Japanese Art Exhibit Brings Pokemon Fossils to Life

Ancient history and technological futures have been part of the Pokémon series since its inception, and quite often, they intersect.

On the surface, these adorable creatures seem simple enough — there are fish, bugs, and birds like the ones we know in our own world. But longtime series fans and collectors might remember the coveted Ancient Mew trading card, given out as a promotional item for the film that also introduced Mewtwo, the advanced clone of this legendary pink Pokémon.

Players have always had a chance to resurrect fossilized beasts in games and add them to their parties. Even Bill, the inventor of the PC in the game series, found a way to transport his consciousness into the body of a Pokémon using technology!

In 2022, the Generation 9 titles Pokémon Scarlet and Violet took this idea even further when it introduced fans to Paradox Forms for Pokémon. Depending on the version of the game fans played, they could encounter primal, ancient versions or sleek, futuristic variations of select monsters as related to Professor Sada and Professor Turo’s studies. (As a note, their names even come from the Spanish words “pasada” and “futuro,” past and future respectively.)

In 2022, artist Daniel Arsham and the Pokémon Company revealed an incredible fine art collaboration that turned this theme of timelessness and evolution into installations that fans could visit across Tokyo. While the exhibition has since ended, fans are left with incredible photographic “fossils” of Arsham’s breathtaking works. Let’s go on a journey to the real-world Kantō region to take a closer look at these Pokémon statues.

Daniel Arsham’s “A Ripple in Time”

Daniel Arsham is a contemporary artist and sculptor whose work frequently comments on the passage of time, material erosion, and the mythic nature of pop culture. He calls this style “Fictional Archaeology.” These future-retro fusions come in the form of iconic symbols, characters, and objects combined with materials like selenite, quartz, and volcanic ash to create fossilized yet modern treasures.

The “A Ripple in Time” exhibition took this a step further with elaborate Pokémon sculptures of iconic characters like Ash Ketchum, Mew and Mewtwo, 8, Charmander, and more. Materials used included bronze, stone, and crystal to show the passage of time and the natural world intersecting with these timeless cultural icons.

In the exhibition’s official press release, Daniel Arsham shared his own history with the powerhouse gaming series:

“I grew up with Pokémon and collected the cards when I was young. It’s something that is also present in the childhood of my children. They love Pokémon now, and I think that speaks to the universal nature of Pokémon, and the incredible universe of imagination that it has created for me and my own children.”

A New Pokémon Animated Film

An official animated short film called “A Ripple in Time” was even created to celebrate the collaboration, featuring some of Arsham’s works drawn into the world of Pokémon. This project was overseen by the general director of the anime series, Kunihiko Yuyama. The film features legendary monsters like Celebi, known for its ability to travel through time and exist simultaneously in multiple places, and Dialga, a crystalline guardian capable of controlling time itself.

The overall collaboration had numerous installations, each with a slightly different theme and grouping of Pokémon characters to be explored in both public locales and private Nanzuka gallery spaces. The Daniel Arsham x Pokémon displays included:

  • Pokémon of Future Past —Bronze statues of Mewtwo, Ash Ketchum and Pikachu, Charmander, Jigglypuff, and Cubone, at Roppongi Hills 66.
  • Field Research — Stylized 2D artwork and concepts for these “Fictional Archaeology” designs, including Blastoise, Jigglypuff, Mimikyu, Mew, and more, at the 3110NZ gallery.
  • A Ripple in Time — Stone and crystal sculptures of Charizard, Abra, Haunter, Pikachu, and more as well as 2D renders from the animated collaboration, at Nanzuka Underground Gallery.
  • Hidden within the Tall Grass — Stone, bronze, and crystal sculptures of Cubone, Mimikyu, Abra, and other Pokémon alongside bonsai and water features, at Sogetsu Plaza.
  • Ancient Power: Hidden in the Ruins — A bronze statue of Mew, as well as oversized, eroded stone recreations of Pokémon cards like Mew, Charizard, and the series logo, at Nanzuka 2G gallery.

Pokémon Gallery Tour

You can see tour footage of the various exhibition locations in this video by Hypebeast Japan:

These incredible works of fine art by Daniel Arsham perfectly exemplify and amplify core themes found throughout the beloved Pokémon series. Thankfully, the “A Ripple in Time” collaboration has been well documented, so any fans who missed seeing it in person in 2022 have a chance to unearth these unique treasures for themselves. Think you could catch ’em all?

Did you know that the Pokémon Porygon was meant to be a joke on video games adapting to polygonal (Porygon = polygon) graphics while the Pokémon game series still used 2D sprites? Or that there are 4 different combinations of monster you can create from the fossils found in the Galar region, but none is the true original creature?

Share your fossilized fun facts with other fans at side.show/geekgroup, and come celebrate Pokémon Day on February 27. Browse Sideshow’s range of Pokémon collectibles and prop replicas perfect for starting your own journey to the Elite 4. And don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!