An unexpected highlight was the fantastic exhibit of photographs from Hiroshi Sugimoto (at the Mori Gallery, on the 53rd story of the otherwise very shopping-mall-like Roppongi Hills “city-within-a-city”.
I've seen smaller exhibitions of his work at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea, New York City (where he lives and works), but this retrospective proves him to be a major artist. He makes real objects -- iconic 20th Century buildings, the meeting of sea and sky on a distant horizon, Japanese Buddhas -- look fake, and fakes -- waxwork dummies, museum dioramas -- look real. In front of the conceptual cleverness, however, lies an almost painterly eye for texture and, most of all, composition, as well as a deep understanding of of how we see and respond to light and shadow.
(And speaking of fakes, here's what else I did today.)
I also spent 45 minutes on line getting into an exhibit of works by Hokusai, the 18th-19th Century printer, draughtsman and painter: justly some of the most famous of all Japanese artworks, remarkable in their vividness and detail (the screensaver and mousemat versions don't do them justice). Remarkable, that is, when I could see them. I got an excellent education in the difference between Japanese and American ideas of “personal space” as I got buffeted by schoolkids, old ladies, and everyone in between jockying for position right in front of each and every drawing, woodblock print, and painting.
After that and the rest of my hectic visit, I trekked across town to Senso-ji, also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple, hoping for a peaceful campus of Zen temples like in Kyoto. I should have realized that the chaos of Tokyo would never let that stand. Rather, Tokyo temples are raucous affairs, as monks, worshippers and tourists with their cameras (more even from Japan than abroad) jostle one another amidst the incense burners and food stands.