Gallery

Shomei Tomatsu: Skin of the Nation


September 22, 2004 - January 2, 2005


Shomei Tomatsu (b. 1930) is internationally recognized as the most innovative and important photographer of Japan's postwar period. Bringing an objective, yet idiosyncratic eye to the fragmented reality of Japanese life in the aftermath of World War II, Tomatsu's work examines postwar Japan's ambivalent responses to Western cultural and political influences.

While representing a generation of artists who explored the complexities of modern Japanese society, Tomatsu's achievement is unique. Starkly modernist in his detached, abstract address of everyday objects, Tomatsu invests his subjects with a mystery and poetry that suggest larger, deeper metaphors. Skin of the Nation features nearly 260 works (drawn from the artist’s own collection) spanning 50 years. Each of Tomatsu's major series is represented, including Nagasaki 11:02, a historic documentation and description of the lives of A-bomb survivors in Nagasaki.

Shomei Tomatsu: Skin of the Nation is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in association with Japan Society, New York and is curated by Sandra Phillips, Senior Curator of Photography at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and photographer and writer Leo Rubinfien.

A major catalogue accompanies the exhibition, including essays by the co-curators and John W. Dower, Professor of history at M.I.T. and author of Embracing Defeat, a cultural history of postwar Japan that received the Pulitzer and National Book awards in 2000. The book’s foreword is by acclaimed Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama. Shomei Tomatsu: Skin of the Nation is the first major English-language study of the work of this revered Japanese photographer.



Additional generous assistance was provided by the Mary and James G. Wallach Foundation, the Alvin E. Friedman-Kien Foundation, Robinson and Nancy Grover, Margot P. Ernst, The Cowles Charitable Trust, Dr. Carmel and Babette Cohen, Daniel and Lucia Woods Lindley and an anonymous funder. Exhibitions at Japan Society Gallery are also made possible in part by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund and the Friends of Japan Society Gallery. Installations at Japan Society Gallery are supported by a generous gift from Henry Cornell.

In San Francisco the exhibition is generously supported by an anonymous donor, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, The Blakemore Foundation, The Japan Foundation, and Fuji Photo Film Co., Ltd




An Enduring Vision: 17th to 20th Century Japanese Painting from the Gitter-Yelen Collection


March 9, 2004 - June 20, 2004


Curated by Tadashi Kobayashi, one of Japan's leading art historians, An Enduring Vision: 17th to 20th Century Japanese Painting from the Gitter-Yelen Collection offered an overview of Japanese painting from the Edo to Meiji periods (17th-early 20th century), featuring the works of renowned masters and important paintings by lesser-known artists. Specific lineages or schools of painting formed the focus of the exhibition, which present the continuity, transformation and revitalization of tradition from each generation to the next.

Organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art; curated by Tadashi Kobayashi. Exhibition catalogue An Enduring Vision by Tadashi Kobayashi with Stephen Addiss, Patricia Fister, Patricia J. Graham, Johei Sasaki, James T. Ulak, Masatomo Kawai, Motoaki Kono, John T. Carpenter, Paul Berry, and Christine M.E. Guth; edited by Lisa Rotondo-McCord.

Generous support was provided by the E. Rhodes & Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Nomura Holding America, Inc. and the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation.
Exhibition wall covering generously donated by Cowtan & Tout (“Ambience” from Larsen). Hospitality provided by Ruth’s Chris Steak House.




Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics


October 9, 2003 - January 11, 2004


Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics was a landmark traveling exhibition which premiered at and was organized by the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and was the first major museum presentation of Noguchi's ceramics in the U.S.

Internationally recognized as an influential force in the history of modern sculpture and design, Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) is best known for his stone and metal sculpture, furniture design, Akari paper lamps, public gardens and outdoor installations. However, during three short visits to Japan in 1931, 1950, and 1952, the artist produced a radical and original body of ceramic sculpture that established an important new direction for Japanese ceramics and dramatically transformed the landscape of international modernism. Noguchi’s visits to Japan proved to be especially intense and creative periods, when he exchanged new and innovative ideas with some of Japan’s most prominent postwar ceramic artists, exploring issues of personal and national identity and ways in which the ceramic traditions of the past could inform and inspire contemporary work.

This exhibition brought together 37 examples of Noguchi’s ceramic art and 36 pieces by nine of his Japanese peers, who worked in both traditional and avant-garde styles. Among the works by Noguchi—few of which have been exhibited in the United States since 1954—were two early portrait busts, as well as representational and abstract sculpture and functional vessels. An examination of Noguchi's work in clay in the context of postwar developments in Japanese ceramics established this exhibition as one of the most important surveys of postwar Japanese ceramic art.

Curated by Louise A. Cort, Curator of Ceramics, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.




Transmitting the Forms of Divinity
Early Buddhist Art from Korea and Japan


April 9 - June 22, 2003


“'Transmitting the Forms of Divinity: Early Buddhist Art from Korea and Japan' at the Japan Society was perfection: ideally scaled, art historically innovative, with some of the most beautiful sculptures on earth, most of them just a few inches high."

--#1 pick, "The Art and Artists of the Year (2003)," Holland Cotter, The New York Times

“This show exudes a quiet power. … Its shifting aura of enlivened enlightenment may leave you breathless.”
--The New York Times

The first major international exhibition devoted to a comparative examination of Korean and Japanese Buddhist art, Transmitting the Forms of Divinity explored the formative links between the ancient cultures of Korea and Japan and the early development of Buddhist art in each nation. The exhibition examined the important early relationship between Korea and Japan, from the origins of Korean Buddhist art and its transmission to Japan in the sixth century, to the creation of independent styles and modes of expression in each nation by the ninth century. Several National Treasures and masterworks of the sixth through ninth centuries rarely (if ever) seen in the West were included among an unprecedented selection of sculptures in gilt bronze, wood, iron and stone; ceramic roof tiles from Buddhist temples; reliquaries, sutras and ritual objects, drawn from important museum and temple collections in Korea and Japan. Inspired by recent research on the close political and cultural ties between the kingdoms of the Korean peninsula and the burgeoning Japanese state, the exhibition illuminated a long-neglected dynamic in the development of Buddhist culture in northeast Asia.

Transmitting the Forms of Divinity marked the first time an American museum had received the official cooperation of both the Korean and Japanese governments in the presentation of a comparative survey focusing on the two Asian nations.

Co-organized by Japan Society and The Korea Society in association with Gyeongju National Museum in Korea and Nara National Museum in Japan, the exhibition co-curators were Washizuka Hiromitsu, Director of Nara National Museum; Park Youngbok, Director of Gyeongju National Museum; and Kang Woo-bang, Professor at Ewha Woman's University, Seoul.

A fully-illustrated volume published by Japan Society and distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., featuring essays by internationally renowned scholars of Korean and Japanese Buddhist art as well as a complete catalogue of objects, accompanied the exhibition.

Transmitting the Forms of Divinity: Early Buddhist Art from Korea and Japan was co-organized by Japan Society and The Korea Society, New York; Gyeongju National Museum and Nara National Museum; and The Japan Foundation and The Korea Foundation.

The exhibition received major funding from The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation; Kookmin Bank; Samsung Electronics America, Inc.; the Henry Luce Foundation, Inc.; Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc.; Mitsubishi International Corporation; and Sumitomo Corporation of America. Additional very generous support was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, The W.L.S. Spencer Foundation, The Blakemore Foundation, the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation, Fuji Xerox Co., Ltd., Asian Cultural Council, Mr. Henry Cornell and Mr. and Mrs. Andrew B. Kim. Exhibitions at Japan Society Gallery are also assisted by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund and the Friends of Japan Society Gallery.

This exhibition was supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.














Kazari: Decoration and Display in Japan, 15th-19th Centuries


October 17 - December 31, 2002


A major international exhibition introducing innovative scholarship on Japanese art to the West, Kazari: Decoration and Display in Japan examined the dynamic development of Japanese art over five centuries, focusing on particular periods of high cultural achievement. The show aimed to revise conventional notions of Japanese art by demonstrating its diversity, exuberance and conceptual complexity. Offering an unprecedented gathering of superb Japanese art from private and public collections in the United Kingdom, Japan and the United States, the exhibition featured a selection of approximately 200 remarkable objects in all major media – painting, ceramics, lacquer, textiles, metalwork and glass.

Kazari, “the will to decorate,” is the Japanese art and experience of arranging and displaying objects in specific settings, elevating the mundane into the realm of the extraordinary. It embodies the interplay between objects and settings in a dynamic process that stimulates both the visual and intellectual senses. Organized in six chronological and thematic sections, the exhibition presented superb examples of traditional art objects from the Muromachi (1392-1573), Momoyama (1573-1615) and Edo (1615-1868) periods. From the shogun’s court in the fifteenth century, through the prosperous merchants of the early Edo period, to the pleasure districts of burgeoning Tokyo, the exhibition and accompanying scholarly catalogue showed how the arts of decoration and display were integral to Japanese culture.

The exhibition was co-organized by Japan Society and The British Museum in association with the Suntory Museum of Art in Tokyo, and will travel to London February 4 - April 13, 2003. Lenders to the exhibition included the Tokyo National Museum, the Kyoto National Museum, the Suntory Museum of Art and the Idemitsu Museum of Art in Japan; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Harvard University Art Museums, the New York Public Library and the Seattle Art Museum in the U.S.; and The British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Two noted scholars in the field, Dr. Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere of England and Professor Tsuji Nobuo of Japan, co-curated the exhibition. A fully illustrated scholarly catalogue, edited by Dr. Rousmaniere, has been co-published by Japan Society and The British Museum Press.

The exhibition, organized by Japan Society, New York, and The British Museum, London, in association with the Suntory Museum of Art, Tokyo, was made possible by Fidelity Investments through the Fidelity Foundation.



Japan Society and The British Museum extend gratitude to Mr. Kazuo Okada for his generous support through The Japan Foundation. The Blakemore Foundation and The Japan Foundation also provided assistance. Support for the exhibition at Japan Society was provided by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc.; the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation; the Kajima Foundation for the Arts; and Florence and Herbert Irving. Support for the exhibition at The British Museum is provided by the Toshiba International Foundation, the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, and the Great Britain-Sasakawa Foundation.







The New Way of Tea


March 6 - May 19, 2002


A joint exhibition held at Japan Society and the Asia Society, The New Way of Tea explored the importance of Japanese tea tradition as a vital source of inspiration for contemporary architects and artists from East Asia and the U.S.

Part I, at Japan Society, featured a superb array of tea utensils and three teahouses, representing both the traditional and the avant-garde. Part II, at the Asia Society and Museum, included contemporary teahouses and utensils by modern architects, designers and artists. Fusuma (sliding door) paintings by Japanese artist Hiroshi Senju, commissioned by the Zen temple Daitoku-ji, a historical center for the development of tea ritual and philosophy, were featured at both venues.

Tea masters guided the public through the practice of tea on three dates at each venue, providing visitors with the experiences of performance and participation in this continually evolving art form.

The exhibition was organized by Masakazu Izumi, Director of International Chado Culture Foundation and second son of the grand master of the Urasenke Tradition of Tea. Dr. Seizo Hayashiya, Japan's leading tea scholar, selected the tea utensils, and preeminent architect Atsushi Kitagawara created the overall installation design. A full program of lectures and tea demonstrations accompanied the exhibition, in addition to a catalogue.

is the lead sponsor of The New Way of Tea.

Additional assistance is provided by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation; the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal Agency; and an anonymous donor. Support for the exhibition at Asia Society is provided by The Rockefeller Foundation, John Guth, Mary Ann and Stanley Snider, Sony Electronics, Inc., and the Friends of Asian Arts. Support for the exhibition at Japan Society is provided by Gallery Shiraishi, Gallery Cima, the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Endowment Fund, and the Friends of Japan Society Gallery. Additional support in Japan is provided by Urasenke; Mori Building Co., Ltd.; All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd.; Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd.; KSA International, Inc.; Shogakukan Publishing Co., Ltd. "Waraku"; The Kitano New York; Millieme, Inc.; Tankosha Publishing Co., Ltd.; Mrs. Yoshiko Morita; Takeo Co., Ltd.; Tokushu Paper MFG. Co., Ltd.; Kyocera Corporation; Bushy Co., Ltd.; Awagami Factory; Kyoto Prefectural Government; and Kyoto Municipal Government. The law firm of Danziger & Danziger is gratefully acknowledged for its assistance and counsel.




Traditional Japanese Design: Five Tastes


September 26 - January 6, 2002


"A remarkable exhibition... Creates a markedly fuller picture of the separate strata of Japanese society and the way objects and ideas moved among them." —Roberta Smith, The New York Times

Celebrating the Japanese craftsman's love of natural materials and genius for bold, essential form, Traditional Japanese Design: Five Tastes offered a fresh aesthetic and cultural approach to traditional Japanese design. Over 140 utilitarian objects, including ceramics, textiles, arms and armor, and baskets, were organized into five Japanese aesthetic "tastes": Artless Simplicity (soboku), Zen Austerity (wabi); Gorgeous Splendor (karei); and Edo Chic (iki). An introductory section, Ancient Times (kodai no bi), presented fantastic archeological objects that inspired later design. The "Five Tastes" explored in the exhibition evolved from and correspond to the daily life of Japan's dominant social classes of the Edo period (1615-1868): rural farmers, the ruling military elite and city merchants. Japan Society Gallery was the sole venue for the exhibition.

The exhibition was accompanied by a 200-page catalogue by guest curator Michael Dunn, with contributions by leading specialists and introductory essays by Donald Richie and Jack Lenor Larsen. The catalogue was distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

The exhibition was supported by Mitsubishi International Corporation; Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc.; Tiffany & Co.; the Mary and James G. Wallach Foundation; the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Endowment Fund; and the Friends of Japan Society Gallery.

Transportation was provided by  




Frank Lloyd Wright and the Art of Japan: The Architect's Other Passion


March 22 - July 15, 2001


"If Japanese prints were to be deducted from my education, I don't know what direction the whole might have taken." — Frank Lloyd Wright, An Autobiography (1932)

Japan Society Gallery presented the first major exhibition and book devoted to Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) as collector, teacher and dealer of Japanese art. Frank Lloyd Wright and the Art of Japan: The Architect's Other Passion explored Wright's self-described "obsession" with Japanese art and revealed the historic encounter between America's pioneer modernist and the aesthetics of traditional Japanese design that shaped much of his artistic and intellectual life.

The exhibition focused on Japanese works of art that Wright collected during his several sojourns in Japan and includes woodblock prints, screen paintings, and textiles of the Edo period (1600-1868). Also featured were Wright's architectural drawings for projects he was commissioned to build in Japan, as well as designs by Wright revealing his adaptation of Japanese compositional motifs. Japan Society was the sole venue for the exhibition.

The exhibition was accompanied by a 300-page lavishly illustrated book by guest curator Julia Meech, a prominent art historian and Senior Consultant to Christie's, New York. The result of nearly 20 years of research, the book is co-published by Japan Society and Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

The exhibition, organized by Japan Society in association with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, received major support from Fidelity Investments through the Fidelity Foundation.

Additional assistance was gratefully received from the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation; Mitsui Home Co., Ltd.; the Obayashi Corporation; Noritake Co., Inc.; and with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency. Programs at Japan Society Gallery are made possible in part by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Endowment Fund and the Friends of Japan Society Gallery.




Yes Yoko Ono


October 18, 2000 - January 14, 2001


"I believe in doing a work that grows by having people participate in it." — Ono

"Yoko Ono's art is a mirror-like her work 'a Box of Smile,' we see ourselves in our reaction to it-a tiny prod toward personal enlightenment, very Zen." —Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times

Yes Yoko Ono, the first American retrospective of the work of pioneering avant-garde artist Yoko Ono, offered a comprehensive reevaluation of her work. The exhibition explored Ono's position within the postwar international avant-garde, and her critical and influential role in originating forms of contemporary art, music, film and performance. Featuring approximately 130 works from the 1960s to the present, it presented Ono as a key transmitter of Asian thought to the international art world, through her use of chance and minimalism, and her investigation of everyday life.

Yes Yoko Ono was organized by Japan Society Gallery and curated by Alexandra Munroe, Director, Japan Society Gallery, in consultation with Fluxus scholar Jon Hendricks. Following its New York premiere, the exhibition is traveling through 2003.

A fully illustrated 350-page catalogue, co-published by Japan Society and Harry N. Abrams, included essays by leading scholars from America, Europe and Japan, along with an extensive anthology of Yoko Ono's writings and a CD of her new music.

Yes Yoko Ono at Japan Society was made possible in part by major support from


Assistance from Apple Computer, Inc.; EMI Recorded Music, EMI Records Ltd. and Capitol Records, Inc.; EMI Music Publishing; and Signatures Network, Inc. is gratefully acknowledged. Generous support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation; The David Geffen Foundation; and Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg also made this exhibition possible. Programs at Japan Society Gallery are supported in part by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Endowment Fund and the Friends of Japan Society Gallery.

The tour of the exhibition is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC, a federal agency.

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