The Otsuka Museum of Art, situated on a hill in a corner of the Seto Naika Inland sea national park overlooking the Naruto straits in Japan, houses the world's first collection of ceramic-board reproductions of masterpieces. Built at a cost of some US $ 800 million to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Otsuka Chemical group, the museum , housed in an eight-storey building ( five floors below ground and three above) is the first of its kind to exhibit full-size reproductions of famous artworks from 170 museums baked into ceramic board at a temperature of 1,300°C with absolute fidelity to the originals.
The collection spans 3,000 years of western art history, from Ancient Greece through da Vinci's «Mona Lisa » to Picasso and Chagall and is surely one of the craziest achievements of these past 50 years.
Masahito Otsuka, Director of the Otsuka Museum, said his group started to make tiles out of the sand of the Naruto straits and thus up to the size of one square meter without blemish or crack. However, after the world oil crisis in 1973 there was no market for its tiles.
After a visit in a Moscow cemetery in 1975 where he noticed that attached to many of the tombstones were name-card sized photographs of the beloved which had faded because of ultraviolet rays of the sun, it occurred to Masahito Otsuka that baking the photographs into ceramics would preserve the original color forever.
That was how the Otsuka group began making ceramic reproductions of artworks, concentrating at first on Japanese paintings and scenes and that was how the idea for the Otsuka Museum of Art emerged.
Otsuka Pharmaceutical had just 17 employees at the end of World War Two and now has around 23,000. From a fistful of sand it built a museum now housing a collection of ceramic reproductions that will never change in over 2,000 years. Still, its most interesting feat is the reunion of masterpieces from all over the world which will give visitors to feel like being in the London National Gallery, the New metropolitan Museum, the Louvre Museum and the Vatican at the same time. There are now some 1,070 world famous masterpieces in one place with a review of 3,000 years of art history. As well, frescoes such as Giotto's Scrovegni Chapel and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling have been recreated in their home surroundings in the historical reconstructions of the
Museum (the Tomba degli Augure- Tarquinia, Italy, the Villa Dei Misteri, Pompeii, Italy, the Casa venere in conchiglia, Pompeii Italy, Saint Theodorus, Cappadoce, Turkey, Saint-Martin, Nohant-Vic, France, Saint Nicholas Orphanos, Salonika, Greece, la Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua, Italy, Sistine Hall, Vatican City, Studiolo, Urbino, Italy, the Room of El Greco, Spain, the country house of Goya, the «Black paintings», Prado, Spain, Monet's Nympheas, musée de l'Orangerie, Paris). The collection of masterworks has been arranged in historical order from the ancient through contemporary eras. Through a rigorous process some 935 artworks have been chosen to form this encapsulation of Western art history.
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn
Vincent Van Gogh
Georges Pierre Seurat
There is also a thematic section dealing with universal human themes such as life and death and image of families as well as space representation.
Among the 1070 reproductions of masterpieces 260 are from France, 220 from Italy, 113 from Britain, 100 from the U.S, 84 from Germany, 66 from Spain, 36 from the Netherlands, 28 from Austria, 28 from Switzerland, 21 from Greece and 19 from Belgium.The reproductions are produced by taking photographs of the original works in full dimensions, retouching numerous
times to get all the details right and baking them onto ceramic boards at high temperatures. There will be discoloration or fading with age. All the more, the idea of regrouping masterpieces from many parts of the world in one place conveys a new approach to art and will surely induce other countries to follow such initiative considered as an incredible boost for the development of culture on our planet. The Museum, situated north of Tokushima, has set an unprecedented example worth to be hailed as a great achievement for making art accessible to the masses.