History of the Chihiro Art Museum : Chihiro Art Museum

From Tokyo to Nagano

The Chihiro Art Museum Tokyo (formerly Chihiro Iwasaki Art Museum of Picture Books) was established in 1977 to commemorate Chihiro Iwasaki (1918-1974), a Japanese artist renowned for her charming paintings and illustrations of flowers and children, which appeared widely not only in picture books, but also in illustrated magazines, textbooks, novels, calendars, and elsewhere beginning in the late 1950s. The Museum, financed through donations and royalties from Chihiro's artwork, was built on the site where Chihiro lived and worked from 1952 until her death in 1974. It was created in response to the strong wish of Chihiro's many devoted fans for a place dedicated to the permanent display of her art. As such, it is one of the few pioneer museums anywhere in the world to be devoted exclusively to the work of an artist who specialized in illustrations for children's books.

In the late '80s, the Museum began to expand the scope of its collection to include original artwork from significant children's book artists throughout the world, greatly enriching its various exhibitions and programs. In the early '90s, to accommodate additional artwork acquisitions and broaden its range of activities, the Museum decided to build a new facility in Matsukawa Village in Azumino, Nagano.

In the spring of 1997, in commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the Chihiro Art Museum Tokyo, the Chihiro Art Museum Azumino opened its doors in Nagano Prefecture. As Chihiro's parents were both from Nagano, Chihiro was very familiar with the region and held a deep affection for it as her spiritual home. The Chihiro Art Museum Azumino, surrounded by a 35,000-square-meter park, is located in Matsukawa Village, where Chihiro's parents settled after the end of World War II to devote the rest of their lives to the reclamation of uncultivated land there. In addition to displays of artwork by Chihiro Iwasaki, regular exhibits include selections from the International Collection and a display focusing on the history of picture book illustrations.

In 2002, to mark its 25th anniversary, the Chihiro Art Museum Tokyo reopened its doors following a complete renovation and now features an entirely barrier-free building offering double the public space of the former structure. The new museum is filled with Chihiro's work and Chihiro's memories.

Attendance at the Chihiro Art Museum Tokyo during its 30-year history has exceeded 2,197,000, while the number of visitors to the Chihiro Art Museum Azumino has reached 2,207,000. Additionally, the 50 traveling Chihiro Exhibitions that have been held since 1987 have recorded a cumulative attendance surpassing 2,419,000 visitors.

Both the Chihiro Art Museum in Tokyo and Azumino are operated by the Chihiro Iwasaki Memorial Foundation, which was established in June of 1976 with the aims of commemorating Chihiro Iwasaki's achievements, inheriting Chihiro's sincere wish for peace for children of the world, and contributing to the liberal and versatile cultural development of children. In addition to running the two Museums and holding exhibitions both in Japan and abroad (in North America, China, Vietnam and Korea), the Foundation has been active in conducting research, publishing books and catalogues, and promoting further cultural exchange among national and international children's book organizations.

Photos by Hirotaka Hashimoto (Only 4th and 5th from the top)

30 Years of the Chihiro Art Museum

In 2001, we published the booklet "30 Years of the Chihiro Art Museum," which enables readers to explore our history, including past exhibitions and events. A PDF version of the booklet is available in English.

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