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May 2023 Message from the Acting Director

Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer visited the archives of Joan Miró at the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró in Mallorca.

Following the Easter break and Golden Week, I hope our readers are feeling a little more rested. Last month, we were delighted to host our 250th Third Thursday Lecture with current visiting scholar at the Sainsbury Institute and recently appointed President of the Japan Art History Forum (JAHF), Dr Ayelet Zohar. Her fascinating talk explored the work of Mao Ishikawa, whose frank and intimate capturing of scenes of life in Okinawa in the 1970s led to her first publication Hot Days in Camp Hansen. Ishikawa’s more recent work has shifted from documentary to staged photography in her latest project The Great Photographic Scroll of the Ryūkyū, which depicts scenes from Okinawa’s history created in a collaborative way with the participants involved. The lecture was followed by a lively Q&A, where we unfortunately were unable to answer all the questions, but Dr Zohar has kindly provided answers to the questions in a recorded session which we have transcribed in this issue. Travis Seifman (Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto) has also provided an excellent report of the talk for those who missed it. Please contact the Sainsbury Institute office team on sisjac@sainsbury-institue.org for all requests relating to the recording of the lecture.

I took the opportunity over the Easter break to conduct some of my own research in the archives of Joan Miró at the Foundació Pilar i Joan Miró in Mallorca. I was very lucky to be able to investigate the artist’s collection of Japanese calligraphy and his library related to Japanese arts, as well as the records of Miró’s visits to Japan in the 1960s. In particular, the extended correspondence between Joan Miró and leading Japanese art critic and theoretician Takiguchi Shūzō provide important insights into the circulation of art theories and visual ideas across the 20th century, while the records of Miró’s Japan trip relate to other prominent Japanese postwar artists, such as Kaneko Ōtei and Yagi Kazuo.

Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer explored books relating to Japanese arts in the personal library of Joan Miró.

Elsewhere in the institute, I would like to extend my congratulations to our Academic Associate Dr Junzo Uchiyama, who co-authored an article on disaster archaeology and community adaptation to the Kikai-Akahoya ‘super-eruption’ Tanegashima Island over 7,300 years ago. You can read the article online for free here. Professor Simon Kaner and Dr Ryoko Matsuba also took part in the 116th International ARC Seminar, discussing Professor Kaner’s recent work with Stonehenge and Dr Matsuba’s project involving the digitisation of the tsuba, or sword guard, collection at the British Museum. It is, as ever, very encouraging to see the breadth of projects that colleagues at the institute have been working on.

Upcoming in May, our Third Thursday Lecture will be given by Dr Alison Miller, current Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow at the Sainsbury Institute. The talk will discuss depictions of railways in nineteenth century woodblock prints, and what these can reveal about how the Japanese public perceived and understood the changes that the advent of the railway brought in terms of the environment and space that they lived in – we hope that many of you will be able to join us online for this. We are also delighted that this month will mark the 20th anniversary of the Lisa Sainsbury Library. The library is a world-class resource for the study of Japanese arts and visual cultures and is central to the research of scholars from across the field. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all of our supporters over the years – across individuals and organisations, sponsors and donators, and to everyone who has used its resources. It is your support that has helped the library to prosper, and we are grateful for your continued support to develop the library in the future. You can also read the latest article from our Treasures of the Library series in this month’s e-bulletin. The Sainsbury Institute will also be taking a trip down to Stonehenge this month to see in-person the Circles of Stone: Stonehenge and Prehistoric Japan exhibition currently on display at the visitor centre and will report back more on this next month. The exhibition is open until early September and is free to Stonehenge ticket holders, so do be sure to visit it before it closes if you haven’t already.

Wishing you all a warm May, and all best wishes for the upcoming bank holidays.

Dr Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer
Acting Director

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