It is evident in this circular atrium where a section has been cut out in order to show where the bomb was dropped. So this cut represents a moment in history that Hiroshima will always remember. It emphasizes the fact the we will never forget what happened.

(Kisho Kurokawa)

It would be oblivious to sweep through Japan’s history without recollecting the ghastly atomic bombing of Hiroshima and its environs in 1945. That blinding light and intense heat, which canopied approximately 13 square kilometres across the city alone scarred the survivors for the rest of their lives and left harrowing tales to pass on to the next generations.

Nonetheless, we have heard of remarkable acts of courage on how Hiroshima painfully but stoically resurrected from its indescribable trauma. Power, water, and transportation were restored speedily and generous aid from neighbouring cities flowed into the city. Like the phoenix tree that stood about 1.3 kilometers from ground zero, directly exposed to the heat rays, yet was claimed to have sprouted leaves the following spring, today, Hiroshima has prospered into a manufacturing hub of wide-ranged industries from shipbuilding, steel, automobiles, to electrical machinery. Moreover, it has flourished as an important center of tourism, history, culture, and the arts.

Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art opened in 1989, becoming the first public contemporary art museum built in Japan after the war. Located atop Hijiyama Park surrounded by rich greenery, the striking postmodern structure was designed by leading architect Kisho Kurokawa.

Kurokawa envisioned a dynamic space that would reflect the evolution of civilization, just as time had evolved from the horrors of history towards the progress of tomorrow. In the same light, materials oscillate from natural to artificial: natural stone, tiles, and aluminum; while merging with the verdant surroundings. The design perfectly embodies the architect’s solid concept of metabolism and symbiosis.

The approach to the museum begins from either a rather long walk uphill or via the Hijiyama Sky Walk escalator. From there, a short stroll through a winding path takes you to several outdoor sculptures, including the gigantic The Arch by Henry Moore. A half-circular staircase ascends to a stunning panorama of an ancient European-inspired colonnade plaza. The round space at the center is empty and opens to the vast, blue sky, revealing a central slit to intentionally indicate the direction where the atomic bomb dropped. In fact, the stones underneath the columns are known to have been exposed to the bomb. The triangular-shaped gabled roofs of the building depict old Japanese storehouses.

The right wing of the spherical space is dedicated to the permanent collection, while the left wing to special exhibitions. Responding to the diversity of visitors, both local and foreign, the exhibitions comprise of curated selections from both Japanese and international artists who delineate the history and advancement of modern art.

In 2020, the museum had undergone extensive renovation and reopened in 2023 with a more heightened impression. The refurbishment was guided by policies of nourishment of the present and the future, international perspectives, new cultural creativity, and urban revitalization. Elements that had deteriorated over time, such as light fixtures, old elevator parts, and marble pieces have been updated. The demolished part of the new elevator has been reutilized with terrazzo tiles. Functionality has been impacted on a higher level, such as inclusion of a baby care room, multipurpose toilet, and other services.

The building also employs variable window shapes and stylish signages, which add to the attractive features. The roof and floors have been replaced to address flood and drainage problems. Environmental preservation has been carried out, for instance, in converting public phone booths into exhibition spaces. Additional areas like the glass-walled café Kaze, museum shop 339, and multipurpose hall moca moca have been enhanced, providing visitors with ample time to relax and explore the grounds. The diverse range of outdoor sculptures all around the museum, such as by Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz and Colombian artist Fernando Botero is astounding. Some represent the bombing, and strengthen the significance and beauty of this museum.

The exhibition “Collection Exhibition 2024-I Highlights + Relations, Guest Artist: Tejima Yuki" presents a wide scope of renowned multifarious artists — Taro Okamoto, Yoshitomo Nara, Makoto Aida, Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami, Cai Guo-Qiang, Roger Ackling, Cindy Sherman, and many more — broadening the thematic content of the museum’s collection.

A special section is devoted to Yuki Tejima who studied art in Hiroshima, and illustrates the landscape of the city through unique media. In “Relations,” Tejima’s works express the relationship between Hiroshima and contemporary art. One of his landscape subjects went on display at the Yebiden Gallery along Peace Boulevard from December 2022 to February 2023. It was created with a smartphone drawing application, then the digital image was repainted on canvas with paint. He is also producing a ten-meter long landscape painting of the Peace Memorial Park, to be completed in June and displayed in public.

The other rooms represent the subject “Highlights,” which focuses on varied forms that shape the link between the natural environment and humans, including the topic of nuclear weapons. Also spotlighted are the historical and present-time characteristics of Hiroshima.

Hiroshima’s spirit as a culture and epitome of courage lives on through art and continues to enrich the local people’s hearts despite ravages of the past.