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Four Living Treasures of Japan

Exemplary work of four of Japan’s greatest living artists is presented in a Fine Art Society exhibition in London.


Kunihiko Moriguchi, Kimono: ‘Beyond’. Yuzen dyed silk, 180 x 140 cm

The latest in the gallery’s series of homages to the arts of Japan, a series which stretches back to the 1880s, the exhibition presents the work of Jun Isezaki, Kunihiko Moriguchi, Kazumi Murose and Noboru Fujinuma.

Living National Treasure is the popular term for Important Intangible Cultural Property, an individual so designated by the Japanese government for his or her contribution to the transmission of craft (and also theatrical and musical) practices from the past. The system was established in the early 1950s when, in the aftermath of the Second World War, there were pressing concerns about the erosion of traditional Japanese culture. The appointment of individuals as living manifestations of these traditions first took place in 1955, and designations continue to be made to this day.

The exhibition is held in association with Mariko Whiteway and is part of Asian Art in London 2013.

Tradition in the context of this system is, most importantly, understood as an active process of continuity and change; the goal is not imitation of historical precursors but the exploration of inherited styles and methods of production through the making of objects that belong unequivocally to the present and are imbued with a strong sense of artistic creativity.

The current show, which presents exemplars of ceramics, textiles, lacquer and bamboo, is one of the most ambitious of its kind to have been staged in the UK for many years. We know about the achievements of these and other distinguished makers through exhibitions such as Crafting Beauty in Modern Japan (British Museum, 2007) and Japanese Studio Crafts: Tradition and the Avant-Garde (V&A, 1995), but never has there been an occasion when so many works by four such eminent makers have been available to London’s collecting public.

That the exhibition is taking place at The Fine Art Society is particularly appropriate, as Marcus Huish, the gallery’s founding Managing Director, was an ardent japanophile who between 1880 and 1909 organised a significant series of exhibitions on different aspects of Japanese art. The Fine Art Society is continuing the tradition with this important new exhibition, which coincides with the 400th anniversary of Japan-British relations, when in 1613 King James I exchanged gifts of friendship with the Japanese Shogun, conveyed by the newly formed East India Company. It was upon this exchange that the Shogun granted permission for the British to reside and trade in Japan.

FOUR LIVING NATIONAL TREASURES OF JAPAN. 1 – 21 November 2013. The Fine Art Society, 148 New Bond Street, London W1S 2JT. T 020 7629 5116.


Author: Editor

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