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Japanese Bamboo Art from New York


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  • Japanese Bamboo Art from New York: The Abbey Collection
    Gifts to The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    13 September – 8 December 2019
    The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
    Crafts Gallery

    The beauty and forms of expression unique to Japanese bamboo basketry have attracted attention worldwide. Above all, the art pieces collected by the New York residents Diane and Arthur Abbey, known as the “Abbey Collection”, are among the finest in the world.

    Some of them were displayed in the 2017-18 show “Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the United States. Much of the works displayed then will be donated to the New York museum.

    Prior to the scheduled accession of the collection in 2020, a version of the NY exhibition is on a “homecoming” tour in Japan, to show the collection for the first time in the country – travelling from Oita (Kyushu), now to Tokyo, and from thence to Osaka.

    In Tokyo, the loan exhibition will be hosted by the Crafts Gallery of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (MOMAT), which specializes in Japanese modern and contemporary crafts and design works.

    To complement the 75 pieces from the Abbey Collection, the gallery will add a selection of fine pieces from its holdings. The Tokyo exhibition will thus provide a broader perspective to see the Abbey Collection and understand the significance within the modern craft history in Japan.

    Furthermore, as the Crafts Gallery will move to Kanazawa next year, this is your chance to visit the gallery to discover modern Japanese crafts.

    竹工芸名品展 東京国立近代美術館工芸館

    IIZUKA Shōkansai, Flower Basket, “Dragon in the Clouds”, 1990
    飯塚小玕斎《白錆花籠 雲龍》1990年

    Images (all in the article):
    The Abbey Collection, “Promised Gift of Diane and Arthur Abbey to The Metropolitan Museum of Art.”
    Images © The Metropolitan Museum of Art


    Highlights of “Japanese Bamboo Art from New York”

    The exhibition is organized by three regions: Eastern Japan, Western Japan and Kyushu. You will discover, throughout the show, the art of Japanese bamboo basketry and works – its fully dimensional qualities, with sculptural and architectural facets, together with the dazzling weaving skill involved.

    You will also trace the modern history of bamboo basketry, the transformation from “crafts” into “art”, along with the lineage of bamboo basketry masters, including the “Living National Treasures”.

    *We put the Japanese family names first in this article.

    竹工芸名品展 東京国立近代美術館工芸館

    FUJITSUKA Shōsei, Tide, 1978

    ◆ Eastern Japan

    The Meiji era – since the end of the 19th century – gave rise to the “kago-shi” (meaning “basket makers” or “basketry craftsmen) who produced intricately woven bamboo baskets. These “artisans” eventually transformed themselves into “artists”, while displaying their works at government-sponsored art exhibitions.

    Among the masters in this section are:

    • Iizuka Rokansai and Shokansai, key players to turn bamboo basketry works into art during the period from the Tainsho (1912 – 1926) to the Showa (1926 – 1986) eras;
    • Katsushiro Soho and Fujinuma Noboru, the Human National Treasures


    竹工芸名品展 東京国立近代美術館工芸館

    IIZUKA Rōkansai, Flower Basket, “Sleeping Away from Home”, Early 1940s
    飯塚琅玕斎《花籃 旅枕》1940年代前半

    竹工芸名品展 東京国立近代美術館工芸館

    FUJINUMA Noboru, Fruit Basket, “Peerless”, 2012
    藤沼昇《網代編盛籃 無双》2012年

    竹工芸名品展 東京国立近代美術館工芸館

    HONMA Hideaki, Flowing Pattern, 2014

    ◆ Western Japan

    Osaka used to be the center of “tea culture”, which became in vogue at the turn of 19th century (from the late Edo period through the beginning of the Meiji period). It was a sort of cultural salon, involving the tea ceremony using – not matcha (powdered tea) – but sencha (roasted green tea leaves).

    In that culture, exotic art objects from China, called “karamono”, were particularly prized. As the result, the specialists in bamboo basketry creating Chinese-style objects for the sencha tea ceremony proliferated.

    By and by, they developed weaving techniques and styles unique to the country, given strong backing of sencha-loving patrons.

    Among the masters are:

    • The Hayakawa family starting from Hayakawa Shokosai I
    • Wada Waichisai I, the Tanabe family starting from Tanabe Chikuunsai I, and the lineage of Maeda Chikubosai


    竹工芸名品展 東京国立近代美術館工芸館

    HAYAKAWA Shōkosai Ⅲ, Flower Basket, “Dancing Frog”, 1918
    三世早川尚古斎《堤梁花籃 舞蛙》1918 年

    竹工芸名品展 東京国立近代美術館工芸館

    MONDEN Kōgyoku, Wave, 1981
    門田篁玉《維新》1981 年

    竹工芸名品展 東京国立近代美術館工芸館

    TANABE Chikuunsai Ⅳ, Boat-Shaped Flower Basket, “Setting Sail”, 2015
    四代田辺竹雲斎《舟形花籃 出帆》2015 年

    ◆ Kyushu

    Beppu in Oita prefecture is the birthplace of fine bamboo works since the late Meiji period, due to the development of hot spring spas and abundant bamboo resources of excellent quality.

    • Shono Shounsai, the first “Living National Treasure” in the field of bamboo works
    • Kadota Niko and Shono Tokuzo, among others


    竹工芸名品展 東京国立近代美術館工芸館

    SHŌNO Tokuzō, Shining, 1993
    生野徳三《洸》1993 年

    竹工芸名品展 東京国立近代美術館工芸館

    HONDA Syōryū, Dance, 2000
    本田聖流《舞》2000 年

* The above is the information known at the time of publication and subject to change without prior notice.

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