The industrialist and president of Tobu Railway, NEZU Kaichiro, Sr.(1860-1940) established a foundation in his will to preserve his personal collection. The museum opened at his private residence on this Aoyama site the following year,in 1941. Set in the spacious traditional-style garden with pond are several tea houses (chashitsu) because Kaichiro was an enthusiastic practitioner of 'the way of tea.'The Nezu Museum is considered especially strong in arts related to 'tea.'
Nezu Kaichiro's holdings of Japanese and other Asian pre-modern arts form the core of the museum collection. Today--thanks also to outstanding recent donations by several private collectors--it comprises more than 7,400 objects including calligraphy, painting, sculpture, ceramics, lacquer, metalwork, bamboo crafts and textiles. There are seven items designated as National Treasures, 87 Important Cultural Properties, and 94 works registered as Important Art Objects.
The museum's group of ancient Chinese bronzes is world famous. Other well-known works include Chinese Song/Yuan period paintings and calligraphy such as Fishing Village at Sunset by Muxi, and Quail attributed to Li Anzhong. Japanese religious paintings are well represented by such Buddhist works as Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana) and the Kongokai (Diamond) Mandala, and the famed Shinto painting, Nachi Waterfall. The museum has extensive holdings of paintings and ceramics from after the fifteenth century and has become best known for the folding-screen painting Irises, by the seventeenth century Rimpa artist, Ogata Korin.
Kaichiro avidly collected hanging scrolls and utensils for tea gatherings. He adopted the tea name of Seizan, "Blue/Clear Mountain." Particularly fine examples of the tea aesthetic that he collected range from thirteenth century Chinese celadon flower vases, Japanese Ashiya type tea kettles and Seto tea caddies and incense containers, to Korean ido tea bowls. The Museum's commitment to sustain his legacy is reflected by the installation of a new chashitsu in the garden to supplement those available for use by tea afichiados today and in the future.
Architect KUMA Kengo designed and supervised the reformation and new museum building. He has tried to create an experience of wa or Japanese harmony. The visitor will enter along the side of the new building, coming off the energized commercial streets of Omote Sando. Tradition has inspired the graceful expanse of Kuma's massive tile roof and dark verticals of the exterior walls that signal entering a special place. Extensive use of glass in the entry and central hall brings the magnificent garden into interior spaces. At the same time the display galleries incorporate the latest technologies for viewing, climate control and preservation of objects.
The Museum in order to celebrate the October opening and to promote our mission, which is to allow this generation to experience the beauty of the past while preserving the legacy and moving towards the future, has adopted a new logo. It is designed by the German artist, Peter Schmidt. Our former name in English of "Institute of Fine Arts" has been clarified to "Nezu Museum". The'N'and'M' were the basis for the graphic design on the logo. The mark recalls as well the many folding-screen paintings in the collection, such as Korin's Irises. It also suggests 'bamboo' that aptly echoes the plantings and vertical exterior detailing of the new building. The lettering for the name "Nezu bijutsukan" in Japanese on the logo is based on the elegant style of ancient Chinese steles.