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Sezon Museum of Modern Art in Karuizawa

Avant garde lover or hater? If you’re the former, you’ll enjoy the Sezon Museum of Modern Art in Karuizawa. Combining works by famous Abstract Expressionists with beautiful green lawns and plenty of Japanese elm trees, this museum in Nagano, Japan will keep you entertained for an hour or so. (Continued after Japanese summary)


豊かな緑に囲まれるセゾン現代美術館は、リラックスした内外空間でアートを堪能する時間を与えてくれます。7月中旬に尋ねてみて、混んでなく快適でした。野外彫刻と現代アートの面白さを楽しめながら涼しくて心地良い場所でリフレッシュできました。特にお気に入りの作品は、ワシリー・カンディンスキー「柔らかな中に硬く」(油絵、1927年)、ロイ・リキステンスタインの「赤ワインのある静物」(油絵、1972年)、そして加納光於の「serpentinata III」(油絵、2004年)でした。現代アートにあまり興味のない方でも、美術館の敷地が広く、ハルニレの森のフレッシュな香りに癒されると思います。

Entrance to the Sezon Museum of Modern Art in Karuizawa, Nagano, Japan

We went early in the morning, to be there when the museum opened at 10 AM. There were already a couple of cars in the parking lot. It was lovely to walk toward the museum as there were patches of forest all around. Everything was so green and tranquil.

Communing with Nature and Sculpture

Before going to see the works inside the building, we took a stroll to see the outdoor collection. There were sculptures by Isamu Noguchi, Kengiro Azuma, Masamichi Yamamoto, Arman, Aijiro Wakita, Bukichi Inoue and Kan Yasuda placed here and there over the spacious lawn.

Outdoor sculpture collection of the Sezon Museum of Modern Art in Karuizawa, Nagano, Japan

While I was not particularly taken by any of the pieces, I did like how they looked against the greenness of the grass and the Japanese elm trees surrounding the premises. The art blended well with the forest scenery.

Hello Roy, Hello Wassily

After enjoying our morning stroll, we then approached the building. It’s pretty nondescript, and like the outdoor sculptures blending nicely in its forest location. The three-storey building was designed by the Japanese architect Kiyonori Kikutake (1928-2011). Kikutake also designed the Kyushu National Museum and the Edo-Tokyo Museum, among other major works.

Just outside the entrance was a rather eye-catching wire sculpture (below, top middle) over five feet tall, which I first thought was a large, mod garbage can. It was shaped like a person stretching their biceps. Upon closer inspection I found a small sign on it that said “This is not a garbage can.” 🙂

Karuizawa Sezon Museum of Modern Art in Nagano, Japan

My favorite part of the building was…the door handles (above, top left)! Aren’t they beautiful and sculptural?

We got in, bought a pair of tickets, and left our backpacks and cameras inside the lockers provided. Armed with a brochure, a list of the permanent collection, and information on the current exhibit we followed the recommended viewing order. Photography isn’t allowed inside so I just took mental notes of my favorites.

While my husband is a fan of modern and postmodern art, I fall somewhere in the lukewarm territory. But there were famous names: Andy Warhol, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns, among others, so it was a good chance to look at their works in real life and ponder on what the fuss is all about.

My favorite paintings were Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art piece “Still Life with Red Wine” (1972 oil on canvas), a Wassily Kandinsky abstract “Softened Construction” (1927 oil on canvas), and a large-scale painting by contemporary artist Mitsuo Kanou “serpentinata III” (2004 oil on canvas).

When to Go

Located in a summer resort town, the museum is not open year round, but only from mid-April to late November. We went there in mid-July, not yet the peak of the summer season. It wasn’t crowded.

Andy Warhol fans will enjoy more than a dozen works by the artist, arranged for easy viewing along a ramp.

When we went there the current exhibit was a gigantic steampunk/found items sculpture, all wired up to produce a variety of clashing, banging, drumming sounds and movement.

As for the amount of time to budget, it’s a small museum: about 500 works in the permanent collection. Think of the entire display area being equivalent to a room in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

There’s a small space for souvenir purchase behind the ticket counter, but sadly they had more general, modern art-related stuff (of famous works not found in the museum) and not so much on the permanent collection.

How to Get There

Click here for a map and instructions. We went there by car but there’s also a bus stop nearby.

From Karuizawa with Love

While photography isn’t allowed inside the museum, the little patch of forest surrounding the building was beautiful, and we found ourselves both enjoying the views and the fresh green scent of nature. Here are some lovely outdoor scenes there.

There was a pond next to the parking lot:

Stepping into the gates we were greeted by forest greens:

Mingling with the sculptures in the outdoor collection were cute little mushrooms:

Mushroom pillow anyone? 🙂

All the above items are customizable, so you can add your own names, initials, greetings or favorite quotes. Here’s the pinnable collage for Pinterest:

I hope you enjoyed this post on the Sezon Museum of Modern Art in Karuizawa, and the forest scenes surrounding it.

I Would Love to Hear from You!

So, what do you think of this article? Please share your thoughts and opinions in the Comments section below.


External Links

Sezon Museum of Modern Art – official site.
Kikutake Architects – Kiyonori Kikutake’s architect office, with a list of projects. It doesn’t say who’s taken over now but I’m assuming it’s being run by his proteges.
Galerie Tokyo Humanite – art gallery page with a picture of Kanou’s “serpentinata III” painting.

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  1. noritan /


    • beverlyclaire /

      建物の中に入らなくても野外展示を十分楽しめる、敷地がとても素敵な、美術館でしたね。また来年の軽井沢も、ほかの小さ目の美術館に行ってみたいですね^^ よろしくです!

  2. What a beautiful green place! Hope it wasn’t too humid outside.
    Too bad you couldn’t take photos inside.
    Mushrooms exist to be eaten (the edible ones at least, the poisonous ones, I dunno)! Hehe.

    • beverlyclaire /

      Oh, it was lovely outside. Karuizawa reminds me of Baguio in terms of weather, both of them summer resorts. Yeah, Japanese museums as a rule don’t allow photography (even for works that have already entered the public domain in terms of copyright), unlike their American counterparts. Mushrooms? Mushroom pizza!!! Hehehe… Maybe the poisonous ones for humans are edible to other animals so they’re still food 🙂

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