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CATEGORICAL MEASURES: EXHIBITING THE GLOBAL

View of “Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde,” 2012–13, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Thomas Griesel

WHAT IS THE PROPER UNIT of measurement in exhibiting the history of a global art world? Is it the individual artist, shuttling between her place of origin and various metropolitan centers while participating in exhibitions throughout the world? Or are movements better building blocks? After all, mobility is built into the very term movement. Tendencies such as Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism, and Fluxus, to name only a few modern examples, encompassed networks even as they affirmatively called those networks into being by putting philosophical positions and corollary aesthetic formats into wide circulation. Or are geographic locations the best organizational category, enabling the historian and the curator to capture a cosmopolitan nexus of artistic exchange?

Over the past year, three exhibitions of Japanese art, predominantly focused on the mid-twentieth century, have appeared in

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