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Press release

The Met Receives Significant Gift of 18 Exceptional Contemporary Metalworks by Japanese Artists

The works will debut in Japan: A History of Style, a yearlong exhibition opening March 8, 2021

(New York, March 4, 2021)—The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today a gift from Hayashi Kaoru of 18 exceptional metalworks by Japanese contemporary artists. The gift, part of The Met’s 2020 Collections Initiative celebrating the Museum’s 150th anniversary, significantly broadens the scope of The Met’s Japanese decorative arts collection. The works will be displayed alongside other transformative acquisitions of the past decade in Japan: A History of Style—a yearlong exhibition opening March 8, 2021—marking the first time a group of contemporary metalworks will be on view in the Arts of Japan, The Sackler Wing Galleries. (The 18 metalworks will be featured in two rotations, with the changeover taking place in August 2021.)

“We are extremely grateful to Hayashi Kaoru for this generous gift, which considerably enriches and expands the Museum's world-class holdings of Japanese art,” said Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met. “This exciting group of objects provides a perfect introduction to contemporary Japanese metal art, bringing together tradition and modernity through the exquisite works of 18 leading artists.”

Monika Bincsik, Diane and Arthur Abbey Associate Curator for Japanese Decorative Arts, added, “Each of these sophisticated metalworks has its own individual character, whether it is the precisely hammered silver ground with fine inlays of gold and lead sheets in Ōsumi Yukie’s work, Nakagawa Mamoru’s powerful cast copper-alloy form embellished with painstakingly inlaid silver and gold elements, or Iede Takahiro’s wave-like vessel featuring a woven structure similar to bamboo basketry. Both the carefully planned shapes and the diverse textures speak to the artists’ decades-long training, deep passion for the materials, and complex creative process.”

Hayashi Kaoru, Founder and Group CEO of Digital Garage, Inc., a Tokyo-based IT corporation, is a collector and patron of Japanese decorative arts. He shared, “I am delighted to support these talented artists and to introduce their compelling work to The Met’s audiences. It is my hope that acquisitions of such artworks by Western museums will help further the understanding and appreciation of high-level Japanese craftsmanship.”

The new acquisitions, carefully selected by Bincsik, exemplify the major metalworking techniques used by contemporary Japanese artists and represent a wide range of genres and forms—from traditional tea wares, such as cast iron kettles and subtle fresh-water jars, to flower vessels, large bowls, and sculptural works. Many of the decorative motifs and shapes are inspired by nature, particularly light and water. All showcase an extremely fine attention to detail, precision, and dedication to presenting the unique qualities of metal.

Nine of the works are by artists recognized as “Living National Treasures” by the Japanese government, the popular term for a designation given to those who achieve the highest level of mastery in their respective fields so they may preserve their craft for future generations. They include Katsura Morihito (b. 1944), Nakagawa Mamoru (b. 1947), Okuyama Hōseki (b. 1937), Ōsumi Yukie (b. 1945), Ōzawa Kōmin (b. 1941), Taguchi Toshichika (b. 1940), Tamagawa Norio (b. 1942), Uozumi Iraku III (b. 1937), and Yamamoto Akira (b. 1944). The other nine works are by notable artists celebrated for their expressive pieces and innovative techniques, including Hannya Tamotsu (b. 1941), Hata Shunsai III (b. 1976), Iede Takahiro (b. 1962), Iino Ichirō (b. 1949), Miyata Ryōhei (b. 1945), Oshiyama Motoko (b. 1958), Ōtsuki Masako (b. 1943), Sako Ryūhei (b. 1976), and Tanaka Terukazu (b. 1945).

Contemporary Japanese metalworking has deep roots in traditional practice. Gold and silver have long been used in both Asia and the West to create sacred objects and luxury items prized for their rarity, value, and elegance. In Japan, hammering, casting, and chiseling techniques have been employed over the centuries to produce swords, armor, and ritual objects, mostly utilizing gold, silver, copper, tin, and iron, as well as their alloys. These traditions were transmitted in the second half of the 19th century to a new generation of artists who produced flower vases, incense burners, and decorative objects, mainly for the Western market. Today, metal artists still use the time-honored methods while also developing new techniques to create a variety of refined artworks.

Japan: A History of Style will be on view March 8, 2021 to April 24, 2022 in the Arts of Japan, The Sackler Wing Galleries (Galleries 223–232). The exhibition press release is available here.

The exhibition is made possible by The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation Fund.


March 5, 2021

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