Get off Rt. 7 at the sign “Sannai Maruyama Site/ Aomori Museum of Art.” Follow the signs of Aomori Museum of Art. It's the white building on your right.



たまには町を出なきゃ。そう思って青森市にある青森県立美術館に行った。美術史を選考したので、もっと頻繁に美術館にいかなきゃと思っていた。4月10日に始まった特別展、「古代ローマ帝国時代の遺産」は完璧な機会だった。 特別展は、ローマ時代のイタリアのいたるところから集められた品々を展示している。大きな大理石の彫刻からカラフルなフレスコ画、小さな金貨、宝飾品が組み合わさり、ローマ時代の富や栄華を雄弁に語っている。



Arts Towada Grand Opening
We are delighted to announce the grand opening of Arts Towada, created to employ art in the service of urban development by Towada City, Aomori.

Arts Towada
Arts Towada is a project to improve Towada's cityscape and its future town planning through art. It also strives to provide a new, entertaining environment, where people can have an enjoyable time experiencing art pieces and communicating with one another. This project is organized around Kanchogai Dori, Towada City’s symbolic street approximately 1.1km in length located at the center of the city, and is largely based on the following elements: artworks, art programs and Towada Art Center, which was launched in spring 2008. Moreover, the following are to be introduced this spring: Art Square, where you can experience large-scale art pieces, and street-furniture-oriented artworks. The former will be located around the art center, the latter along the symbolic street.

Art Square and Street Furniture
This newly opened Art Square consists of three park-type spaces where you can experience large-scale public artworks in the open-air.
Also street furniture (benches) designed by different artists and architects appears along Kanchogai Dori, Towada City’s symbolic street approximately 1.1km in length located at the center of the city, which creates a new landscape of the art street.

No.162 (4/23/10)

Arts Towada Grand Opening Memorial Exhibition

YAYOI KUSAMA Singing in Towada
Towada Art Center, around Central Shopping area
April 24 (Sat) thru. August 29 (Sun), 2010

Venue: Towada Art Center, around Central Shopping area Open from 10:00 to 17:00, except on April 24 (open from 11:00) ※Please enter by 16:30 Closed every Monday, except when the day of the week falls on national holidays. In this case, Towada Art Center will be closed the following day. Also, please note that it will be open on April 26, July 19, August 2, and August 16. Admission fees: 400 Yen for adults, 300 Yen per visitor for parties of over 20 people, and free admission for high school students and below. ※An additional admission fee is required to view permanent exhibitions.

About the exhibition
We are proud to present our memorial grand opening memorial exhibition of Yayoi Kusama, a leading avant-garde artist in Japan. Kusama has kindly dedicated her large-scale, outdoor installation “Love Forever, Singing in Towada” as a permanent exhibit to Art Square around Towada Art Center. Yayoi Kusama is currently one of the most notable Japanese contemporary artists who command a wide range of international attention. Inspired by her childhood hallucinatory experiences, her paintings of ever-multiplying polka dots and nets that she produced during her stay in New York in the 60’s gained her worldwide recognition. Since then, she has been chosen as a representative of Japan for the 45th Venice Biennale in 1993, and has been highly admired by audiences around the world. As a part of the exhibition, art pieces will be installed not only in Art Center but also in various locations around Central Shopping area, turning Towada city into the powerful world of Kusama’s art. It is incredible to learn that over the past half century, Yayoi Kusama has been actively creating a wide range of art pieces in various mediums including paintings, sculptures, installations, as well as novels and poems. In our grand opening exhibition of her artworks, we will feature a range of her art from some of her early works to her latest sculptures, presenting the whole universe of Yayoi Kusama.

YAYOI KUSAMA is an avant-garde artist and novelist. She has been producing fantastical paintings with the combined patterns of polka dots and nets since she was 10 years old. In 1957, she moved to the United States, and established herself as a rising avant-garde artist in the art industry through her strikingly original works and performances. Since returning to Japan, she has continued to travel the world for her artistic activities, publishing a number of novels and poems at the same time. In 1983, her novel "The Hustlers Grotto of Christopher Street" won the 10th Literary Award for New Writers from the monthly magazine Yasei Jidai. Moreover, some of her most prominent accolades include: the 50th Education Minister's Art Encouragement Prize and Foreign-Minister's Commendations In 2000, the Asahi Prize in 2001, the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Officier) and the Nagano Governor Prize (for the contribution in encouragement of art and culture) in 2003, the Order of the Rising Sun, and the 18th Praemium Imperiale in Painting in 2006, and Person of Cultural Merits in Japan in 2009. At the moment, she is planning on a traveling exhibition throughout Europe and the United States.

Yayoi Kusama
In my heart, they blossomed while I was unaware of it. Pumpkin and mushrooms that have been accumulated by dots. Oh, dogs are running around, too!
Hanako-chan, a girl who in the midst of her youth sang songs to me is distributing to the people all the mysteries of the universe and the infinite “celebration of love”. Look at the giant red mushroom! It was a gift from “God of Love”.
My aspirations for pursuing the truth, in a magnificent festival for the living, hopes and wishes for world peace fill up my heart, and are cheering the people up in a splendid way today as always with a heartfelt celebration of polka dots.
Visiting the Polka Dots Paradise in Towada everyday, our hearts are filled with deep emotion.
Grant me my wish, will you, please?
The joy of “Love Forever” satisfies everything, I believe. They are real; the dogs of Towada, the resplendence of the girl in the midst of her youth, “Ring-Ring” “Toko-Ton” and “Ken” the dogs, “God of Love” the mushroom, “Mushroom of the Sun” and “Spirit of Mushroom”. All of you, give us encouragement throughout the course of our life, will you?

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