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The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura opened as the first public museum of modern art in Japan in 1951. Ever since, it has been in constant pursuit of the ideal function of an art museum and played a leading role in this country. We do our best to take a broad view of the era and the world, grasp the needs of the changing society, cherish ties with the local community to which the Museum belongs, find present-day subjects in history, and be sure that the originality and the independence of the Museum do not get lost. With such principles in mind, we have been accumulating experience and exploring further activities.
In 2003, the museum has renamed to The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama as our third building has opened in Hayama. From April 2016, the museum's activities are integrated into two buildings known as The Museum of Modern Art, Hayama and the Kamakura Annex. Each location organizes 4 or 5 exhibitions a year. Besides organizing numerous exhibitions, we also work hard to plan a variety of activity programs for the public to enjoy the Museum in diverse ways. Our aim is to make the Museum a place for everyone to enjoy, feel comfortable, and discover something unexpected.
Greeting from the Director
The Tales of the Three Princes of Serendip
Of late, I've been thinking about the English word “serendipity”. It's an abstract noun that derives from Serendip, the old Persian name for Sri Lanka.
I first grew interested in the word after encountering the title of Tasuku Honjo's Nobel Lecture after being awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: ‘Serendipities of acquired Immunity’. Now, three years later, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, I watched the video of that lecture again.
Once more, it strikes me what a miraculously fortunate thing it is for humanity to have acquired immunity. We catch a disease and then, when we recover, we are immune to it—scientists have strived persistently to understand the mechanism whereby this takes place.
Why is such a thing known in English as a ‘serendiputy’, I wondered. Researching the issue, I discovered the existence of an old folktale entitled ‘The Three Princes of Serendip’. This tale, which originated in the Islamic world and spread in Europe, has many iterations, some of them quite bizarre. The version that particularly struck me is that of the merchant whose riverside palace is swept away by a flood, along with his entire fortune contained inside it. The three princes of Serendip encounter the merchant sitting by the bank of the river, his face streaked with tears, and he proceeds to tell them his tragic story.
When he finishes, the princes explain that this tragedy may contain a blessing—that he should seek the fortune in his misfortune—and then they leave. Years pass, and by the time the princes return to the river, the merchant has rebuilt his palace on the cliff looking down on the river. Receiving an invitation to dinner at the palace, the princes are told about what had come to pass. After hearing the princes’ advice, the merchant had remembered how, in his younger days, he had loved to play in the river. As he thinks of this, the river speaks to him, telling him to lift his eyes. Looking up and seeing the cliff, the merchant decides to use what little money he has remaining to rebuild his palace atop the cliff. As he and his workers are preparing the ground, they discover a medley of precious stones in the earth...
And so, I think of the immunity gained from illness—the good fortune that comes as a result of refusing to be beaten by tragedy, but lifting one’s eyes and looking up. Thinking about this tale in conjunction with the magnificence of those rare encounters with art, it’s a story that feels utterly appropriate for these days we’re living through.
MIZUSAWA Tsutomu, Director