Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection

Exhibition Website

Jun 13 2017 - Feb 4 2018

A spectacular loan exhibition devoted to masterworks of Japanese bamboo art, with works by eminent bamboo masters dating from the late 19th century to the present — the era when basketry in Japan became recognized as a form of art transcending “craft”— Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection will showcase more than 80 baskets and abstract sculptures. Award-winning works by all six artists who are designated as Living National Treasures will be featured. Highlighting key stages in the modern history of Japanese bamboo art, the exhibition will bring into sharp focus the transformations of styles and plaiting techniques, while introducing the main lineages of bamboo masters and showing the emergence of a contemporary bamboo art scene.

For hundreds of years, simple, everyday utensils, as well as refined bamboo vessels, were made according to local traditions and techniques passed down from generation to generation. It was not until the end of the 19th century, however, that bamboo craftsmanship became recognized as an art form and one of the traditional Japanese decorative arts. Given the important role that geography plays in both bamboo cultivation itself and the plaiting techniques of bamboo artists, the exhibition will be organized broadly into three sections corresponding to the three geographical production areas: 1. Kansai, or Western Japan, with Osaka and Kyoto at the center; 2. Kantō, the eastern region with Tokyo as the center; and 3. Kyūshū, the southernmost island of Japan.

The presentation is drawn from the Diane and Arthur Abbey Collection—one of the finest assemblages of Japanese baskets and bamboo sculpture in private hands— the exhibition will demonstrate how bamboo, in all its utilitarian and artistic uses, has become an integral part of the Japanese lifestyle. It was used in traditional architecture as well as in utilitarian objects such as tea scoops, ladles, and fans; additionally, tender bamboo shoots are considered delicacies in Japanese cuisine. Bamboo is a common theme in Japanese literature (both poetry and prose) and a favored subject of painters. Sophisticated bamboo basketry techniques were practiced in Japan as early as ancient times; the oldest surviving baskets—created for Buddhist rituals—are dated to the eighth century and are precious holdings of the Shōsōin Treasure House in Nara

Complementing the bamboo works from the Abbey Collection will be a lavish selection of screen and hanging scroll paintings and decorative arts—all from The Met’s holdings—that will explore related themes such as the four seasons, floral compositions (ikebana), and the tea ceremony, as well as bamboo as a motif in East Asian art.

Exhibition overview from museum website

  • Fiber Arts
  • Asian
  • Culture / Lifestyle
  • Japanese
  • Various artists

Exhibition Venues & Dates