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Arting about in Nara: Galleries & Installations

As a centre of culture and craft, it’s not surprising that Nara has a thriving art scene. There are more studio spaces available to young artists than in big cities, and local preservation groups offer incentives for creatives to move to smaller towns.

historic Naramachi hosts many small galleries, but more rural areas are catching up, with new galleries and art parks

The two biggest arts festivals happen around September: the annual Nara International Film Festival is held in mid September and the Nara Arts Festival runs from September to November. Historic Naramachi hosts many small galleries, but more rural areas are catching up, with new galleries and art parks.

With regular shows by young artists plus the owner’s own passion for Russian folk craft and design, Bolik Coffee is always a fascinating place to stop by. The organic lunches and fresh coffee are an extra incentive to find this cafe in the maze of Naramachi streets.

Not far from Naramachi, Nara City Museum of Photography is dedicated to photographer Irie Taikichi, who documented Nara with large scale images of local festivals and the daily life and rituals of monks and priests. There are also regular exhibitions by world renowned contemporary photographers.

Dedicated to local artists and crafters, Acart Lifestyle stocks offbeat items with a contemporary take on Nara’s culture. From textiles hand printed with goldfish to the very pop-art embroideries of famous Buddhist figures, you can discover new design while satisfying your urge to shop.

Contemporary art space Yusai Gallery holds several exhibitions by local artists almost every week, ranging from photography to glass art. You can often meet the artists and there is always something interesting to see.

This huge space dedicated to contemporary sculpture should be a lot more famous, but the upside is you can enjoy Murou Art Forest without the crowds. Israeli artist Dani Karavan designed the installations in harmony with the landscape and you are encouraged to touch and even climb the works.

A hidden treasure on the way to Horyuji Temple, the unassuming entrance of Horyuji Gallery Shinryoku Cafe leads to a large studio space with high quality contemporary works by internationally renowned artists. You can also stop in for coffee and good value lunches.

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