Visiting Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion?

You must join the virtual exhibition queue when you arrive. If capacity has been reached for the day, the queue will close early.

Learn more

Press release

Tatsuo Miyajima: Arrow of Time (Unfinished Life)

April 19–September 25, 2016

Installation Location: Tony and Amie James Gallery, The Met Breuer, Madison Avenue and 75th Street

A new light-based installation by Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima is now on view at The Met Breuer. Arrow of Time (Unfinished Life) was created to accompany The Met Breuer’s inaugural exhibition Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible and will be on view through September 25, 2016, in the Tony and Amie James Gallery.

The exhibition is made possible by Leonard A. Lauder and The Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation.

Additional support is provided by The Daniel and Estrellita Brodsky Foundation, the Jane and Robert Carroll Fund, Howard I. Hoffen & Sandra Hoffen, Kenneth and Rosalind Landis, Ann M. Spruill and Daniel H. Cantwell, and Northern Trust.

It is supported by an Indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Informed by his study of Buddhist philosophy and modern physics, Miyajima’s work is premised on the concept of infinity. For the artist, infinity implies not only relentless flux—permanent impermanence, as it were—but also endlessness, whether spatial, temporal, or existential. The work at The Met Breuer takes its title from a concept popularized by British astronomer Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington in the late 1920s. “Time’s arrow” describes the irreversibility of time, the very concept that Miyajima’s installation enacts through the use of approximately 250 digital light-emitting diode (LED) counters. The artist programmed each of these devices to count from one to nine repeatedly, then go dark momentarily, and then repeat the sequence. According to Miyajima, the cyclical repetition of numbers, along with the recurring passage from light to dark, symbolizes the unending “time of human life.” In Buddhist metaphysics this idea is called “samsara,” which refers to the endless cycle of birth and death. Each LED counter is programmed to count at a different speed; the variations are intended by the artist to represent the nearly limitless differences between human beings. Hanging from the ceiling of the gallery, these digital counters immerse viewers in a shower of light that symbolizes both time and life.

About the Artist

Tatsuo Miyajima was born in 1957 and lives and works in Ibaraki, Japan. He completed undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 1986, after which he began experimenting with performance art and then moved on to light-based installations. He has held solo exhibitions at Capsule Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (2014); in Seoul, South Korea, the location for a site-specific exhibition entitled “House Lives with Time,” created in a traditional house (2012); Kunstmuseum Sankt Gallen, Switzerland (2012); Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China (2011); Miyanomori Art Museum, Hokkaido, Japan (2010); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1997); Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris, France (1996); and Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (1996). He has participated in the Venice Biennale (1988, 1999) and in numerous group exhibitions, including Eppur Si Muove, Mudam Luxembourg (2015); Boolean Expressions at the Lewis Gluckman Gallery, Cork, Ireland (2015); and Logical Emotion, Contemporary Art from Japan, Museum Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich, Switzerland (2014). His work is featured in numerous public collections including Tate, London, UK; La Caixa, Barcelona, Spain; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan.


Tatsuo Miyajima: Arrow of Time (Unfinished Life)
is organized by Kelly Baum, Curator of Postwar and Contemporary Art in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Met. 

Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible is curated by Kelly Baum Curator of Postwar and Contemporary Art in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art; Andrea Bayer, Jayne Wrightsman Curator in the Department of European Paintings at The Met; and Nicholas Cullinan, former curator in The Met’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art and current Director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, all working under the direction of Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The exhibition is featured on the Museum's website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using #TatsuoMiyajima, #MetUnfinished, and #MetBreuer. 


Updated July 13, 2016

Press resources