Japan Society Gallery Director Joe Earle Announces Retirement

New York, NY — Joe Earle, Vice-President of Japan Society and Director of Japan Society Gallery, has announced his retirement; he will step down September 28, 2012. Earle has overseen Japan Society’s visual arts programming since September 2007.


“Joe’s achievements over the last four years have been extraordinary,” said Motoatsu Sakurai, President of Japan Society. “Despite unprecedented financial challenges in the United States and Japan and reductions in staff and financial resources, he has sustained the Gallery’s reputation as one of America’s leading centers for the study and appreciation of Japanese art. The final show of his Directorship, Silver Wind: The Arts of Sakai Hōitsu, 1761–1828 (September 28, 2012–January 6, 2013) will be a fitting conclusion to a distinguished phase in the Gallery’s forty-year history.”


Over the last four years, Earle has been responsible for Japan Society Gallery’s program of 11 temporary exhibitions ranging from Zen ink painting to contemporary bamboo sculpture. KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Manga + Video Games (spring 2009) was the second most popular exhibition in the Gallery’s history, and Graphic Heroes, Magic Monsters: Japanese Prints by Utagawa Kuniyoshi from the Arthur R. Miller Collection (spring 2010) drew more visitors than any previous exhibition of pre-modern Japanese art held at Japan Society.


“By next October, I will have overseen a dozen exhibitions at Japan Society,” Earle told Society staff upon his announcement. “Combined with my time at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, I have spent more than nine years as a museum curator and director in the United States, and am grateful for the opportunity to create a rich and varied program at the Society. This would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of many individuals and organizations spread across three continents, including everyone at Japan Society.”


A search for Earle’s successor will get under way in the coming weeks, Sakurai said.


Earle is responsible for the Society’s current major exhibition Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers (Sept. 1–Dec. 18, 2011), the mini-exhibition Postcards from Japan (Oct. 7–Nov. 27, 2011), and spring 2012’s Deco Japan: Shaping Modern Culture, 1920–1945 (March 16–June 10, 2012). In addition to KRAZY! and Graphic Heroes, Magic Monsters, past exhibitions during Earle’s tenure include Bye Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art (March 16–June 12, 2011); The Sound of One Hand: Paintings and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakuin (Oct. 1, 2010–Jan. 9, 2011); Serizawa: Master of Japanese Textile Design (Oct. 9, 2009–Jan. 17, 2010); Buriki: Japanese Tin Toys from the Golden Age of the American Automobile, The Yoku Tanaka Collection (July 9–Aug. 16, 2009); New Bamboo: Contemporary Japanese Masters (Oct. 4, 2008–Jan. 11, 2009); and The Genius of Japanese Lacquer: Masterworks by Shibata Zeshin (March 21–June 15, 2008).


Joe Earle came to Japan Society Gallery after serving as Chair of the Department of Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Before that he spent 15 years at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Earle has edited, written or contributed to many substantial publications on Japanese art, including The Japanese Sword (1983); Japanese Art and Design (1986); The Index of Inro Artists (1995); Masterpieces by Shibata Zeshin (1996); Netsuke: Fantasy and Reality in Japanese Miniature Sculpture (2001); Splendors of Imperial Japan: Arts of the Meiji Period from the Khalili Collection (2002); Lethal Elegance: The Art of Samurai Sword Fittings (2004); Contemporary Clay: Japanese Ceramics for the New Century (2005); as well as the catalogues to New Bamboo: Contemporary Japanese Masters; Buriki: Japanese Tin Toys from the Golden Age of the American Automobile; Serizawa: Master of Japanese Textile Design; and Fiber Futures: Japan’s Textile Pioneers.


Japan Society Gallery is among the premier institutions in the U.S. for the exhibition of Japanese art. Extending in scope from prehistory to the present, the Gallery’s exhibitions since 1971 have covered topics as diverse as classical Buddhist sculpture and calligraphy, contemporary photography and ceramics, samurai swords, export porcelain, and masterpieces of painting from the thirteenth to the twentieth century. Each exhibition, with its related catalogue and public programs, is a unique cultural event that illuminates familiar and unfamiliar fields of art.


Japan Society is an American nonprofit committed to deepening mutual understanding between the United States and Japan in a global context. Now in its second century, the Society serves audiences across the United States and abroad through innovative programs in arts and culture, public policy, business, language, and education. For more information, visit or call 212-832-1155.


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