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Mead Art Museum announces Reinvinting Tokyo. Japan’s Largest City in the Artistic Imagination

The Mead Art Museum presents Reinvinting Tokyo. Japan’s Largest City in the Artistic Imagination, an exhibition on view August 25 to December 30, 2012.

Maekawa Sempan Japanese (1888-1960) Night of Shinjuku (Shinjuku no yoru) from ’15 Scenes of Last Tokyo in Original Wood-cut’ (Tokyo kaiko zue) 1945 (Showa 20) Print woodblock print Sheet: 7 7/8in x 11 1/8in; 20.0025cm x 28.2575cm AC 2008.63.15 Purchase with William K. Allison (Class of 1920) Memorial Fund

Re-Inventing Tokyo is the first exhibition ever held in the United States to consider portrayals of Tokyo in light of the city’s continual reinvention since its founding, under the name Edo, more than 400 years ago. Re-Inventing Tokyo is also the first major international loan exhibition of Japanese art ever presented at Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum, which is known for the strength of its collection of Japanese prints and the depth of its commitment to Japanese studies. The year 2012, when the eyes of our nation are focused on the 100th anniversary of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., seems an auspicious time for such a groundbreaking exhibition, as Japan is also famous for its cherry blossoms.

Using a carefully selected group of more than 100 prints, photographs, paintings and textiles dating from the end of the Edo period to the present day, Re-Inventing Tokyo documents the changes that took place as the city modernized and westernized in the Meiji era, became the center of modern urban life in Japan before the Second World War and rebuilt itself as part of the country’s economic miracle in the postwar decades. It concludes by addressing the ways in which Tokyo has adapted to the future visions of planners who strive to create yet another new city for the 21st century.

The exhibition draws on the Mead’s holdings of Japanese art by featuring 44 objects from the museum’s collection. Other works are on loan from important private and public collections in Japan and the United States. The Mead is fortunate to have secured the participation of distinguished lenders, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; the Hamaya Hiroshi Archive; the Kageyama Kōyō Archive; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College; the John C. Weber Collection; and the Leonard Lauder Collection.

Re-Inventing Tokyo is accompanied by a fully illustrated scholarly catalogue, to be published by Amherst College Press and distributed by the University Press of New England. The catalogue includes essays by Professor Samuel C. Morse (Amherst College Departments of Art and the History of Art and Asian Languages and Civilizations), one of this country’s leading historians of Japanese art and the curator of the exhibition; Professor Trent Maxey (Amherst College Department of History), a specialist in the culture and politics of the Meiji era; Professor Timothy Van Compernolle (Amherst College Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations), a specialist in modern Japanese literature; Professor John W. Dower (M.I.T.), this country’s leading historian of the Pacific War and Occupation and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author; and Professor Yamashita Yūji (Meiji Gakuin University), a leading art historian and critic in Japan.

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