Hara ’60 in front of a print by artist Jonathan Borofsky
in the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art. (Hara Museum of Contemporary
passion for modern art Toshio Hara ’60’s
museum celebrates 25 years in Japan
Toshio Hara ’60
took only one art course at Princeton. “I almost failed,”
he recalls. It was not the most promising start for a man who has
become one of the most important forces in Japan’s art scene.
Hara is the founder, director, and president of the Hara Museum
of Contemporary Art, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last
year. Located in Tokyo’s Shinagawa district, the Hara Museum
is the first museum in Japan to concentrate on post-1950 art.
But if Princeton didn’t turn him on to art, studying at
the University gave him tools that Hara says changed his life. Princeton,
he says, taught him “how to express myself immediately and
clearly.” By contrast, traditional Japanese culture, he explains,
values lack of specificity. “Japanese are generally shy,”
he says, “and it takes time for them to express their true
Hara already had graduated from Japan’s prestigious Gakushuin
University before coming to Princeton, where he studied economics.
He returned to Japan before graduating to enter the family business,
which specialized in forestry, farming, lumber importing, and construction.
But before long, he fell in with modern artists and collectors,
and their passion rubbed off on him. “I began to feel that
art is one very good way to express myself,” says Hara.
When he realized that Japan had no contemporary art museum, he
convinced his family to convert into a museum the Western-style
home built by his grandfather in the late 1930s. In 1979, the Hara
Museum opened in the house, preserving one of the very few examples
of 1930s modern architecture in Japan.
In its 25 years, the Hara Museum has exhibited and collected work
in all realms: painting, graphics, sculpture, mobile art, kinetic
art, performance, installations, photography, and multimedia.
At first, Hara collected works by internationally known artists,
including Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jackson Pollock,
but he soon found himself priced out of this market. Today his museum
focuses on discovering the work of young artists primarily from
Asian countries. Says Hara, “I see my job as helping young
artists by showing, collecting, and encouraging them.”
By Bruce Dunning ’62
Bruce Dunning ’62 is the former Asia bureau chief for