Buried in the posh shopping district of Shibuya is something of an underground lair, the unique doll museum Maria Cuore. Exhibits change about biweekly, featuring artists of all flavors (photographers, painters, illustrators, and doll makers) strewn about the owner’s permanent collection. Modern porcelain ball joint dolls, antique German dolls, classical wax dolls, broken dolls, tendrils of candle, and panels of stained glass decorate a webbed network of ambient lighting, coffin like display cases, and other unique furnishings. Navigating the museum is like carefully tip-toeing through a grandma’s attic. It’s literally full to the brim of priceless collectibles, all precariously placed within reach, some even lining the narrow and winding ribbon-like walkway. The darkness as well as the eerie nostalgia of the pieces, accented through minimalistic ambient Coil-like music laced with brief chant, gives the impression of entering a shrine, still yet awaiting the knowledge of your role in ritual.
Despite the somewhat steep (1,000 yen) price of entrance, visitors are encouraged to wander about and lose themselves in the parallel world for as long as they please. Tea, coffee, beer, and other beverage service is available, though seating, much like the well used space of the museum itself, is extremely limited.
Currently on display, the Rosen Mary (バラの聖母) doll exhibit at Maria Cuore will provide the background for two different visual artists this month, first photographer Sakai Atsushi’s Snake Lips exhibit (Jan. 24 – Feb. 2) and now painter Inagakari Seiji’s Golden Darkness (Feb. 6 – 16). Dolls by artists including Koitsuke Hime, Amano Katan, and Kimura Ryo loosely themed on Mary, mother of Jesus, provide an intense compliment to the images, exemplifying the delicacy and destruction of female form.
Batsu was able to visit Rozen Mary on January 31. At the entrance to the exhibit was a small table, surrounded by 8 or so child-sized coffins made of wax, all filled with broken doll parts. On the periphery lie a few works by Koitsuki Hime and Amano, which divided the gallery space into an entrance and an altar. Beyond the entrance was the seating, arranged much like church pews, finally coming to an elaborate and ornate arrangement of antique hinged glass cases. Strewn with fabric and dried flowers and framed with candles, this was where some of the larger Mary pieces were contained, particularly two beautiful pieces by Koitsuki Hime. I was particularly taken by Mr. Kimura’s work, but as it was my first time to see any of these artists’ pieces firsthand, the entire experience was quite inspiring.
Maria Cuore is open from 1pm to 7pm, closed Tuesdays. It’s bit daunting to find using their pretty map, but can be found on the Dolls in Tokyo map in the Maps of Japan section. Entrance is 1,000 yen, and drinks start from 300 yen. Maria Cuore also hosts a variety of unique performances, which are listed on their homepage.