the facade of the new museum, which re-opened on May 26, 2020

Opened in 1933, the Kyoto Enthronement Memorial Museum of Art would go on to survive a world war and multiple natural disasters to become Japan’s oldest public art museum. Built in what was known as the Crown Imperial Style of architecture, its classical visage standing against the backdrop of Higashiyama has been an important presence in Kyoto for almost 90 years.

left: the museum when it first opened in 1933 | right: the museum occupied by U.S. forces after WWII

During WWII Kyoto was largely sparred from bombing, which is why the original structure continues to stand till this day. In 1946, after the war, U.S. occupation forces even took over the museum site and transformed the main exhibition hall into a basketball court. But in 1952, the Museum was derequisitioned and renamed “Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art.” And for the next 60 years the museum would go on to hose significant cultural events, showcasing both local and international works of art.

In 2013, on the occasion of the museum’s 80th anniversary, a plan was formulated to renovate the museum and a call for entries for the renovation was solicited. Jun Aoki & Associates and Tezzo Nishizawa Architects were selected for their design (pdf), which respects and preserves the legacy of the historic Main Building while dramatically enhancing the building’s functions through the addition of Higashiyama Cube, a new building for the support of contemporary art, a space for emerging artists, and shops and café facilities. Architect Jun Aoki was also named Director of the new museum and has this to say about the renovation:

Though architecture itself does not move or change,the way people view and experience architecture does change with time. The multiple exposures presented by architecture create a rich manifold image. To respect that while renovating a structure to be suitable for the current age is highly important for the future. I am acutely aware of the significance and responsibility involved in the current large-scale renewal of the Museum.

Jun Aoki

Fifty-year naming rights were sold to Kyocera for 5 billion yen (about $46 mm usd), which is how it got its new name. Th Kyoto Kyocera Museum of Art re-opened in May of 2020.

a large incision was made to depress the central foreground and create a slope that gently descended toward the center

the museum’s new logo was designed by graphic designer Shinnosuke Sugisaki