Update: Myth of Tomorrow

In July of 2005, I wrote about Myth of Tomorrow, a long lost but rediscovered mural by famed Japanese artist, Taro Okamoto. This article was updated on April 9, 2016 to reflect recent developments regarding Mr. Okamoto’s monumental mural. The video above shows the mural in situ at the Shibuya railway station in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan.

Painted in Mexico between 1968 and 1969, Okamoto’s mural depicting the horrors of nuclear war was located in the lobby of what was to be a luxury hotel, but the building was never completed and the mural, painted on large panels, was put into storage and subsequently lost. In 2003 the panels were found abandoned in a warehouse; the painting had suffered minor damage. The Okamoto Memorial Foundation made arrangements to ship the mural to Japan for eventual renovation and display.

In June 2006 Okamoto’s mural was shipped to Japan and expertly renovated, then placed on public display for fifty days in Tokyo’s Shiodome district, where it was viewed by two million people. From April 2007 to June 2008, Myth of Tomorrow was displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, were it was viewed by enthusiastic crowds.

The director of the Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum, Akiomi Hirano, offered the gigantic mural to any public institution willing to put it on permanent display, but because of its massive size (18 feet by 98 feet) there were  few takers. The municipal governments of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki  turned down the opportunity to display the mural, siting lack of funds to build an appropriate site for the work as well as space limitations. Still, Hirano hoped the mural would find a permanent home for the mural by 2011, the 100th anniversary of Taro Okamoto’s birth.

Finally, in March 2008 it was decided to place the mural on permanent display in the Shibuya railway station in Shibuya, Tokyo. On November 17, 2008 the massive mural was presented to the public in an official ceremony; the painting hangs over a walkway that connect the railway station to the city proper. People in the tens of thousands see the masterpiece on a daily basis.

In May of 2011, the postmodern art collective calling themselves Chim-Pom defaced Okamoto’s masterwork; the group surreptitiously painted burned-out nuclear power plants onto a board and adhered it to the background of Okamoto’s mural using double-sided tape. The collective justified their vandalism as a statement on the recent Fukushima nuclear disaster.

It is telling that Taro Okamoto and his Myth of Tomorrow mural are little known in the United States, but the Chim-Pom vandalizers were rewarded with an exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in Long Island, New York that ran from November 2011 to April 2012.

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Further reading:

Tokyo Art Beat: Taro Okamoto’s Myth of Tomorrow

Nuclear Proliferation, Tradition and “The Myth of Tomorrow

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