Exhibition: Secrets of the Lacquer Buddha

Exhibition Dates: 9 December 2017 – 10 June 2018

Secrets of the Lacquer Buddha unites the only sixth- and seventh-century, life-size Chinese lacquer buddha sculptures known: one from the Walters Art Museum, one from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and one from the Freer Gallery of Art. They have never been exhibited together before.

The exhibition explores how the sculptures were made, giving new insights into these deceptively simple objects. It also highlights how science can contribute to understanding art. The Freer|Sackler Department of Conservation and Scientific Research’s experts used specialised equipment and new methods to analyse the sculptures, exposing microscopic details. Find out what tree species the lacquer came from, what type of burnt bone was mixed in, and other unexpected discoveries.

The amount of detailed background information given on the Freer|Sackler website is amazing. The essay by Donna Strahan and Blythe McCarthy on the construction of the buddha sculptures is particularly fascinating.

They discovered that pieces of wood wrapped in textiles which had been dipped in lacquer were used as a support inside some of the buddhas. The fibres from all four sculptures were identified by polarised light microscopy as bast fibres with crystalline nodes. The fibres’ colours further identified them as hemp when examined under polarised light.

A textile dated to between 1272 and 1284 also features in the essay on Lacquer, Relics, and Self-Mummification by Denise Patry Leidy.

For more information visit the website of the Freer|Sackler museum, Washington DC.

Advertisements

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.

Exhibition: Asia in Amsterdam – Luxury in the Golden Age

Rijksmuseum - Asia in Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 17 October 2015 – 17 January  2016

At the start of the Golden Age, Dutch merchants used their business acumen to establish lucrative trade agreements with Asia. This trade saw all sorts of exotic treasures, such as porcelain, lacquer ware, ebony, ivory and silk, arriving in the Dutch Republic, where no one had ever seen such design and materials before. Asia in Amsterdam shares the sensation that these luxury items caused, while also presenting the history behind this first global market. When Dutch ships sailed the entire globe, when young men risked their lives to become rich in Batavia, and when the phrase ‘Made in China’ meant something else altogether. Amsterdam played a central role in the story: the capital city became the marketplace for Asian luxury goods. And not just for the republic, but for all of Europe.

The exhibition also presents many seventeenth-century paintings: still-lifes and portraits of citizens who had themselves painted among their newly acquired items of Asian luxury; for example, men who wanted to be truly fashionable had their portraits painted wearing a silk ‘Japanese skirt’, which was a long loose-fitting silk coat, such as the one worn by Amsterdam pharmacist Johannes Hudde in the portrait of him by Michiel van Musscher in 1686.

The exhibition is organised in cooperation with the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, USA, and will travel there next, opening in February 2016. Loan items originate in such far-flung places as Moscow, St Petersburg, Versailles, London, Oxford, Madrid and Stockholm.

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