Inside MUCA: ICONS of Urban Art

Kyoto’s KYOCERA Museum of Art recently hosted the Kansai leg of the MUCA: ICONS of Urban Art—From Banksy to KAWS exhibition, which is currently on tour in Japan. As a big fan of urban art who happened to be in Kyoto at the same time, I knew I had to make a plan to go check it out.

One of the perks of living in New York for five years was getting to enjoy street art on a daily basis, sometimes even from my own window. The city has long been a canvas for artists to express themselves and communicate with the masses. While this relationship has been a colorful and storied one, it is by no means unique to the five boroughs. Urban art is a feature of pretty much every major metropolis in the world today, both on the street and, more recently, in museums.

Banksy, Are You Using That Chair?, 2005

MUCA, or the Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art, houses one of the largest collections of urban art in Europe. It’s also the first museum of its kind in Germany, where it’s located in a former Munich utility substation. 

The MUCA: ICONS of Urban Art exhibition showcases a selection of over 60 works in the MUCA collection from internationally acclaimed urban artists—or icons—like Banksy, Invader, Swoon and KAWS. Some of the works, such as Banksy’s Dismaland: Ariel, are being shown in Japan for the first time.

Swoon, Ice Queens, 2018
Invader, Rubic Arrested Sid Vicious, 2007/Rubic Albinos, 2009

In Japan, an exhibition space is one of the few places where you’ll see urban art. Sure, you’ll find commissioned pieces dotted around the big cities, like Tokyo, but graffiti culture in its purest form is still very much suppressed. Where it does exist, the most notable pieces are almost always done by non-Japanese. There is a very, very small community of local writers, and this article by Sabukaru does a good job of explaining why.

Perhaps exhibitions like MUCA: Icons can help open up minds to the beauty that is urban art. The tour kicked off in Kyushu last summer at the Oita Art Museum, where it received over 20,000 visitors. It moved to KYOCERA last fall until early January, and is now on in Tokyo. You can catch it at the Mori Arts Center Gallery until June 2.

KAWS, Jalouse, 2007

Visit MUCA ICONS of Urban Art

Venue: Mori Arts Center Gallery

Dates: Now through June 2, 2024

Hours: 10:00~19:00

Admission: ¥2400



Hours: 10:00~18:00 (closed Mondays)

Admission: ¥730


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