Exhibition: Jomon, The Birth of Art in Prehistoric Japan

Tanabatake Venus, terracotta, Middle Jomon period

Exhibition dates: 17 October – 8 December 2018, 12:00 – 20:00

Closing soon – this is your last chance to see this rare exhibition exploring the art and culture of the Jomon era (11,000-400 BC) in Japan. It is 20 years since the last exhibition was held in Paris in 1998. The show comprises 64 pieces, including six National Treasures and 33 Important Cultural Properties.

The Jomon period began to develop about 13,000 years ago, during the Neolithic period. Around this time, early man had chosen to settle in one place rather than being continuously nomadic, which encouraged the development of hunting and gathering, the creation of utensils for daily use – in terracotta to cook food, and in stone and bone for hunting and fishing. In pottery of the Jomon period, there is an innovative and powerful aesthetic in dogu figurines that is both mysterious and yet full of humour. These pieces are remarkable evidence of the sophistication of the people who created them.

The ice age had ended shortly after the beginning of the Jomon era and the Japanese archipelago enjoyed a mild climate where hunting, fishing and gathering and other settler activities were able to develop. It is the appearance of pottery that marks the beginning of age and the period takes its name from the motifs that were made by pressing ropes into the clay.

The first section of the exhibition explores these 10,000 years of plastic arts through their evolution of shape and the distinctive pottery patterns: nail, finger, rope and shell markings, along with the application of clay and engraved drawings on pots.

The second section is devoted to objects that explore the beliefs and spirituality of the Jomon people. Anthropomorphic dogu (baked clay figurines) are a remarkable example of the aesthetics of the spiritual realm. The majority of the figures are in feminine form, the oldest representing simple busts with generous breasts and are probably related to fertility, harvesting, or food resources.

While infant mortality was high, dogu of pregnant, breastfeeding or childbirth-giving women, as well as children’s handprints on clay plates, seem to express the intense desire of parents to see their offspring to thrive and remain healthy. Other figurines were used in funerary rites or used as ossuary offerings, which shows the relationships of the Jomon people with the afterlife.

Hunting scenes adorning jars and zoomorphic dogu are also thought to be related to certain belief systems. The wild boar occupies a large place in their prehistoric bestiary due to its importance in daily life and survival. Even everyday objects such as pottery for cooking and food storage, axes, wicker baskets or hooks have a striking beauty beyond their functional use.

Equally surprising are the lacquered vessels presented in the last section: it is hard to believe that the use of lacquer dates back to such a remote a time.

Location: Maison de la culture du Japan a Paris, 101 bis, quai Branly, 75015 Paris

********************************

Advertisements

Exhibition: Painting the Floating World – Ukiyo-e Masterpieces from the Weston Collection

Exhibition dates: 4 November 2018 – 27 January 2019

Although this exhibition doesn’t feature textiles themselves, the textiles depicted in the paintings are fascinating.

In the 17th century, Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo (now Tokyo) were Japan’s thriving cities, complete with bustling entertainment districts where ukiyo, or the “floating world,” was born. People of all ranks shared in the enjoyment of the floating world’s attractions—brothels, kabuki theatre, and seasonal festivities. Artists of the period captured this popular phenomena in ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world.” Over the last 25 years, Roger Weston has assembled an outstanding collection of ukiyo-e paintings—masterpieces by the most famed artists of the day. This exhibition at the Art Institute Chicago, the first public showing of his comprehensive ukiyo-e painting collection in the United States, showcases the sheer beauty of floating world painting and offers an exclusive view of the urban amusements of early modern Japan.

Accompanied by a 350-page catalogue that includes major new essays by leading scholars, Painting the Floating World features over 150 works from the 17th through the 19th century. Each painting offers an exquisite glimpse of the past; as a whole the exceptional collection reveals ukiyo-e’s rich connection to trends in fashion, beauty, and cultural life over centuries.

A very interesting article on one of these masterpieces – Hell Courtesan by Kawanabe Kyosai – can be read here
***********

Article: Rediscovering a rare Japanese painting by Utamaro

 

Tim Clark, Head of the Japanese section in the Department of Asia, British Museum, recounts the discovery of a previously unknown painting by Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro. In this article he takes a closer look at this rare artwork, recounts how he examined its authenticity, and how it found its way into the Museum’s collection.

Courtesans (high ranked sex workers) were expected to provide glamorous and cultivated company, as well as sexual services, to those wealthy clients who could afford the extravagant expense. In reality though, their lives could be harsh. In Utamaro’s art this exploitation was only rarely alluded to, although it was significant at the time that he represented it at all.

To read the full article visit the website of the British Museum

Exhibition: Dressed to Impress – Netsuke and Japanese Men’s Fashion

Exhibition dates: 4 November 2017 – 22 April 2018

This exhibition at the Museum of East Asian Art (MEAA) in Bath, held in partnership with the British Museum, explores the intricate accessories worn by Japanese men during the Edo period (16151868). Netsuke are a form of miniature Japanese sculpture that were primarily functional, but that evolved into an important art form.

The exhibition features a selection of netsuke, chosen from over 2,300 in the British Museum’s collection, with more pieces added from MEAA’s collection to show the range and beauty of these objects and their excellent craftsmanship. Netsuke come in a variety of forms and materials such as wood, ivory and porcelain. The beauty of these objects is in their individuality, and is reflected in the variety of the netsuke on show: a goldfish, a Chinese boy holding a lion mask and a drum and fox’s mask (pictured above). Also on display will be a number of inro (cases for holding small objects), a sword and smoking accessories.

The exhibition places the netsuke and other objects in context with a sword and bespoke male kimono to demonstrate how they were worn as a complete outfit in the eighteenth century.

For more information, visit the website of the Museum of East Asian Art, Bath, UK.

Exhibition: Japanese Bamboo Art – The Abbey Collection

Exhibition dates: 13 June 2017 – 4 February 2018

Featuring works of Japanese bamboo art dating from the late nineteenth century to the present the period when basketry in Japan became recognised as an art form that transcends ‘craft’ this loan exhibition showcases more than 80 bamboo baskets and sculptures created by accomplished artists, including all six masters who have received the designation ‘Living National Treasure’. Highlighting key stages in the modern history of Japanese bamboo art, the exhibition is drawn from the Abbey Collection, one of the finest private collections of Japanese baskets and bamboo sculpture; most of the works have never before been presented in public.

More than 70 of these remarkable objects promised gifts to The Metropolitan Museum from long-time New York residents Diane and Arthur Abbey will become part of the museum’s collection, bringing added depth to its already incomparable holdings in Asian art and allowing the museum to tell the modern history of Japanese basketry from the 1880s through the present. Complementing the bamboo works from the Abbey Collection is a lavish selection of hanging scroll and screen paintings and decorative arts, all from The Met’s holdings, that explores the bamboo motif along with related themes such as ikebana (flower arranging) and the tea ceremony.

For more information, visit the website of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, USA.

Exhibition: Japan – Modern. Elise Wessels Collection

Rijksmuseum - Japan. Modern. Elise Wessels Collection

Exhibition dates: 24 June – 11 September 2016 

For the first time ever, the Rijksmuseum will be presenting 170 Japanese prints from the Elise Wessels Collection, picturing Japan’s rapid modernization during the opening decades of the twentieth century. Alongside prints, the exhibition will feature kimonos and lacquerware from the Jan Dees and René van der Star Collection and posters on loan from the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.

In the early 1900s, Japan was booming. Its modern urban centres offered a fertile climate for burgeoning industries and gave rise to new forms of leisure. As in Europe and America, women were pushing back old boundaries, forging a new model of the ‘modern girl’. Alongside optimism, there was also a prevailing sense of nostalgia, fed by feelings of uncertainty. In this era of vast change, the past was glorified as an ideal.

With Japan in the midst of this whirlwind development, a devastating earthquake struck in 1923, ravaging the city of Tokyo and many towns and villages for miles around. Work immediately began on reconstruction of the country’s capital, putting the pace of modernization into an even higher gear. Synthetic fabrics made clothing, including kimonos, more affordable, and in their window displays the new department stores showcased the latest fashions to tempt shoppers. By 1930, Tokyo was a modern world metropolis that bore little resemblance to the city it had been just a few decades earlier.

Dedicated to Japanese prints from the first half of the twentieth century, the Elise Wessels Collection is unique in the Netherlands and among the best in the world from this period outside Japan. The collection currently contains some 2,000 prints of exceptional quality, collected over a twenty-five-year time span. With a large selection of prints in both the Shin hanga and Sōsaku hanga styles represented, the collection is furthermore unusual in offering a virtually comprehensive overview of Japanese printmaking during this period.

For more information, visit the website of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Exhibition: Celebrating the Arts of Japan – The Mary Griggs Burke Collection

Met Museum - Celebrating the Arts of Japan

Exhibition dates: 20 October 2015 – 22 January 2017

A spectacular array of Japanese works of art are currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in a special exhibition featuring works drawn from the recent landmark gift to the museum by the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation. ‘Celebrating the Arts of Japan: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection’ is a tribute to the discerning New York City collector who built what is widely regarded as the finest and most encompassing private collection outside Japan. The works on view include masterpieces – paintings, sculpture, ceramics, calligraphy, lacquerware and more – dating from the tenth to the twentieth century. Among the highlights are a powerful representation of the Buddhist deity Fudō Myōō from the studio of the celebrated sculptor Kaikei (active 1185–1223), a sumptuous set of early seventeenth-century screens showing Uji Bridge in Kyoto, and Itō Jakuchū’s (1716–1800) tour-de-force ink painting of plum blossoms in full bloom illuminated by moonlight. Organised by theme and presented in two sequential rotations (with the changeover taking place in late May 2016), the exhibition will reveal, through a single, distinguished collection, the full range of topics, techniques and styles that are distinctive to Japanese art.

Beginning in the 1960s, over the course of nearly 50 years, Mary Griggs Burke (1916–2012) assembled an unparalleled art collection. It was exhibited by the Tokyo National Museum in 1985, the first ever Japanese art collection from abroad to be shown there. The themes selected for the current exhibition, including numerous works added to the collection since the Bridge of Dreams exhibition at the Met in 2000, reflect Mrs Burke’s own collecting interests.

For more information, visit the website of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, USA.

News: Re-opening of the V&A’s Refurbished Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art

V&A - Toshiba Gallery re-opening

The V&A’s refurbished Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art will re-open on Wednesday 4 November 2015.

The gallery refresh is part of the V&A’s ongoing FuturePlan scheme of restoration and redesign to create beautiful and contemporary new settings for the museum’s outstanding collections. Originally opened in December 1986, the Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art was the first major gallery of Japanese art in the UK. It was designed to show highlights of the V&A’s internationally important collection of Japanese art and design, which the museum has built up since it was founded in 1852. The refurbished gallery will exhibit around 550 works in a newly curated series of displays that will include 30 or more recent acquisitions. A group of kimono from the 1920s–1930s are among the recent acquisitions that will be shown in the refurbished Toshiba Gallery.

The gallery will illustrate the extraordinary craftsmanship and artistic creativity of Japan from the sixth century to the present day through displays of swords and armour, lacquer, ceramics, cloisonné enamels, textiles and dress, inrō and netsuke, paintings, prints and illustrated books. The lighting, graphics and display cases have been updated and the gallery reconfigured to give space to modern and contemporary objects such as interior design, product design, electronics, photography, graphics and fashion – both high-end and kawaii street. An outfit from Issey Miyake’s 132 5. range will be shown, which employs the concept of origami to create a piece of womenswear out of a single piece of fabric, as well as a pair of gravity-defying shoes by the brilliantly creative Noritaka Tatehana.

The history and traditions of Japan are explored in the Toshiba Gallery, as well as how they resonate in contemporary society, including themes such as religion and ritual, arts of the samurai, tea drinking, theatre and performance, fashionable dress, dress accessories, lacquer and elegant pursuits, ukiyo-e and the graphic arts, engagement with the West, Imperial Japan, folk craft and the modern and contemporary. The displays will be complemented by films about inrō, putting on a kimono and obi, how to make a sword fitting and how to put on a suit of armour.

Treasures of the gallery include the lavishly decorated Mazarin Chest, made in Kyoto around 1640, which is one of the finest pieces of Japanese export lacquer to have survived from this time; a wonderfully preserved late seventeenth-century six-fold screen depicting the Nakamura-za Kabuki theatre in Edo (Tokyo); a set of twelve inrō for the twelve months of the year by the renowned nineteenth-century lacquer artist Shibata Zeshin; utensils for the tea ceremony including several rare and important examples of ceramics; and a major group of extremely high quality cloisonné enamels from the period 1880 to 1910.

Admission to the Toshiba Gallery (Room 45) is free.

For more information, visit the website of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.