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Tottori: Majesty of French culture on display in sand

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Sculptures created by skilled artists can be seen at the Sand Museum in the Tottori Sand Dunes in Tottori.

TOTTORI — A unique museum in Tottori that exhibits sand sculptures is organizing an exhibition related to France to mark the year of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris.

The exhibition at the Sand Museum at Tottori Sand Dunes, entitled ‘Travel around the world in Sand, France’, features 18 sand sculptures depicting France’s turbulent history and its glamorous art and culture. The exhibition runs until January 5, 2025.

This is the 15th exhibition since the museum opened. The previous one about Egypt attracted a record number of 580,000 visitors.

“We can hold this exhibition without limiting the number of visitors, as during the corona pandemic,” said an employee. “We hope that visitors can fully appreciate the many delicate and beautiful works of art.”

Twenty sculptors from twelve countries created the works.

A reproduction of King Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles is the largest work in the exhibition, measuring 22 meters wide and five meters high. It expresses the grandeur of Baroque architecture with meticulous attention to detail. The way in which the Greek sun god Apollo is depicted in a carriage is reminiscent of paintings on the ceiling of the palace.

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The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Notre-Dame Cathedral

A sculpture of Notre-Dame Cathedral was created at a majestic scale of 20:1. The actual World Heritage Site dedicated to the Virgin Mary is currently being restored after a 2019 fire, and the sculpture is based on the pre-fire facade.

A sculpture depicting the coronation of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is based on the famous painting by Jacques-Louis David that hangs in the Louvre. The rearrangement of the direction and position of each figure from the painting creates realistic sensations, increasing its impact.

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The Yomiuri Shimbun
A sand sculpture depicting the famous painting “Napoleon’s Coronation” by Jacques-Louis David

Other works depict the King of the Franks Clovis I, the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453), the French national heroine Joan of Arc, a scene from Victor Hugo’s classic novel ‘Les Miserables’, the landscape in Paris, French fashion and food culture.

Executive producer and sand sculptor Katsuhiko Chaen said: “Be sure to come and see the powerful works of top sculptors.”

Record number of visitors

The Sand Museum was opened by the Tottori City Council in November 2006 as a new tourist attraction at the famous Tottori Sand Dunes. Chaen has been in charge since the first exhibition ‘Italy/Renaissance’, which featured artists from abroad. The two-month exhibition ‘Italy/Renaissance’ attracted 110,000 visitors.

The works were initially displayed in a temporary outdoor tent, but a permanent indoor museum was completed in 2012. The fifth exhibition, with the theme Great Britain, attracted more than 500,000 visitors that year.

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The Yomiuri Shimbun
Images from the previous exhibition ‘Travel around the world in sand, Egypt’

The 14th exhibition – ‘Around the World in Sand, Egypt’ – which ran through January, featured giant sand sculptures of the pyramids and the Sphinx, which attracted a record 585,762 visitors. A questionnaire showed that 91.2% of visitors came from outside Tottori Prefecture, and the economic impact for the prefecture was calculated at a record ¥17.12 billion.

Until then, the sixth Southeast Asia-themed exhibition, which ran from April 2013 to January 2014, had the largest economic impact of ¥13.36 billion and a record number of 555,355 visitors.

How to get there

The museum is a 20-minute taxi ride from JR Tottori station. Local buses are also available. On weekdays and public holidays it is open from 9am to 6pm (admission until 5.30pm). Admission is ¥800 (¥600 for groups) for adults and ¥400 (¥300 for groups) for elementary, middle, and high school students. A passport valid for the entire exhibition period is available for ¥1,400 for adults and ¥700 for elementary, middle, and high school students.

0518 sand map WEB
The Japan News
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