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LIGHT: Works from the Tate Collection

July 12 (Wed), 2023 - October 2 (Mon), 2023

  • Past Exhibitions
  • Special Exhibitions

Working with a careful selection of artworks from the Tate collection in the UK based on the theme of light, this exhibition traces the original creativity of artists across two centuries, spanning from the end of the eighteenth century to the present day. Included are artists such as Joseph Mallord William Turner, “the painter of light” who was one of the leading British artists of the modern era, master landscape painter John Constable, Claude Monet and other French impressionist painters, László Moholy-Nagy and Bauhaus artists who worked with light using the new technology of photography, and contemporary artists like Bridget Riley, James Turrell, and Olafur Eliasson. Bringing together about 120 works arranged into thematic sections that cross time and space this exhibition examines how artists across generations have been pre-occupied by the qualities and luminosity of light in all types of medium; ranging from painting, photography, sculpture, drawing, kinetic art, installation and the moving image.



July 12 (Wed), 2023 – October 2 (Mon), 2023

Closed on Tuesdays

Opening Hours

*10:00-20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays
*September 25 (Mon.),  September 27 (Wed.), Septembe 28 (Thu.) and October 1 (Sun.) 10:00-20:00

(Last admission 30 minutes before closing)


The National Art Center, Tokyo
Special Exhibition Gallery 2E
7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-8558

Organized by

The National Art Center, Tokyo, Nikkei Inc., TV TOKYO Corporation, BS TV TOKYO Corporation, TBS, BS-TBS, in cooperation with Tate

With the sponsorship of
Wedgwood, OBAYASHI CORPORATION, SEKISHO CORPORATION, Sompo Holdings, Inc., DAIKIN INDUSTRIES, LTD., Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd. (DNP), Daiwa Securities Group, Mitsui Fudosan Co., Ltd., Yokogawa Electric Corporation

With the cooperation of
JAPAN AIRLINES, Financial Times

Supported by
British Council

Admission (tax included)
General 2,200 yen (Adults), 1,400 yen (College students),1,000 yen (High school students)
Advance 2,000 yen (Adults), 1,200 yen (College students), 800 yen (High school students)
  • Visitors who are junior high school students or younger will be admitted for free.
  • Disabled persons (along with the one assistant) will be admitted for free upon presenting the Disabled Person’s Booklet or an equivalent form of government-issued ID.
  • Free entrance to the exhibition for high school students from July 15 (Sat.) to July 17 (Mon.), 2023, upon presenting student ID.
  • No reservation required for this exhibition. For more information regarding tickets, please visit the ticket page on the exhibition website.(These services are only available in Japanese.)
  • Reduction (100 yen off) applies to visitors who present the ticket stub of a current exhibition at The National Art Center, Tokyo; Suntory Museum of Art; or Mori Art Museum (Art Triangle Roppongi). Please show the ticket stub at the "LIGHT: Works from the Tate Collection" exhibition ticket booth.
  • Students, faculty and staff, of “Campus Members”, can view this exhibition for 1,200 yen (students) and 2,000 yen (faculty/staff). Please purchase tickets at the " LIGHT: Works from the Tate Collection" exhibition ticket booth.
  • Credit card (UC, Master Card, VISA, JCB, AMEX, Diners Club, DISCOVER), e-cash (Suica, PASMO, ICOCA, etc.), iD, J-Debit and Union Pay are available for purchasing tickets.
Touring Information

Osaka: Nakanoshima Museum of Art, Osaka; October 26 (Thu.), 2023 – January 14 (Sun.), 2024


(+81) 47-316-2772 (Hello Dial)

Exhibition Highlights

List of Works

Japanese & English [650 KB]

Chinese & Korean [650 KB]

01: Experience a 200 year journey of light expressed through art

Light: Works from the Tate Collection follows artistic attempts to capture, and sometimes manipulate, the intangible effects of light over the past 200 years. The exhibition begins with Tate’s historic British holdings and traces the theme of light across the breadth of the international collection; from the Romantic painters’ mastery of light and shadow exemplified by JMW Turner and William Blake, and the Impressionists’ painting of light as subject in works by Claude Monet, to experimental photography and contemporary immersive light environments, this wide-ranging exhibition brings together over one hundred iconic works from Tate’s collection across painting, watercolour, photography, sculpture and film. Historical works are placed in conversation with contemporary pieces, creating an animated conversation on the forms and possibilities of light as subject and medium.

02: Almost 100 works art from the Tate to be displayed in Japan for the first time

The exhibition will feature approximately 120 works on the theme of “light,” carefully selected from the Tate’s collection of over 77,000 works. Of these, almost 100 works are being exhibited in Japan for the first time! One such example is Light and Colour (Goethe’s Theory) - the Morning after the Deluge - Moses Writing the Book of Genesis by JMW Turner, part of Turner’s Bequest that was given to Tate upon his death. Throughout its global tour, this exhibition has attracted much public attention in China, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. Twelve exclusive works by popular artists such as Edward Coley Burne-Jones and Mark Rothko, including Gerhard Richter’s Abstract Painting (726) - which will be shown for the first time in Japan - will only be on display for the 2 Japanese venues.

03 Immersive Light Installations of Note

Large scale, immersive light installations (spatial artwork) will also be featured in this exhibition. Visitors are invited to experience James Turrell’s Raemar, Blue and Olafur Eliasson’s Stardust particle, both of which are being exhibited in Japan for the first time.


About Each Chapter

Chapter 1: Spiritual and Sublime Light

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Europe entered the Age of Enlightenment, a movement in which reason and order were its main ideals. While these values were commonly adopted in artistic expression, Romantic painters questioned them, becoming more interested in individuality and emotion as well as the spiritual world. By making use of the dramatic effects of light and shade, they sought to express humanity’s inner world and the uncertainty of life.
God Judging Adam by English painter William Blake (1757–1827), a pioneer of Romanticism, commands an air of dignity and authority by the imaginative expression of light as an aura emanating from God. Symbolist painters of the late 19th century also endeavored to depict man’s inner world. British painter Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833–1898), for instance, conveyed deep spirituality through the contrast of light and dark in his work Love and the Pilgrim.

Chapter 2: Natural Light

How to capture a moment within ever-shifting natural light? This is a challenge that has captivated many painters. JMW Turner (1775–1851), also known as the “Painter of Light,” depicts light without hard lines, but instead expressing light as obscure and blended within the nature around it. In contrast, Turner’s contemporary John Constable (1776–1837) depicts the natural world with exacting precision and exquisite composition. Harwich Lighthouse is dominated by an expansive sky with atmospheric clouds, masterfully capturing shifting clouds and their interplay with light. The ephemerality of nature is a theme that later ties into Impressionism.
The Industrial Revolution of the late 18th century led to the development of transportation networks throughout Europe. From the mid-19th century onwards, many painters who were based in the city now had the opportunity to paint natural landscapes, and thus began the pursuit of how to capture natural light on canvas from direct observation. Momentum grew away from the convention of depicting mythology and Biblical themes, and went instead towards capturing the immediate, realistic world.
Constable’s technique for painting natural light influenced maritime veteran John Brett, as seen in his painting The British Channel Seen from the Dorsetshire Cliffs. Poplars on the Epte (Les Peupliers au bord de l’Epte) by Claude Monet (1840–1926) features the effects of sparkling light blending in with its surroundings. Crepuscule in Flesh Colour and Green: Valparaiso by James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) features the delicate transitions of colour as light hits the sea and clouds in the sky.
Yayoi Kusama, one of the representative artists of our time, used mirrors as a material in The Passing Winter and features the effect of light reflection and refraction. The visual experience brought by the reflection and refraction of light is an important theme in Yayoi Kusama's work, which seeks to express the artist’s inner psychological world.

Chapter 3: Interior Light

As cities further modernized at the end of the 19th century, artists became increasingly interested in how to depict light in interior spaces. By incorporating the effects of light coming in through a window, artists sought to express spiritual connections among people as well as the inner worlds of individuals.
Mother and Child by British painter Sir William Rothenstein (1872–1945) depicts the casual daily life of a parent and her child, using soft light to convey the intimacy between them. In contrast, Interior by Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864–1916) uses darker colours and pale light to effectively show the tranquility of the room and coolness of the air.

Chapter 4: Light Effects

Scientific interest in light led to experimentation by various artists. The invention of photography in the 1830s brought with it revolutionary ways to utilize the qualities and effects of light. As photographic technology further developed in the late 19th century, artists experimented with using light itself as a means of expression.
When the Bauhaus in Weimar Germany (which moved to Dessau in 1925, then to Berlin in 1932, and was closed by the Nazis in 1933) opened, artists from around the world began to understand photography as a means for atheistic experimentation and as an artform in its own right. These artists sought to capture pure light and shadow by using abstract forms such as circles and squares as their subjects, developing new photographic techniques to capture moving light.

Chapter 5: Colour and Light

The Bauhaus aimed to provide a holistic education in art, craft, and design, and was led by instructors who were interested in the relationship between light and colour using geometric forms.
German instructor Josef Albers (1888–1976) was particularly interested in how colours change appearance depending on their relationship to other colours. He demonstrated that by placing colours within geometric fields, colours could appear to be in the foreground or background depending on the colour of the field. Fellow Bauhaus instructors László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) from Hungary and Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), originally from Russia and later active in Germany, also studied the visual effects of the interaction of colours.

Chapter 6: Reconfiguring Light

Invented in the mid-19th century, light bulbs permeated lives in the 20th century. As industry developed and diversified, they became essential tools in advertising. Against this backdrop, artists post World War II began exploring new relationships with light.
American artist Dan Flavin (1933–1996) used commercially available fluorescent lamps directly installed on walls to transform the visual experience of an entire space. Since the early 1990s, the work of UK born David Batchelor (b. 1955) has focused on how urbanites experience light and colour. His work Spectrum of Brick Lane 2 evokes a bustling city. Truck Birds Wind by UK artist Julian Opie (b. 1958), created from digitally altered photographs of nature and cityscapes taken by the artist, is reminiscent of visual worlds seen in anime or computer games.

Chapter 7: Expansive Light

Whether depicting a starry night sky, capturing a golden sunset on film, or immersing viewers in the warm glow of artificial illumination, contemporary artists have explored the role that light plays in revealing the expansiveness of our universe and the precariousness of our place within it. James Turrell (b. 1943) an avid pilot, works directly with light and space to create artworks that engage with atmospheric conditions. Having trained in perceptual psychology, Turrell began experimenting with light as a pure medium in the mid-1960s. Danish artist Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967) has a strong interest in themes of climate change and how people interact with their surroundings. The crystalline structure Stardust particle evokes the form of a greatly enlarged stardust particle – a remnant of an exploded star. Eliasson uses the reflection of light to change the appearance of gallery architecture depending on the position of the viewer, reminding us that our actions, however small, have an impact on the world around us.

Related books

A list of materials related to the exhibition that were introduced in the Art Library are available on the OPAC. Please click here to see the list on Past Special Book Exhibit page.

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