Photo/IllutrationThe Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art in Sakura, Chiba Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

SAKURA, Chiba Prefecture--A popular museum here has made a shock decision to sell off all its Japanese paintings, some of which were produced by the nation’s greatest artists.

The masterpieces housed at the Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art include the folding-screen painting “Crows and Herons,” by Hasegawa Tohaku, which is a government-designated important cultural property.

The Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568-1600) piece is believed to be the most valuable artwork on its way out.

The two-panel folding screen is Tohaku’s magnum opus from his later years, showing a great contrast between the black crows on the left panel and the white herons on the right. The screen, measuring 150 centimeters tall and 350 cm wide, was the first artwork housed by the museum.

The vacated exhibition room for Japanese paintings will be refurbished and reopened showing other works this spring.

Officials said the deaccession was taking place because the museum wants to focus and enrich its “works of abstract expressionism and also works of its subsequent generations.”

The museum is popular for its wide collection of about 1,000 works of art by impressionists, modern painters and other artists. It houses about 20 Japanese drawings, including early modern paintings by Tohaku and Ogata Korin and late modern works by Taikan Yokoyama and Shoen Uemura.

All the masterpieces had been popular among visitors, but the museum ended the exhibition of the paintings in December last year.

The officials are set to deaccession all the artworks to other museums and individuals in Japan.

Under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, owners of cultural properties must report changes in ownership and make efforts for preservation and exhibition. The museum officials said they have already filed the report to the Agency for Cultural Affairs and completed the deaccession process. But details such as the transferees cannot be revealed, they added.

Besides, the officials will proceed with the deaccession of Korin’s folding screen painting titled “Willows and Water Birds,” Taikan’s “Shining Japan” and other great works.

The Kawamura museum was founded in 1990 as a private museum managed by Dainippon Ink and Chemicals, or present-day DIC Corp., on the compound of the company’s research laboratory. Its collection is renowned for artworks by a wide variety of artists, including 17th-century painter Rembrandt, modern Western painters ranging from 19th-century French impressionists such as Monet and Renoir to Picasso and Chagall, as well as contemporary artists including Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock.

In 2013, the museum caused a stir when it sold U.S. abstract expressionist Barnett Newman’s “Anna’s Light” to an overseas buyer. At the time, the officials revealed that it earned a capital gain of about 10.3 billion yen ($94 million) from the sale, saying that no changes would be made to the operation policy and that they would welcome visitors with a wide-ranging lineup including Japanese art.

The Kawamura museum is currently closed. It will organize an exhibition of its collection starting from March 24.