Japanese Art Exhibitions outside of Japan

Recent, current and upcoming Japanese art exhibitions

Flowing Patten by Honma Hideaki © Metropolitan Museum of Art
Flowing Patten by Honma Hideaki © Metropolitan Museum of Art

Japanese art is as popular as ever. Every month both traditional and contemporary Japanese art exhibitions are held in some part of the world. Starting from this issue of the e-magazine, our Japanese Arts Database Officer, Miwako Hayashi Bitmead, will be introducing to our readers a few recent exhibitions which have been showed outside Japan with the hope to convey the vibrancy and popularity of the Japanese arts.

Hokusai, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Popular culture of the Edo period (1603-1868) keeps fascinating people outside of Japan. Arguably the most well-known style of artwork during the pre-modern period, or possibly all-time, is ukiyo-e, pictures of the floating world. In particular, ukiyo-e woodblock prints held a particular appeal to the Western world with Hokusai being a familiar and beloved artist. Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) was one of the most influential, prolific and witty ukiyo-e artists during the Edo period. Hopefully, his fans as well as Japanese art lovers had a chance to visit the blockbuster exhibition Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave at the British Museum, which has just finished in August. It showcased both his rare prints and paintings, with a focus on his works produced later in this career, from the museum’s own collection as well as those from Japan, Europe and the US. Deep-rooted popularity of Hokusai, without fail, is also felt in the southern hemisphere.

Currently, on the other side of the world, another fascinating Hokusai exhibition, titled just simply Hokusai is being held at the National Gallery of Victoria, in the heart of Melbourne city, Australia [until 15th October 2017]. This exhibition centres around 176 works of woodblock prints chosen from a single collection belonging to the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum in Matsumoto, Japan, along with more prints from their own collection. It is also relevant to note this Hokusai exhibition is the first time that seven of his major series of woodblock prints are on display in Australia.

Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Bamboo art, in contrast to ukiyo-e, was little known in the West until recently but is now drawing popular appeal worldwide. This traditional flexible material has been employed to create everyday products since the ancient times in Japan. Traditionally treated as ‘craft’, bamboo works are now regarded as ‘art’. In recent years, a significant number of bamboo exhibitions have been held at museums and art galleries including private galleries outside of Japan. Currently an enthralling exhibition on bamboo art, titled Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection [until 4th February 2018] is on show at one of the most prominent museums in the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It features more than 80 works of bamboo objects and sculptures created by accomplished artists including all six masters who are designated as ‘Living National Treasure (ningen kokuhō)’ in the field. Most of the works from the collection have never been on public display before. The exhibition is accompanied by a feature in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (Spring 2017) written by Monika Bincsik, Assistant Curator of Department of Asian Art at the Met.

Japan-ness. Architecture and urbanism in Japan since 1945, Centre Pompidou-Metz, Paris

Japanese architecture has also come under the spotlight in recent years. This year, a successful exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery, The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 [finished June 2017] showed intriguing designs of post-war domestic architecture in Japan. This touring exhibition saw its opening at the MAXXI, National Museum of 21st Century Arts, Rome in 2016 and it is currently on show at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo [until 29th October 2017].

Elsewhere in Europe, Japan-ness. Architecture and urbanism in Japan since 1945 opened its doors at the Centre Pompidou-Metz in Paris [until 8th January 2018]. The venue itself, designed by Shigeru Ban, one of the world’s most widely-acclaimed Japanese architects, is worth a visit. This exhibition focuses on urbanisation in Japan especially after disasters have taken place, and is divided into six key periods. The display is created based on the Centre’s own collection, and it is the first time an exhibition of this genre has been held in such a large scale in Europe. At the same venue in Paris, another new Japanese art exhibition is about to open its doors. Japanorama. A new vision on art since 1970 beginning from 20th October and shown until 5th March 2018, will feature not only art but also dance, music and theatre from Japan.

All the exhibition details and publication information introduced here and more on what is happening in and outside Japan around Japanese arts and culture can be found on the comprehensive research database, developed by the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, known as Tobunken. As a research partner of Tobunken, the Sainsbury Institute has contributed to this resource by adding data on Japanese art exhibitions taking place outside of Japan and publications in English.

Access the link, type in an exhibition title or keywords in the search box and all exhibitions and related publication will be shown. You can find information on (1) Exhibitions in the section of ‘Art exhibitions and film festivals (held outside of Japan)’, (2) Publications in the section of ‘Publications on Japanese art (published outside of Japan)’, and (3) other related published articles in the section of ‘References on Cultural Properties’.

Please visit our website if you would like to learn more about our research project with Tobunken. Our colleague, Keiko Nishioka, also wrote about our collaborative research project with Tobunken in Issue 11.

Search page of the Tobunken research database
Search page of the Tobunken research database

Miwako Hayashi Bitmead
Japanese Arts Database Officer

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