A day or two ago I wrote about the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) as if it were the best thing to come along in the art world since sliced cheese and wine. Perhaps, but even though museums devoted to housing contemporary creations on this scale are rare, MASS MoCA is NOT one of a kind. But, one does have to roam rather far affield to find anything comparable.

The Japanese have a museum entry into this heady atmosphere of contemporary exhibition space. Like MASS MoCA, it's not in Tokyo or Yokohama where one would expect to find such things but in the "Peace City" of Hiroshima. The Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary art is the first and only museum in Japan to dedicate itself solely to contemporary art. Not surprisingly in Hiroshima, "contemporary" means anything coming AFTER August 4, 1945. In formulating a modern image of urban civic itself, its past having been effectively eradicated, Hiroshima had little but PEACE upon which to buildl--hope for the future, and a prayer that nuclear destruction on such a scale might never happen again. Their museum enbodies both these elements in it's 100,000 square foot (large by Japanese standards) display space.

There is no feeling of medieval fortress security, aircraft hangar volume, or any kind of factory ambiance such as one finds at MASS MoCA. If anything, the feeling is more closely related to that of the Acropolis in Athens. The museum sits atop a 50-meter high hill called Hijiyama Art Park and was designed by Japanese architect, Kurokawa. Actually, to be more accurate, the museum sits IN the hill, some 60% of it's volume being underground so as not to offend Japanese aesthetic sensibilities regarding their precious limited landscape. Besides art and cultural facilities set in a forested, 75 acre area, there is a sculpture park, an outdoor school, vistas, open areas, and nature walks offering bits of quiet pleasure for all ages. Stone, tiles, and aluminum are employed in the exterior facade of the sprawling, four-level complex. And while the Japanese entry into the field of contemporary art exhibition may lack the "MASS" of MASS MoCA, it competes quite handily with its aura of oriental refinement, relaxing ambiance, and sedate style as compared to its Massachusetts counterpart's typically American emphasis on enormous, freewheeling SIZE alone.