Anime at the museum: contemporary anime at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo

Pitt Rivers Museum Research Seminar in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology

Michaelmas Term 2017

Fridays, 1pm-2.30pm, Lecture Theatre, Pitt Rivers Museum (entry off Robinson Close)

Convened by Marcus Banks.


Anime’s cultural recognition in Japan is such that it now occupies a wide swathe of Japanese cultural geography. Tokyo alone is home to specialist anime retail areas, high profile global anime events, theatrical adaptations of anime, anime statuary, spaces of fan pilgrimage and, increasingly, high profile short-term art exhibitions in galleries. There is a long history of such gallery exhibitions of anime and manga artwork, but these have tended to occupy gallery spaces closely connected to commercial and retail cultures, rather than appearing in high profile art galleries. Most commonly, manga and anime artists have been celebrated in gallery spaces within department stores. However, in recent years, high profile anime and manga exhibitions have begun to occupy Tokyo’s more high profile art galleries too. This talk examines two such recent manga and anime exhibitions at the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi, Tokyo. The Mori Art Museum has been part of a massive urban renewal project that has gentrified Roppongi, transforming it into a centre for contemporary art within Tokyo’s cultural geography. As part of that process, the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills has housed some of the most internationally significant exhibitions of recent times, featuring the works of artists as diverse as Takashi Murakami and Alphonse Mucha. Anime and manga art exhibitions have been interspersed between such globally significant events. By undertaking a participant observation of exhibitions on One Piece (Eiichirō Oda, 1997-) and Sailor Moon (Bishōjo Senshi Sērā Mūn, Naoko Takeuchi, 1991-), this talk investigates this shift in anime’s reputational status as it begins to occupy Tokyo’s fine art spaces.