“Les arts décoratifs japonais face à la modernité1900-1930”

Photo of Letter Box Designed by Chu Asai
Koko Sugibayashi,
Letter Box Designed by Chu Asai, 1906,
The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto

The history of Japanese crafts is long, with threads that can be traced through to the present day and signs that detected as far back as the Jomon Period, approximately 10,000 years ago. As the standard of workmanship steadily improved with the emergence of countless master craftsmen, the works came to be recognized for their excellence in Europe and around the world.

At the start of the Meiji Period (1868-), with the collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunate, it became popular under the new administration to promote industry and trade as part of a policy of increased wealth and military power. The world of crafts was also engulfed in this huge wave of trade, leading to the export of a wide range of works including ceramics, lacquer ware, textiles, and cloisonné. These items were highly acclaimed at international expositions throughout the world, but with a dearth of variations in design and a decline in quality, gradually fell out of favor in the mid-Meiji Period. Sensing a crisis, Japan began to make a special effort to study possible designs and together with craftsmen produced handicrafts that would stand up to the rigorous judgment of foreign enthusiasts.

Under consideration in this exhibition is the period from 1900 to 1930, stretching from the Exposition Universelle, which was staged in Paris in 1900 and marked the apex of the Art Nouveau movement that had come into vogue at the end of the 19th century, to the time of the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, a huge event that came to be known as the “Art Deco Expo.”

The Exposition Universelle was a transitional event for Japan which, having suffered such a diminished reputation, was hoping to stage a comeback. In addition, a large number of Japanese crafts were exhibited at the Art Deco Expo, held in Paris in 1925. Thus, the 30 years that spanned 1900 to 1930, to which three historical eras Meiji, Taisho and Showa extended, can be seen as a highly productive period in which many works, while being influenced by Western cultures, came to display a uniquely Japanese sensibility. It was truly a vibrant era for modern Japanese crafts. The presentation of these handicrafts in Paris and in European countries during the period between these two highly significant expositions also provides an important insight into Japanese culture.

It is our hope that through this exhibition viewers will come to have a better understanding of Japan's modern craft movement.

Exhibition will be focused in:
Modern Japanese crafts produced over the 30-year period from 1900 to 1930, concentrating primarily on ceramics, textiles, and lacquer ware, but also including some works from other fields.

Dates: October 13 - December 23, 2010
co-organized by: The Japan Foundation, the Maison de la culture du Japon à Paris, and The Association for Maison de la culture du Japon à Paris in cooperation with The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan
curated by: Mr. Ryuichi Matsubara (Curator, The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan)
supported by: ALL NIPPON AIRWAYS CO., LTD.

Related Programs

October 13th, 2010, 18:30- at Maison de la culture du Japon à Paris
Lecture by Ryuichi Matsubara, commissioner of the exhibition, senior curator at the Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto

November 18th, 2010, at Maison de la culture du Japon à Paris
Symposium "The Magnetic Field of Eastern and Western Culture" (in French, Japanese)

[Contact Us]

Attention: Miwa Kaneko (Ms.)
Visual Arts Section, Arts and Culture Dept., The Japan Foundation
4-4-1 Yotsuya, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0004
Tel: 03-5369-6062 Fax: 03-5369-6038

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