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The Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art
A day or two ago I wrote about the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) as if it were the best thing to come along in the art world since sliced cheese and wine. Perhaps, but even though museums devoted to housing contemporary creations on this scale are rare, MASS MoCA is NOT one of a kind. But, one does have to roam rather far afield to find anything comparable.

The Japanese have a museum entry into this heady world of contemporary exhibition space. Like MASS MoCA, it's not in a huge metropolitan area such as Tokyo or Yokohama where one would expect to find such things but in the "Peace City" of Hiroshima. The Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary art is the first and only museum in Japan to dedicate itself solely to contemporary art. Not surprisingly in Hiroshima, "contemporary" means anything coming after August 4, 1945. In formulating a modern urban, civic image of itself, its past having been effectively eradicated, Hiroshima had little but PEACE upon which to build--hope for the future, and a prayer that nuclear destruction on such a scale might never happen again. Their museum embodies both these elements in its 100,000 square foot (large by Japanese standards) display space.

There is no feeling of medieval fortress security, aircraft hangar volume, or any kind of factory ambience such as one finds at MASS MoCA. If anything, the feeling is more closely related to that of the Acropolis in Athens. The museum sits atop a 50-meter high hill called Hijiyama Art Park and was designed by Japanese architect, Kurokawa. Actually, to be more accurate, the museum resides IN the hill, some 60% of its volume being underground so as not to offend Japanese aesthetic sensibilities regarding their precious limited landscape. Besides art and cultural facilities set in a forested, 75 acre area, there is a sculpture park, an outdoor school, vistas, open areas, and nature walks offering bits of quiet pleasure for all ages. Stone, tiles, and aluminium are employed in the exterior fašade of the sprawling, four-level complex. And while the Japanese entry into the field of contemporary art exhibition may lack the "MASS" of MASS MoCA, it competes quite handily with its aura of oriental refinement, relaxing ambience, and sedate style as compared to its Massachusetts counterpart's typically American emphasis on enormous, overwhelming, freewheeling size alone.

Contributed by Lane, Jim
30 June 2000

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