NEW YORK, NY.- Over a dozen of Europe and the United States’ leading dealers of Japanese art will present exhibitions during New York’s Asia Week, from March 13 to March 22, 2015. The wide spectrum of exhibitions will highlight the breathtaking range of the arts of Japan, from ancient terracottas to scenes of nature and of Japan’s emergent middle class entertainment to recent photographs of bodies emblazoned with tattoos. In 2015, the Japanese Art Dealers Association will hold its seventh consecutive collaborative exhibition of Japanese art by leading dealers in the field – the only regularly held mini-fair during Asia Week, one that dates back to 2009. JADA 2015: An Exhibition by the Japanese Art Dealers Association will feature over 60 works of art that span 2,000 years. The exhibition will be held at the Ukrainian Institute of America, 2 E. 79 St. in New York, for three days only, from March 14 through March 16, 2015. Asia Week draws to New York curators, art historians, collectors, and aficionados from all over the world for a week of exhibitions that reveal long-hidden masterpieces and fine works of art. It was established in by Sotheby’s in 1992. “The interest in Japanese art has continued to be robust over the past several years, and in 2015 JADA welcomes several new affiliated galleries to its ongoing effort to highlight exceptional Japanese art during Asia Week,” said Sebastian Izzard, president of the JADA. “Our members and affiliates look forward to a vibrant Asia Week with the arts of Japan among the week’s highlights.” Among the works in JADA 2015 will be an early bronze Dōka (ritual spear blade) from the Yayoi Period (400 BC-AD 300), exhibited by Mika Gallery, that is in exceptionally fine condition. An early and important 15th century calligraphy, Zen no Kaname, Principle of Zen, by Motsurin Shōtō (d. 1419) will be shown by Koichi Yanagi Oriental Fine Arts. Shōtō was a prominent calligrapher of the Muromachi period (1392-1573) and a disciple of Ikkyū Sōjun (1394-1481), the noted Zen Buddhist monk and poet. The provenance of Zen no Kaname, Principle of Zen includes Jinkōin Temple, one of the three largest Shingon sect temples in Kyoto. Other highlights include a remarkable and historically notable pair of circa 1800 six-panel screens, Places Along the Tōkaidō, a highly detailed work that pre-dates Utagawa Hiroshige’s landmark print series, The 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō. The screens feature hundreds of travelers in various landscapes and are both remarkably beautiful and a document that recalls a transitional moment in Japanese culture. They will be exhibited by Erik Thomsen Gallery. Dating from 1889, nearly a century later, is a pair of hanging scrolls by the 19th century master of several media, Shibata Zeshin (1807–1891), Carp Swimming among Water Plants. The scrolls illustrate the artist’s exquisite technique and his sense of play: the expressions between the creatures is all too human, a quixotic merging of nature and man. The scrolls will be presented by Sebastian Izzard LLC Asian Art. Illustrating a love of nature derived from spiritual adulation common in Japanese art are Landscapes and Birds of the Four Seasons, a pair of ink and color on gold-leaf six-panel Kyo-Kano screens (school of Mitsunobu/Takanobu) that date to the early 17th century. The beautifully painted screens, of rich colors and dynamic composition, are in pristine condition and were once in the Kyushu Daimyō collection, which included screens now in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands. They will be shown by Leighton R. Longhi, Inc. Oriental Fine Art. In addition to JADA 2015, the members of JADA will hold exhibitions at their individual galleries: Erik Thomsen Gallery; Koichi Yanagi Oriental Fine Art; Leighton R. Longhi, Inc. Oriental Fine Arts; Mika Gallery; and Sebastian Izzard LLC Asian Art. Eight prominent galleries affiliated with JADA – one from Asia, two from Europe, and five from the United States – that handle Japanese art will be exhibiting during Asia Week as well: Bachmann Eckenstein Japanese Art, of Basel, Switzerland; Floating World Gallery, of Chicago, IL; Giuseppe Piva Japanese Art, of Milan Italy; Hiroshi Yanagi Oriental Art, of Kyoto, Japan; Onishi Gallery, of New York, NY; Ronin Gallery, of New York, NY; Scholten Japanese Art of New York, NY; and The Art of Japan, of Medina, WA. The auction house Bonhams will be active during Asia Week, as well, and Christie’s will be holding its annual auction of Japanese art in April. Three notable and distinguished galleries that handle Japanese art have become affiliated with JADA in 2015 but will not be exhibiting in New York during Asia Week. Each is based in London, England: Grace Tsumugi Fine Art, Gregg Baker Asian Art, and Malcolm Fairley Ltd.
CHICAGO, IL.- The Art Institute is presenting an exhibition of Japanese prints by a mysterious 18th century Japanese artist whose identity is debated but whose output was remarkable for its innovation and imagination. Masterworks of Japanese Prints: Toshusai Sharaku will be on display through March 29, 2015, in Gallery 107. Toshusai Sharaku produced about 150 designs in a 10-month period between the summer of 1794 and the early spring of 1795. Before and after this period, an artist by this name is unknown, and therefore, Sharaku’s identity has been a matter of much debate. The Art Institute has one of the best museum collections of Sharaku’s work in the world thanks to the early efforts of collectors Clarence and Kate Buckingham. Most of the prints in this exhibition entered the museum between 1925 and 1934 as gifts from the Buckinghams. Sharaku’s earliest work consisted of 28 bust portraits of actors who appeared in the Kabuki plays presented at the three principal Edo (Tokyo) theaters starting in the fifth month of 1794. Each of these prints had a dark, shiny background made with a mineral silicate called mica. All of these early designs are bold portraits of actors in identifiable roles. After a few months, however, and as the peak of the Kabuki season approached, this format was abandoned and he began designing prints of two full-length figures. In many of these prints, white mica rather than dark mica is used. The technique of using mica became quite popular in the early 1790s but was later abandoned, perhaps due to governmental edicts. In his later prints, Sharaku turned to a yellow ground, smaller format for bust portraits. This exhibition, organized by Janice Katz, Roger L. Weston Associate Curator of Japanese Art, contains examples of all of the types of prints mentioned above. Also on view in a different gallery will be Blue Phoenix, a stunning pair of folding screens by Japanese artist Omura Koyo (1891–1983). These oversized screens present Koyo’s vision of a tropical scene complete with rare birds and exotic plants. Bright orange Flame of the Forest flowers form the backdrop for flashy pheasants with highly patterned plumage and blue heads. The work glows, not only because of the bright colors, but also due to the gold leaf that was applied to the underside of the silk on which the scene is painted. This pair of screens, Koyo’s masterpiece, was exhibited at a Japanese government-sponsored exhibition in 1921, where it garnered great praise and one of the coveted prizes.
IT HAS BEEN 24 years since the Idemitsu Museum has presented an exhibition on a similar theme, and for this current show about 30 paintings in various formats have been chosen. 2014 was the commemorative 400th year of the artist Hon’ami Koetsu receiving Takagamine in north Kyoto and turning it into a artists’ Utopia, and several rimpa-related exhibitions were organised in Japan throughout the year. The master artist who worked most closely with Koetsu was Tawaraya Sotatsu, and his more representative and important work, Illustrated Stories of the Poet Saigyo, is in the Idemitsu’s collection and on show in this exhibition with all three of the scrolls on display for the first time to the public.
Monogatari-e (story painting) is a collective term used to describe a group of paintings which illustrate and highlight major scenes from Buddhist tales and the classical tales in Japanese literature. Representative narrative stories of the Heian period, for example, the Tale of Genji and Tales of Ise, were translated into paintings soon after their creation and became noted works of art in their own right in Japanese art history. The forms (or scenes) reproduced as monogatari-e are always based on the words (or events) described in the original text of the stories. This exhibition examines the close relationship between the ‘form’ and the ‘words’, and also focuses on the incidental dramatic transformation of the tales represented in the world of the illustrations.
However, the relationship between words and form is not always unilateral and does not necessarily always go in the same direction, they often echo each other, and are sometimes reversed, with the illustrations giving new life to the written story. This is because each of these forms (scenes) is the expression of the story as the artist understood it, whose own imagination then interprets the drama and transmits it to a wider audience in the form of a painting. Monogatari-e can therefore provide a definitive outline to a portrayal of an episode in a tale, which could then be rendered in countless ways by countless artists using the story as their base, this can often create an exciting scene beyond the imagination of the reader when just reading the story.
This exhibition proposes new ways of appreciating monogatari-e. Not to view them according to the story, but to look at them when they are divided into six different categories, or themes, and presented in the exhibition as chapters to reflect the structure of the tale as presented in a book. Each of these themes is the mirror of various representative human emotions. Thus the forms/scenes and the words are so closely entangled that, at times, they add great drama to the tale.
Chapter One visits the Imagination of Monogatari-e, the Unreliability of Words. This section prompts the question, What kind of scene is selected and portrayed in the story? When one questions the scene and the events illustrated in the paintings, the viewer is probably ‘reading’ the narrated story from the images in the picture. While doing so, he is also using all his senses to search from his past memories of reading the original text on which the depiction is based. However, that is not always easy. In this chapter, the exhibition not only looks at the unreliability of the monogatari-e, but also at the same time, would like to suggest that this unreliability allows the viewer at that point to use his imagination to go further than merely reading the text, as it allows the imagination to travel in any direction, because of the uncertainty of memories and individual nterpretations of the text.
Chapter Two is all about Love Affairs and Loving Feelings, focusing on the Genji-e, the Tale of Genji. This tale is the undoubted champion of all the narrative stories of Heian court literature – the life of a noble Prince Hikaru Genji, all told on larger-than-life scale and in such a grand manner. The central theme of the story relates to various episodes of the love affairs of court nobles, including those of Prince Genji himself. In this chapter, the exhibition looks at the brilliantly portrayed love stories in Genji-e and some of the paintings that illustrate this famous story. By looking closely at the text, it is clear that it includes almost all of the major themes that are covered in the great mediaeval tales, which are also dealt with in the later chapters of this exhibition, which makes Genji-e the most comprehensive of all of the monogatari-e. No other work from this period can match Tale of Genji in popularity and longevity, or as a subject for the visual arts. It is one of the world’s most enduring as well as one of the earliest prose narratives in romantic literature. The tale is distinguished by the complexity of the plot, the depth of emotions the characters display, as well as its keen observation of nature, human psychology and social behaviour, all portrayed in a highly sophisticated prose style. The tale represents both the pinnacle of Japanese literary achievement from the mediaeval period and is still a primary focus for many artists in literary illustration to this day.
Chapter Three is concerned with the Broken Heart and Retirement, and Going Away. Being away from your everyday life and visiting place where you do not normally go, or naturally belong, through travel is an important theme of these tales.This chapter explores the reasons and motivations behind travel and the circumstances of it and how it is portrayed in the illustrations of the tales. Is it because the characters are looking for the loved one? Or have they been deserted by their lover? Or are they just despairing of the current life? For illustration in this section of the exhibition, travel is seen through the portrayal by Tawaraya Sotasu in his Illustrated Stories of Saigyo, dated Kan’ei 7 (1630), which is an Important Cultural Property. The Story of Saigyo is that of a poet-priest – Saigyo dating from the Heian period. Saigyo was a leading warrior by the name of Sato Yoshikiyo, serving the Imperial court, but he abandoned his position, lamenting the chaos and misfortunes of his fellow warriors and eventually became a wondering monk. The illustrated scrolls by Tawaraya Sotatsu, is a study of the classical narrative scroll and copies the style of scrolls from the earlier Muromachi period. This particular scroll in the exhibition portrays Saigyo presenting the farewell message to his master, retired-Emperor Toba, a parting poem of the last view of the beautiful palace. The scene also is related to the preceding Ise-e, because the painting in the palace in question is taken from the Tales of Ise, another famous story, in which Ariwara Narihira wanders the country for love. The portrayal of Saigyo and his farewell suggests a sense of travel and aimless wandering, and in so doing, hints at Saigyo’s own future travels in the tale.
Chapter Four brings us to Promotion and Fame, and a focus on Success and Failure. Only after overcoming difficulties in these tales can come success and consequent fame. The success of the hero in the story gives a sense of courage to the reader and heightens the emotions. In this chapter, success and failure is seen through what can only politely be called ‘the mastery of breaking wind’, as seen in the low humour of the Illustrated Story of an Old Man, Fukutomi from the 15th century. It is a cautionary tale of overnight millionaires and abject poverty. The success story is taken from the Tale of Uji Shui, a group of 197 tales, originally written around the beginning of the 13th century by unknown authors, and is represented by the painting of an archer by Sumiyoshi Jokei, Illustrated Story from the Tale of Uji Shui, 17th century, which is an Important Art Object.
Chapter Five is all about a Roughened Heart, Stories of Battles and Revenge. The story of fierce warriors, samurai, fighting each other for power, land and financial gain, is often told as a mixture of historical fact and the imagination. This chapter is illustrated by screens depicting Episodes of Ichi-no-Tani, Yashima and Dan-no-Ura, battle scenes of two rival clans, Genji and Heike, from the 17th century, and Scenes from the Tale of Soga, also from the 17th century, the latter being the revenge story of the Soga brothers. Both these screens express the powerful, chaotic and consufing experiences of large crowds of people engaged in battle.
Finally, Chapter Six presents Power of Prayer, In Search of Holy Deities. This section asks the question, What is expected after a fierce battle? In these ancient tales, there often appear supernatural beings, or the manifestation of other-worldly powers that create yet another attraction in the story. This chapter examines the miraculous efficacy of the gods, Buddha, and other deities, using as an example the screen Scene from the Origin of Tenjin Shrine, dated to the 15th century, an Important Art Object.
From 10 January to 15 February, at the Idemitsu Museum of Art, 9th Floor, Teigeki Bldg., 3-1-1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, www.idemitsu.com
A hanging scroll dating from the 13th century is one of the gifts destined for the MFA.
Photo: Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is among four institutions set to receive the second half of an important collection of Japanese art, reports theBoston Globe.
The collection is that of Sylvan Barnet, a 1951 graduate of Harvard University, who, alongside his partner, William Burto, spent over 50 years gathering works of Japanese calligraphy and religious art. It is said to be one of the finest collections of its kind out side of Japan.
Last year, Barnet, aged 88, was diagnosed with brain cancer and given under a year to live. In 2013, when Burto passed away, he left his portion of the collection to the group of museums and now Barnet is doing the same. When discussing their decision to donate the works, Barnet said they wanted “to help people have the experience we had.”
The honored museums include two in Boston: the MFA and Harvard Art Museums. The Metropolitan Museum in New York City and the Freer Gallery in Washington will also receive a portion of the collection. Each institution will receive a varying number of works, which are roughly equal in quality and value.
The MFA will receive 179 pieces, which span from the Neolithic period to the 21st century and include works in ceramic and lacquer, as well as prints and photographs.
Speaking about the two collectors, Anne Nishimura Morse, the MFA’s curator of Japanese art described them as “individuals who have had unfailing senses of the beautiful and insatiable curiosities.”
As the LA Art Show gears up for its 20th-anniversary edition (January 15–18), fair organizers have announced a special focus on Japanese art, with an emphasis on pop surrealism and manga. This year’s outing, featuring more than 120 exhibitors from 22 countries, boasts the “largest grouping of Japanese galleries outside of Asia.” Participating dealers will offer solo exhibitions of Manga artist Hiroshi Mori, Mizuho Koyama, Masae Kato, Maiko Kitagawa, and Kaori Tamura. As in past years, the fair takes place at the Los Angeles Convention Center, in downtown L.A.
Among the fair’s exhibitors are, from Tokyo, Tamei Gallery, Mizoe Art Gallery, Gallery Kitai, Niche Gallery, Kinoshu Kikau, Silver Shell and the Tolman Collection. Hailing from Osaka are Watanabe Fine Art and Tachibana Gallery.
On Friday, January 16, the fair will present a panel discussion on Japanese art, moderated by Matt Kennedy. It will feature four artists who are being showcased at the fair and who will talk about Japanese contemporary art and their own individual influences: Tamie Okuyama, Toshimitsu Ito, Akira Omori, and Maiko Kitigawa.
MELBOURNE.- Japanese sculptor and artist Takahiro Iwasaki, renowned for his awe-inspiring, large-scale miniatures of ancient Japanese buildings and architecture, unveiled the latest epic work in his Reflection Model series at NGV Internationalon 5 December 2014. The Reflection Model series recreates ornate buildings and their inverse image, as seen reflected on the water that surrounds them. With a footprint roughly 8m x 8m, Reflection Model (Itsukushima), commissioned by NGV, reimagines the Shinto shrine of Itsukushima, most famous for its ‘floating’ Torii gate on the tidal flats of Japan’s Inland Sea. ‘Takahiro Iwasaki is recognised as one of the leaders of Japan’s new generation of young artists,’ said Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV. ‘We are thrilled to be unveiling the third in Iwasaki’s breath-taking and intricate Reflection Model series with Itsukushima, a spiritually rich and culturally significant Japanese building.’ Iwasaki and highly skilled assistants produced Reflection Model (Itsukushima) over a three-month artist-in-residence period at the Aomori Contemporary Art Centre. The sculpture is primarily constructed from the traditional building material of Japanese cypress wood, and the roofs of the central pavilions have been coated with a basswood veneer. In the tradition of Japanese architecture, Iwasaki has maintained the timber’s natural finish with no treatment or coatings. Reflection Model (Itsukushima) is constructed from fourteen interlocking sections that utilise the age-old Japanese concept of ‘durability found in flexibility’ that has been a key to creating earthquake-resistant buildings in Japan. In recent years Takahiro Iwasaki has exhibited at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung; Palais De Tokyo, Paris; Hong Kong Arts Centre; Gallery C24, New York; and at the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo. The Itsukushima Shrine, Japan Itsukushima Shrine and its famed ‘floating’ Torii gateway is one of Japan’s most revered and spiritual sights. Established in the year 593 in the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan, the shrine was rebuilt and expanded to its current configuration by Taira Kiyomori (a military ruler of the twelfth century) in 1168. The entire shrine, including its many corridors, sacred buildings and historic Noh theatre, are constructed over tidal flats that allow the entire shrine complex to float and reflect on the water’s surface as the tide rises. The building serves to enshrine sacred objects, facilitate ceremonies and house traditional performances. During the sixteenth century Itsukushima became widely known as one of Japan’s Nihon Sankei (three most celebrated sights) and was the subject of luxurious golden screen paintings and woodblock prints.
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