Mario Giacomelli, "Death will come and will have your eyes", 1954-1968, Gelatin silver print, Collection of Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, Courtesy Archivio Mario Giacomelli ©Rita e Simone Giacomelli
TOP Collection: The Illumination of Life by Death
Jun. 17—Sep. 25, 2022
- Jun. 17—Sep. 25, 2022
- Closed Mondays (except when Monday falls on a holiday, in which case the museum is open and closed the following day)
- Admission：Adults ￥700(560) / College Students￥560(440) / High School and Junior High School Students, Over 65￥350(280) *The prices in parentheses ( ) are discounted prices for holders of our movie tickets, and various card members. Please refer to Visitor Information for details on our discounts. Discounts cannot be combined with other discounts. *Admission is free for children in elementary school or younger; junior high school students living or attending schools in the Tokyo metropolitan area; holders of Japanese disability identification cards (shogaisha techo), along with up to two caregivers; and holders of the museum’s annual passport.
The TOP Collection exhibition features masterpieces from the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum’s collection of over 36,000 works.*
This year’s exhibition on the theme of memento mori presents around 150 photographs and related works that probe how people have lived resiliently in the face of death, seeding our imagination for how to move forward through difficult times.
“Memento mori,” a Latin phrase meaning “remember that you will die,” was meant as a reminder that people’s daily lives unfolded in the shadow of death. As the plague ravaged the medieval Christian world between the 14th and 17th centuries, this trope became associated with images of the “dance of death” showing skeletons and humans dancing, and was widely depicted as part of paintings, music, and other works of art. Photography, as well, has often been described by critics as a medium that evokes death.
This exhibition reconsiders the intimate relationship between memento mori and photography through prints depicting death and photographs by Eugène Atget, W. Eugene Smith, Robert Frank, Mario Giacomelli, and others spanning from the 19th century to the present.
*As of March 2022
Shinya Fujiwara, "The heart chooses at the time of death, whether to be wondering in darkness or filled with light.", From the series of 'Memento-Mori', 1972, Chromogenic print, Collection of Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
The Latin phrase “memento mori,” which means “remember that you will die,” was a trope used in the Christian world as a reminder that everyday life unfolded in the shadow of death. As the plague ravaged medieval society, the phrase spread widely in association with images of death depicting skeletons and humans dancing. Its popularity reflected the way that people enduring hardships including epidemics, wars, and famine not only harbored fear of ever-present death, but tried to find positive meaning in life by recognizing that we are all destined to die eventually.
Hans Holbein the Younger, 〈Images of Death〉, 1523-26, Woodcut, Collection of The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo
〈Images of Death〉: The Richman, 〈Images of Death〉: The Old Man,〈Images of Death〉: The Pedlar
Robert Capa, ”Near Fraga (Aragon), November 7, 1938. Loyalist offensive along the Rio Se, 1938”, Gelatin silver print, Collection of Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
Nobuyoshi Araki, From the series of 'Sentimental Journey', 1971, Gelatin silver print, Collection of Tokyo Photographic Art Museum ©Nobuyoshi Araki
Hans Holbein the Younger
W. Eugene Smith
Josef Sudek, "View of the nave and down - south side of the new part of St. Vitus Cathedral", From the series of 'St. Vitus', 1928, Gelatin silver print, Collection of Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
Photo works: 124, Prints: 25
Introduction: Memento mori and the “Dance of Death”
Part 1: Memento mori and photography
Part 2: Memento mori and solitude
Part 3: Memento mori and happiness
Organized by Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum operated by Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture
*The schedule is subject to change. Any further changes will be announced.