Press "Enter" to skip to content

Once lost Okamoto masterpiece to be displayed at Shibuya station

Asu no Shinwa
“Myth of Tomorrow”

TOKYO (TR) – A once lost mural by one of Japan’s foremost contemporary artists is being prepped for display inside Shibuya station next month.

Early last Friday morning a construction team hoisted the 14 panels of avant-garde painter and sculptor Taro Okamoto’s legendary “Asu no Shinwa” (Myth of Tomorrow), which depicts the aftermath of an atomic bomb detonation, into place along a walkway near the station’s Inokashira Line entrance. The large mural, measuring 5.5 meters by 30 meters, will be viewable by the public from November 17.

Historians have considered it to be one of Okamoto’s greatest works.

“I displayed this painting n Roppongi three and a half years ago,” said Akiomi Hirano, who is the general producer of the project for the Taro Okamoto Memorial Foundation for the Promotion of Contemporary Art, in an interview earlier this month. “I said then that I would not sell it nor give it to a business. I wanted it to be in a public space. If it was placed in a private area, that would have been easy, but it is not what I wanted to do.”

Equal to the sizeable dimensions of “Myth of Tomorrow” is its startling theme: A distorted skeletal figure burns in the center as jagged streams of red and yellow streak outward through a darkened sky interspersed with skull-like shapes and formless bodies – an allusion to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki unleashed by the U.S. in 1945.

In 1967, Okamoto (1911-1996) agreed to paint this scene for a Mexican businessman, who wanted it to grace his luxury hotel lobby in Mexico City. Following a bankruptcy, construction of the hotel halted and the mural was lost until 2003, when it was discovered in a suburban storage area. Upon its return to Japan, a lengthy restoration process was concluded in 2006.

Okamoto achieved fame for his distorted and shapeless creations, most notably the 70-meter sculpture “Taiyo no To” (Tower of the Sun) in Osaka, and the often uttered phrase “Art is an explosion!”