A Timeline of Events
In the Japanese Art World

  1. 2015
    Fergus McCaffrey, a New York-based gallery representing several postwar Japanese artists, announces plans to open a branch in Tokyo.
    Kiyosumi-Shirakawa gallery building closes. Taka Ishii Gallery and Tomio Koyama Gallery relocate to Sendagaya; ShugoArts relocates to Mishuku.
    Taka Ishii Gallery opens a branch in New York.
    Tomio Koyama Gallery closes its branch in Singapore.
    A major group exhibition of Mono-ha is held at the Fondazione Mudima in Milan.
  2. 2014
    Blum & Poe opens a branch in Jingumae, becoming the first major international gallery to establish an outpost in Tokyo.
    Kaikai Kiki opens Bar Zingaro in Nakano; closes its branch of Hidari Zingaro in Berlin.
    Taka Ishii Gallery opens its first overseas branch in Paris.
    Hi Red Center: The Documents of "Direct Action" held at the Nagoya City Art Museum.
    We Can Make Another Future: Japanese Art After 1989 to be held at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane.
    Mono-ha is featured in Other Primary Structures at the Jewish Museum, New York.
  3. 2013
    Taka Ishii Gallery and Tomio Koyama Gallery close their branches in Kyoto.
    Jikken Kobo – Experimental Workshop held at the Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura.
    Gutai: Splendid Playground held at the Guggenheim Museum, New York.
    Gutai and Mono-ha featured in Prima Materia, held at Punta Della Dogana, Venice, Italy.
    Gutai and Mono-ha featured in Parallel Views: Italian and Japanese Art from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, held at The Warehouse, Dallas, Texas.
  4. 2012
    Tomio Koyama Gallery opens a multipurpose art space in the newly built Hikarie shopping complex in Shibuya.
    Gutai: The Spirit of an Era held at the National Art Center, Tokyo.
    Tomio Koyama Gallery, Ota Fine Arts, and Mizuma Art Gallery open branches in the Gillman Barracks in Singapore.
    Kaikai Kiki opens a branch of Hidari Zingaro in Berlin.
    Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha held at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles.
    Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
  5. 2011
    Piramide gallery building opens in Roppongi.
    Ai Kowada Gallery opens.
    Bye Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art held at the Japan Society in New York.
    The Group 1965: We Are Boys! (Showa 40 Nen Kai) held at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf.
    Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, followed by meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
  6. 2010
    commandN closes Project Space Kandada and opens multipurpose arts center 3331 Arts Chiyoda.
    Nakaochiai Gallery closes.
    Misa Shin Gallery opens.
    Yokohama's nonprofit art center ZAIM closes.
    Suntory Museum in Osaka closes.
    Setouchi International Art Festival (now called the Setouchi Triennale) held for the first time on Naoshima and several other islands in the Seto Inland Sea; coincides with the opening of the Lee Ufan Museum on Naoshima, the Teshima Art Museum on Teshima, and the initiation of the Inujima Art House Project on Inujima.
    First Aichi Triennale, entitled Arts and Cities, held in Nagoya.
    Kaikai Kiki opens an affiliated gallery / art merchandise store called Hidari Zingaro in Nakano, and opens a branch of Kaikai Kiki Gallery in Taipei.
    Kazuyo Sejima of architectural office SANAA is the first woman to direct the Venice Architectural Biennale.
    Twist and Shout: Contemporary Art from Japan held at Bangkok Art and Culture Center.
    The Democratic Party of Japan, elected in 2009 on promises to cut spending, reviews and cuts budget of the Agency for Cultural Affairs (ACA) and insists on a clearer distinction between the ACA’s domestic focus and the Japan Foundation’s international role.
    China overtakes Japan as world's second-largest economy.
  7. 2009
    First edition of G-tokyo Contemporary Art Fair held in the Mori Art Center.
    ART iT magazine ceases its print version and becomes an online publication.
    Following its closure in 2002 (after 14 years), Musashino Art University reopens Gallery αM in Higashi-Kanda.
    TKG Daikanyama closes.
    SCAI × SCAI closes.
    Magical Artroom closes. Its curator Haruka Ito establishes Island, a gallery and studio space in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture.
    Taro Nasu Gallery closes its branch in Osaka.
    Nobuyuki Oura's Holding Perspective prints (1982–85), included in Into the Atomic Sunshine: Post-War Art under Japanese Peace Constitution Article 9, are censored by the Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum.
    Winter Garden: The Exploration of the Micropop Imagination in Contemporary Japanese Art held at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art; travels to Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Mexico, Hungary, Russia, Egypt, Finland, Greece.
  8. 2008
    101Tokyo Contemporary Art Fair launches; second and final edition held in 2009.
    First New Tokyo Contemporaries event held at the Shin-Marunouchi Building.
    'Complex' gallery building in Roppongi closes; its tenants relocate to various parts of Tokyo.
    Shirokane gallery building opens.
    NADiff a/p/a/r/t gallery building opens.
    Take Ninagawa opens.
    Kaikai Kiki Gallery opens.
    Taka Ishii Gallery and Tomio Koyama Gallery open branches in Kyoto
    Kodama Gallery relocates from Osaka to Kyoto.
    Towada Art Center established in Towada, Aomori Prefecture.
    The Echo from Japan: Exhibition of Young Japanese Artists held at ZAIM in Yokohama.
    Neoteny Japan – Contemporary Artists After 1990’s from Takahashi Collection held at the Kirishima Open-Air Museum in Kagoshima Prefecture; travels to Sapporo, Tokyo, Niigata, Akita, Yonago City, and Ehime.
    Into the Atomic Sunshine: Post-War Art Under Japanese Peace Constitution Article 9 held at Puffin Room Gallery, New York; travels to Tokyo and Okinawa.
    Artist collective Chim↑Pom sparks media controversy after writing the word pika [meaning "flash" and a reference to atomic explosions] in the sky over Hiroshima, resulting in the cancelation of their scheduled exhibition at Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art.
    Mizuma Art Gallery opens Mizuma & One in Beijing's Caochangdi Art District.
    KITA!!: Japanese Artists Meet Indonesia held at various venues in Jakarta, Bandung and Yogyakarta.
    Global Economic Downturn.
  9. 2007
    National Art Center, Tokyo, established.
    21_21 Design Sight established.
    Arataniurano opens.
    Space For Your Future held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.
    The Door into Summer: The Age of Micropop held at Art Tower Mito.
    Reconsidering Mono-ha held at the National Museum of Art, Osaka.
    Re: search – Art Collaboration between Australia and Japan held at the Sendai Mediatheque.
    What is Mono-ha? held at Beijing Tokyo Art Projects, Beijing.
    Beautiful New World: Contemporary Visual Culture from Japan held at Long March Art Space, Inter Arts Center and Beijing Tokyo Art Projects, Beijing.
    Making a Home: Japanese Contemporary Artists held at the Japan Society, New York.
    Art, Anti-Art, Non-Art: Experimentations in the Public Sphere in Postwar Japan, 1950-1970 held at the Getty Center, Los Angeles.
  10. 2006
    Tomio Koyama Gallery opens TKG Daikanyama.
    SCAI The Bathhouse opens a project space, SCAI × SCAI.
    Misako & Rosen opens.
    Mujin-to Production opens.
    Yuka Sasahara Gallery opens.
    Magical Artroom opens.
    Tokyo Wonder Site opens a third space, in Aoyama.
    Taro Nasu Gallery opens a branch in Osaka.
    Aomori Museum of Art established.
    Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum established (as the latest incarnation of a variety of institutions dating back to 1936).
    Rapt! 20 Contemporary Artists from Japan held at multiple venues in Sydney and Melbourne, including the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces and Monash University Museum of Art.
  11. 2005
    NICAF relaunches as Art Fair Tokyo.
    Shinkawa gallery building closes; several of its tenants relocate to newly opened Kiyosumi-Shirakawa gallery building.
    Zenshi opens.
    Tokyo Wonder Site opens a second space, in Shibuya.
    Takahashi Collection opens.
    Nonprofit art center ZAIM established in Yokohama.
    Reconsidering Mono-ha held at the National Museum of Art, Osaka.
    X-Color – Graffiti in Japan held at Art Tower Mito.
    Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture held at the Japan Society, New York.
    Publication of a Japanese textbook that glosses over Japan's aggression in World War II sparks sometimes violent anti-Japanese protests in China.
  12. 2004
    Aoyama | Meguro opens.
    Yamamoto Gendai opens.
    Nakaochiai Gallery opens.
    Kagurazaka gallery building opens.
    Tokyo Art Beat launches.
    First edition of the triennial Roppongi Crossing exhibitions held at the Mori Art Museum.
    First Contemporary Art Biennale of Fukushima held.
    The Chichu Art Museum established on Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea.
    National Museum of Art, Osaka, reopens in Nakanoshima.
    21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, established.
    Japanese non-combat soldiers arrive in Iraq in the first deployment of Japanese forces in a combat zone since World War II. The last contingent of Japanese troops leaves Iraq in 2006.
  13. 2003
    Mori Art Museum established.
    'Complex' gallery building opens in Roppongi.
    Shinkawa gallery building opens.
    ART iT magazine founded.
  14. 2002
    Tokyo Gallery opens Beijing Tokyo Art Projects (BTAP) in Beijing's Dashanzi Art District and renames itself Tokyo Gallery + BTAP.
    Emotional Site exhibition marks the closure of the Shokuryo Building; RICE Gallery by G2 closes.
    GEISAI #1 held.
    Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi becomes first Japanese leader to visit North Korea.
  15. 2001
    Ghibli Museum established in Mitaka.
    ShugoArts and Gallery Koyanagi collaborate to open RICE Gallery by G2 in the Shokuryo building in Sagacho.
    Hiromiyoshii opens.
    Arts Initiative Tokyo established.
    Tokyo Wonder Site established in Hongo.
    Takashi Murakami founds his production company Kaikai Kiki Co.
    First Yokohama International Triennale of Contemporary Art, entitled MEGA-WAVE – Towards a New Synthesis, held in Yokohama.
    Sendai Mediatheque established.
    Facts of Life: Contemporary Japanese Art held at the Hayward Gallery, London.
    Mono-ha – School of Things held at Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, and Newlyn Art Gallery, Newlyn, UK.
    Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pays homage at the Yasukuni Shrine — a memorial to the Japan's 2.5 million war dead but that also honours war criminals — provoking protests from Japan's neighbors.
  16. 2000
    ShugoArts office established.
    Satani Gallery closes.
    realtokyo.com launches.
    Superflat held at Parco Gallery in Tokyo and Nagoya; travels to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, in 2001.
    First Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial held in Niigata Prefecture.
  17. 1999
    First Akihabara TV event held.
    Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery opens.
    Nonprofit visual arts collective Eyesaw active in Tokyo until 2002.
    Ground Zero Japan held at Art Tower Mito.
    Kodama Gallery opens in Osaka.
    Fukuoka Asian Art Museum established.
    Evolving out of the Asian Art Show (est. 1979), the first Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial is held at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum.
  18. 1998
    commandN opens Project Space Kandada in Kanda.
    Gallery éf opens.
    Taro Nasu Gallery opens.
    G9: New Direction – Tokyo's Art Scene as Seen by 9 Gallerists held at Spiral Garden.
    The Art House Project begins on Naoshima, installing site-specific artworks in buildings in Honmura village.
  19. 1997
    Intercommunication Center established.
    Gallery Side 2 opens.
    First Kitakyushu Biennial held at the Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art in Fukuoka.
    Asian Financial Crisis.
  20. 1996
    Tomio Koyama Gallery opens.
  21. 1995
    Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, established.
    Shinjuku I-Land public art project completed.
    Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography established.
    Showa 40 Nen Kai (Group 1965) formed in Tokyo.
    Monthly English web magazine Artscape Japan is established.
    Art in Japan Today held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.
    Hanshin Earthquake strikes Kobe.
    Religious sect Aum Shinrikyo releases sarin nerve gas on the Tokyo subway.
  22. 1994
    Mizuma Art Gallery opens.
    Taka Ishii Gallery opens.
    Ota Fine Arts opens.
    Suntory Museum established in Osaka.
    Scream Against the Sky: Japanese Art After 1945 held at the Yokohama Museum of Art; travels to Guggenheim Museum in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
  23. 1993
    Touko Museum of Contemporary Art closes; SCAI The Bathhouse opens.
    Fo(u)rtunes held at Roentgen Kunst Institut.
    Masato Nakamura organizes open-air “terrorist” art event, The Ginburart, on the streets of Ginza, followed by Shinjuku Shonen Art in Shinjuku's Kabukicho red-light district.
    Economic decline and a series of bribery scandals see the Liberal Democratic Party ousted for the first time since 1955. A seven-party coalition takes power but collapses the following year. An administration supported by the LDP. and the Socialists takes over.
  24. 1992
    NICAF launches.
    Wako Works of Art opens.
    Anomaly held at Roentgen Kunst Institut.
    Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum (now Benesse House) established on Naoshima island, Kagawa Prefecture.
  25. 1991
    Roentgen Kunst Institut opens.
    Japanese economic bubble bursts.
  26. 1990
    Watari Museum of Contemporary Art established.
    Art Tower Mito established.
    A Primal Spirit: Ten Contemporary Japanese Sculptors held at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art and Hara Museum ARC; travels to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
  27. 1989
    Shinwa Art Auction established.
    Shiraishi Contemporary Art Inc. established.
    Bunkamura cultural center established.
    Sotheby's opens an office in Tokyo.
    Yokohama Museum of Art established.
    Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art established.
    Against Nature: Japanese Art in the Eighties held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
    Magiciens de la Terre held at the Centre Pompidou, Paris.
    Emperor Hirohito dies.
  28. 1988
    Gallery Koyanagi opens.
    Touko Museum of Contemporary Art established in Aoyama.
    Musashino Art University opens Gallery αM in Kichijoji. Gallery closes in 2002; reopens in Higashi-Kanda in 2009.
    Hara Museum ARC established in Shibukawa, Gunma Prefecture.
  29. 1986
    Setagaya Art Museum established.
    Nobuyuki Oura's Holding Perspective prints (1982–85), which satirize the Emperor Hirohito, spark right-wing outrage when they are exhibited in Toyama no Bijutsu ’86 [Art of Toyama ’86] at the Toyama Prefectural Museum of Modern Art.
    Japon des avant gardes, 1910–1970 held at the Centre Pompidou, Paris.
  30. 1985
    Studio Ghibli founded in Tokyo.
    Reconstructions: Avant-Garde Art in Japan 1945–1965 held at Modern Art Oxford; travels to Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh.
  31. 1984
    Dumb Type founded in Kyoto.
  32. 1983
    GA Gallery opens.
    Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum established.
    Sagacho Exhibit Space opens in the Shokuryo Building in Sagacho.
  33. 1981
    Gallery Yamaguchi opens in Osaka.
  34. 1979
    Hara Museum of Contemporary Art established.
    Fukuoka Art Museum established and holds the Asian Art Show almost every five years until it becomes the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale in 1999.
  35. 1978
    Satani Gallery opens.
  36. 1977
    Formerly part of the Expo Art Gallery that was built for Expo '70, the National Museum of Art Osaka is established.
  37. 1972
    Christie's opens an office in Tokyo.
  38. 1972
    Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka visits China and normal diplomatic relations are resumed.
    Okinawa is returned to Japanese sovereignty, but some US military bases are maintained.
  39. 1970
    Tenth edition of Tokyo Biennale, entitled Between Man and Matter, is held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum; travels to the Kyoto Municipal Art Museum, the Aichi Prefectural Art Gallery in Nagoya, and the Fukuoka Prefectural Culture House.
    Expo ’70, entitled Progress and Harmony for Mankind, held in Osaka.
    Further protests against the renewal of the Japan–US Treaty of Mutual Security and Cooperation.
  40. 1969
    Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, relocates to present location in Takebashi.
    Christie’s holds its first sale in Asia, in Tokyo.
    Student protests against the Vietnam War and American use of bases on Japanese soil culminate in takeover of Tokyo University.
  41. 1968
    Tricks and Vision – Stolen Eyes held at Tokyo Gallery and Muramatsu Gallery.
    Nobuo Sekine creates Phase – Mother Earth in Kobe’s Sumarikyu Park for the First Open Air Contemporary Sculpture Exhibition.
    Mono-ha active in Tokyo until c. 1972.
    Japan surpasses West Germany to become the world's second-largest economy after the United States.
  42. 1964
    Gempei Akasegawa creates exhibition invites featuring reproductions of the ¥1000 note; in 1966 he is put on trial for imitating banknotes (dubbed 'The Thousand-Yen Bill Incident') and found guilty in 1967 with three months suspended sentence; after two appeals the decision was upheld in 1970.
    Summer Olympics held in Tokyo.
  43. 1963
    Hi Red Center active in Tokyo until 1964.
    The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, established.
  44. 1962
    Neo-Dada Organizers active in Tokyo until 1964.
    Gutai Pinacotheca opens in Osaka.
  45. 1960
    Widespread protests against renewal of Japan–US Treaty of Mutual Security and Cooperation.
  46. 1959
    National Museum of Western Art established in Ueno.
  47. 1957
    Kyushu-ha active in Fukuoka and Tokyo until 1962.
  48. 1956
    Japan joins the United Nations.
  49. 1955
    Experimental Outdoor Exhibition of Modern Art to Challenge the Midsummer Sun held in Ashiya Park, Ashiya, Hyogo Prefecture.
    Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) formed. Except for a brief period in the early 1990s, the LDP governs uninterruptedly until 2009.
  50. 1954
    Gutai Art Association forms in Osaka; active in Kansai region until 1972.
  51. 1952
    Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, established.
    Bridgestone Museum established.
    Tokyo Biennale founded; ends 1990.
    US occupation of Japan ends, but US retains several islands for military use, including Okinawa.
  52. 1951
    Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, established as the first public museum of modern art in Japan.
    Jikken Kobo (Experimental Workshop) active in Tokyo until c. 1957.
    Japan signs Security Treaty with the United States; from 1954 it is known as The Mutual Security Assistance Pact, and from 1960 it was called the Japan-US Treaty of Mutual Security and Cooperation.
  53. 1950
    Tokyo Gallery opens as the first commercial modern art gallery in Japan.
  54. 1949
    First edition of the annual Yomiuri Independent exhibition held in Tokyo; ends 1963.
  55. 1948
    Monthly Japanese art magazine Bijutsu Techo founded.
  56. 1947
    New constitution comes into effect. Article 9 renounces "war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes".
  57. 1945
    Following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrenders in World War II.


This page was last updated in June 2015. The information here is intended as an overview of key events and landmark group exhibitions; it is not meant to be comprehensive. However, if you see any crucial omissions or errors please feel free to contact support@prepostbooks.com. Among all the sources we have referred to, one that we particularly recommend is the interactive timeline and map published by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, on the occasion of the exhibition "Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde," held from November 2012 to February 2013.