Exhibition: Boro – Threads of Life

Exhibition dates: 5 October – 5 November 2017, Wednesday to Sunday, 3–7pm

In Paris this month is an exhibition on the Japanese textile tradition of boro (some of you may have seen this exhibition at Somerset House in 2014). Translated as ‘rags’ in English, boro is the collective name for textiles – usually clothing and bed covers – made by the poor, rural population of Japan who could not afford to buy new when necessity required, and had to make ends meet by piecing and patching discarded cotton onto existing sets, forming something slightly different each time they did so. Generations of Japanese families, from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century, repaired and recycled all kinds of textiles, from fishermen’s jackets to futon covers, handing them down, and weaving their own sagas and stories through the threads.

This cultural practice is now long vanished. Unused boro textiles tend to be put aside, thrown away or sometimes even destroyed by a society embarrassed by its past. As a result, they are now a rare find. This is a stunning collection of unique Japanese patched indigo textiles, which appear to transcend their origins to become exquisite objects of abstract art.

For more information, visit the website of La Frontiera Gallery, Paris.

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Exhibition: Kimonos – Au bonheur des dames

musee-guimet-kimonos-au-bonheur-des-dames

Exhibition dates: 22 February – 22 May 2017

Pieces from the collection of the famous Matsuzakaya fashion house are currently being exhibited for the first time outside of Japan, at the Musée Guimet in Paris. When shown together, they offer an opportunity to witness the evolution of Japanese fashion from the Edo period (1603–1868) up to the present day. The exhibition follows the development of the kimono and its accompanying accessories, in order to illustrate the position of women and the way in which women’s bodies are viewed in Japanese society, but also the ways in which these have been reinterpreted in contemporary Japanese and French fashion.

Originally worn as underclothing before being adopted by samurai and courtiers, and eventually becoming everyday wear for all social classes, the kimono, known as ‘kosode’ in the nineteenth century, is the signature item of Japanese dress. It wasn’t until the middle of the nineteenth century that kimonos were worn as indoor dress by elegant women in France, at a time when a taste for ‘japonism’ was in vogue with fashion designers such as Paul Poiret (1879–1944) or Madeleine Vionnet (1876–1975), whose diaphonous creations with flowing sleeves resemble the loose construction of kimonos.

For more information, visit the website of the Musée Guimet, Paris.

Exhibition: Esthétiques de l’amour – Sibérie extrême-orientale

Musee du quai Branly - Esthetiques de l'amour

Exhibition dates: 3 November 2015 – 17 January 2016

If any readers are planning a last-minute January getaway to Paris, this exhibition looks as if it would be well worth a visit.

Among the spectacular items in the Asian collections of the Musée du quai Branly, the ancient objects collected in the far east of Siberia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are of particular interest, representing the interaction between the world of men, untamed nature and the world of the spirits. Protective robes made from fish skin with ritual accessories decorated with symbolic volutes and spirals, and everyday objects combining refined yet natural materials and decoration: eclectic and little known objects from the Amur river basin blend aesthetic elegance and ethnographic interest. These, today, are among the treasures of the Musée du quai Branly’s collection.

The exhibition presents the decorative art of the peoples of the Amur river basin, an art that embodies meaning and reveals the specific ontological construction of these peoples in their relationship with the visible and invisible world. The peoples presented – Nivkh, Nanai, the Ainu, Orotch and Hezhe (a Chinese minority) – founded their ways of life prior to the mid-twentieth century on the river Amur, which was their source of life and prosperity. The Nivkh, Nanai and the Ainu are linked by the shared practice of the bear ritual; all of these populations are linked by the same ethnolinguistic matrix and the same practices of hunting and fishing for salmonids. The ancient Chinese sources describe the inhabitants of this region of the Amur river as ‘barbarians with fish skin’ …

To find out more, visit the website of the Musée du quai Branly, Paris.