Special Exhibition “Tokyo Ephemera”


This exhibition is an attempt to capture the visual identity of postwar Tokyo through ephemera, a medium rarely collected by museums so far.
Since the end of the war, Tokyo has undergone dramatic changes coinciding with the hosting of two Olympic Games, while at the same time projecting its progressive image both domestically and internationally. However, the commonly shared image of Tokyo is an aggregation of various signs rather than a fixed, concrete image. In order to capture Tokyo's complex visual identity, this exhibition presents ephemera (printed materials with a temporary purpose) that have supported the undercurrent of Japan's unique postwar printing culture. By introducing from a new perspective an extensive range of printed materials related to Tokyo such as maps, city plans, administrative reports, design manuals, various news reports, advertisements, posters, flyers, international pamphlets, tourist guides, and other items that are not part of any library or museum collection, this exhibition attempts to decipher the image of “Tokyo” that has been transmitted through domestic and international means of visual communication.
By including not only official documents that define urban planning and promotion methods, but also rare ephemera produced by individual artists and private organizations, the exhibition contrasts the ideal city of Tokyo with its real face, examining how postwar graphic design has shaped Tokyo up to today, sometimes depicting the city in a stereotyped manner, sometimes beautifying and symbolizing it.
Unlike the masterpieces and specimens housed in museums, printed matter originally intended for a temporary, single use are by no means representative works when they stand alone. However, by collecting them on a wider scale and examining them all together, we can reveal the complex imagery of Tokyo that can only be seen in these works, the minute changes in graphic design that convey this imagery, as well as the characteristic atmosphere of the times.

Organizer: The University Museum, the University of Tokyo (UMUT)

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