Art & EventsArt

Dazaifu Tenmangu—A Sanctuary for Culture and the Arts

©︎Tomoyuki Kambe
A Moment of Eternity(one of a set of two screens), 2011

Art has been celebrated at Dazaifu Tenmangu since its founding in the early tenth century. Today, the shrine is home to a thriving international contemporary art program, attracting leading artists from around the globe to collaborate in a rich spiritual and creative environment, and create new ways of seeing our world.

Dazaifu Tenmangu and Art

It might seem unusual to experience art in the traditional environment of a shrine, but Sugawara Michizane, enshrined at Dazaifu Tenmangu, is revered as the deity of learning, culture, and the arts. He was a master poet and calligrapher, and remains one of the nation's most renowned scholars, greatly influencing Japanese culture and society. Over the centuries, worshippers of the Tenjin faith have dedicated artworks to Sugawara, creating an invaluable collection at Dazaifu Tenmangu. The shrine has become a unique hub for creative minds. Art provokes deeper thought and helps us appreciate the unseen, by expressing abstract ideas in sensory form. Concepts of faith and belief can be understood through art, making Dazaifu Tenmangu the ideal place to explore these ideas.

The Dazaifu Tenmangu Art Program

For over 1,100 years, Dazaifu Tenmangu has been a center for cutting-edge contemporary art. Sugawara Michizane, the deity of learning, culture, and the arts, was a talented poet and thinker, inspiring and fostering generations of scholars and artists. Over the history of the shrine, the brightest talents have been drawn here to contribute to this legacy of culture and art.

©︎Ryan Gander
Really shiny stuff that doesn’t mean anything, 2011
Courtesy of Taro Nasu, Tokyo

©︎Pierre Huyghe
Exomind, 2017
Concrete cast with wax hive, bee colony, orange tree (Daidai), plum tree (Tobiume descendant), plants, sand, stones, calico cat, ants, spider, butterfly, concrete pond with waterlilies (Giverny descendant), axolotl and insects.
Courtesy of the artist; Taro Nasu, Tokyo; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Photo by Yasushi Ichikawa

The Dazaifu Tenmangu Art Program has been created to continue this heritage, placing the shrine at the crossroads of history and the future. The artists who join the program create and exhibit works around the shrine and museum, producing thought-provoking treasures for generations to come.

The Dazaifu Tenmangu Museum Collection

The Dazaifu Tenmangu Museum's collection comprises more than 50,000 artworks, cultural treasures, and historic artifacts either uncovered at the shrine or dedicated to Sugawara Michizane over the course of the shrine’s history.

Poetry beautifully calligraphed by Sugawara himself features among the shrine’s many artworks, which include picture scrolls, antique samurai armor, fine ceramics, and sculptures. Delicate plum motifs decorate many of the treasures. Plum blossom was Sugawara’s favorite flower and the inspiration for some of his most famous poetry.