February 2024 message from the Executive Director

A very warm welcome to our February ebulletin. Here at The Close, the daphnes (or jinchōge in Japanese) are in bloom and greeting visitors to the Institute with the first glimpses of spring – we often have members of the public wander into our car park at this time of year drawn in by the scent of the flowers.

The daphnes currently in bloom at 64 The Close.

As mentioned in our last bulletin, 1st January marked 25 years since the founding of the Sainsbury Institute. As those who follow us on social media will already be aware from our recent post, the basic endowment to the Institute was created from the sale of a Modigliani painting in 1998 – Portrait of Baranowski. Originally in the private collection of our founding benefactors Lord Robert and Lady Lisa Sainsbury’s private collection, the painting was auctioned by Sotheby’s. The Sainsbury Institute was founded the following year with the aim of furthering the study of Japanese arts and cultures. Today, our dedicated team are working across an impressive range of research projects covering art history, digital initiatives, archaeology and heritage, contemporary visual cultures and much more.

An article from the New York Times in 1998 reporting on the sale of the Modigliani painting.

We will be announcing further details of our Japan in Norwich programme over the coming months, and preparations are already well underway for an array of activities, exhibitions and events over the next year. We are delighted to be hosting an exhibition at The Forum in Norwich  20th – 25th May which will focus on two of our major current projects – Nara to Norwich: Arts and Beliefs at the Ends of the Silk Roads and the Later Prehistoric Norfolk Project, which saw excavations at Arminghall Henge (2022) and Warham Camp (2023 – also featured on Digging for Britain back in January). The star piece of the exhibition will be a digital reproduction of a 16m scroll from the medieval Buddhist temple of Hasedera in Japan depicting the Kannon Bosatsu, bodhisattva of compassion and mercy, suspended in full in the Atrium of the venue. This will be accompanied by a series of events which we will be announcing soon. We will also be hosting two exhibitions in Norwich and Norfolk in July, with a focus on the works of Hokusai from the Hokusai Museum in Obuse, and on tanzaku – painted strips of paper created in the cultural environment of tea salons in 19th century Japan. Do keep checking our website as we announce more details of all these initiatives.

Last month, we were delighted to welcome Dr Jonathan Zwicker to our Third Thursday Lecture series for an exploration of kabuki and the circulation of performance far beyond the confines of the stage through printed media of the time. Lecturer in Japanese Digital Arts and Humanities here at the Institute, Dr Ryoko Matsuba, has written a report on the lecture for this month’s ebulletin and you can also catch up on a recording of the lecture here. This month, following the devastating events of the Noto Peninsula Earthquake at the start of this year, we will be dedicating our February Third Thursday Lecture to reporting on the effects of the earthquake on the arts and cultures of the region and hearing from friends and colleagues in the area – you can sign up to attend here. Our current Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow, Dr Rosanna Rios Perez, will also be giving a talk in Cambridge on Katazome dyeing artists and collectors on Monday 12th February – you can read more information here and we look forward to Rosanna’s talk as part of our Third Thursday Lecture series in March.

Over at the Centre for Japanese Studies (CJS) based at UEA, we start our Spring Semester programme with a special ‘In Conversation’ event with Bill Emmott (Chair of the Japan Society and former Editor-in-Chief of The Economist) and Paul Madden (former British Ambassador to Japan and Special Advisor to the Centre). Discussing the current state of Japan in 2024, ranging across politics, economics, social issues and more, the event will provide a unique opportunity to hear from and engage with two important figures in the field of Japanese studies – you can find more information on this here and sign up to attend by emailing The CJS Seminar Series also restarts this month with two lectures on Refugee Regimes in East Asia: A Human Security Perspective on Japan and Taiwan and ‘seishun’ stories in Japanese idol media. Interdisciplinarity lies at the core of CJS, reflected by its diverse programme of talks and lectures – we hope many of you will be able to join these lectures (all information announced via the Japan in Norwich website).

Best wishes,
Professor Simon Kaner
Executive Director