This spring, The Asia Society presents Season of Japan, a celebration of Japanese culture held in conjunction with the exhibition Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan, on view at Asia Society Museum in New York from February 9 to May 8, 2016.
With over thirty rare masterpieces from the Kamkura period (1185–1333) from private and museum collections in North America and Europe, “Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan” is the first exhibition to look beyond the aesthetics and technical achievements of these remarkable sculptures, and specifically examine the relationship between realism and the sacred empowerment of these objects. The exhibition explores how sculptures are “brought to life” or “enlivened” by the spiritual connection between exterior form, interior contents, and devotional practice, reflecting the complexity and pluralism of the period. “Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan” marks the first major loan show of Kamakura sculpture in the United States in more than thirty years.
Head of a Guardian King. Kamakura period, 13th century. Polychromed Japanese cypress (hinoki) with lacquer on cloth, inlaid crystal eyes and filigree metal crown. H. 22 1/16 x W. 10 1/4 x D. 13 15/16 in. (56 x 26 x 35.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Alastair B. Martin, the Guennol Collection, 86.21. Courtesy of Brooklyn Museum.
The exhibition also coincides with the 60th anniversary year of Asia Society, which was founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd. The Museum is known for its Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection of traditional Asian artworks, which was formed in earnest after the establishment of Asia Society in 1956. With the guidance of the noted scholar of Asian art Sherman Lee, John D. Rockefeller 3rd and Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller chose classical masterpieces of Asian art rather than building a historical survey. Although the collection comprises approximately 300 objects, it is nevertheless regarded as one of the most notable collections of Asian art in the United States. It includes objects from diverse nations such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam that date from the eleventh century BCE to the nineteenth century CE. It has particular strengths in Chinese ceramics of the Song and Ming periods, Chola-period Indian bronzes, and Southeast Asian sculptures.
Kōshun (active 1315–1328). The Shinto Deity Hachiman in the Guise of a Buddhist Monk. Kamakura period, dated 1328. Polychromed Japanese cypress (hinoki) with inlaid crystal eyes. H. 32 x W. 36 3/4 x D. 24 in. (81.3 x 93.3 x 61 cm). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Maria Antoinette Evans Fund and Contributions, 36.413. Photograph © 2016 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The collection was a promised gift to the Society and served as a primary impetus for the building of the Society’s headquarters at 725 Park Avenue, which opened to the public in 1981. The artworks were given to Asia Society upon the death of Mr. Rockefeller in 1978, and the collection now encompasses the original gift plus a number of objects bequeathed from the estate of Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller and subsequent acquisitions.
Zaō Gongen. Kamakura period, 13th century. Iron. H. 12 1/2 x W. 6 1/2 x D. 3 3/4 in. (31.8 x 16.5 x 9.5 cm). John C. Weber Collection. Photo: John Bigelow Taylor
In the early 1990s, Asia Society Museum became one of the first American museums to establish a program of contemporary Asian art. A recognized leader in identifying and fostering contemporary Asian and Asian American artists, the Museum announced the establishment of a Contemporary Art Collection in 2007, launched with a gift of twenty-eight works of video and new media art. The collection aims to represent the rapidly evolving field of contemporary art across Asia. The first phase of the collecting program is focused on video, animation, and new media works of art. In addition, Asia Society Museum was the first U.S. museum to organize solo shows of the now widely recognized artists Montien Boonma, Cai Guo-Qiang, Dinh Q. Lê, Yuken Teruya, Lin Tianmiao, and Zhang Huan.
“John D. Rockefeller 3rd’s first trip to Asia was to Japan, and he, like countless others, fell in love with the country. Later in life, he and his wife came to see Japan as a second home,” said Josette Sheeran, President and CEO of Asia Society. “It is fitting that in the year of our 60th anniversary, Asia Society is celebrating Japan and its dynamic culture.”
Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan is made possible by the generous support of The National Endowment for the Arts. Major support for this exhibition is also provided by the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation, Etsuko O. Morris and John H. Morris Jr. Other generous underwriters includes The Kitano Hotel New York, the Japan Foundation, The Blakemore Foundation, Peggy and Richard Danziger, Japanese Art Dealers Association, Helen Little, Toshiba International Foundation, John C. Weber, and the Ellen Bayard Weedon Foundation. Additional support is provided by Sebastian Izzard, Leighton R. Longhi, Joan B. Mirviss, and Erik Thomsen.
Following is a list of confirmed programs and events. All events, unless indicated, take place at Asia Society in New York, 725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street). Find out more about upcoming programs, including information about registration and ticket purchase, at AsiaSociety.org/SeasonofJapan.
Japan’s New Security Posture: Implications for Asia and the World
Wednesday, February 3 • 8:00-10:00am
Discussion with Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama and Asia Society Policy Institute President Kevin Rudd about Japan’s role as a regional and global security provider.
Members-Only Exhibition Opening Lecture
Tuesday, February 9 • 6:30-7:30pm
Guest curator Ive Covaci gives members an inside look at Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan. Covaci is a lecturer in Art History at Fairfield University.
CELEBRATE THE SEASON OF JAPAN
Leo Bar Happy Hour
Friday, February 12 • 6:00-9:00pm
A night of fun and culture at a Japanese-themed happy hour. Free museum tours of Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan, music, specialty cocktails, shopping at AsiaStore, and origami demonstrations.
Keynote address and exhibition viewing at Asia Society
Friday, February 26 • 6:30-9:00pm
Interdisciplinary symposium (held at Columbia University)
Saturday, February 26-27 • All day
This interdisciplinary symposium will gather leading scholars of Kamakura period art, religion, and literature. On the eve of the symposium, Mimi Yiengpruksawan of Yale University will deliver a keynote address at Asia Society.
Theater Japan / NOH and KYOGEN
Sunday, February 28 • 6:30-8:00pm
A rare opportunity to experience traditional Japanese theater in New York. Master performers of Noh and Kyogen will explain the form’s essentials: the stage, dance, music, costume, masks, and props. The evening includes a talk (in Japanese with English translation), a demonstration by the artists, and Q&A. Presented in conjunction with An Evening of Japanese Traditional Theatre, taking place on March 1 at Carnegie Hall.
Of Ghosts, Samurai and War: Classic Japanese Film
Japanese cinema has produced some of the most admired films that continue to enrich the world cinema discourse. The Asia Society and the Japan Foundation will screen rare 35mm prints of masterpieces by such greats as Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, and Kaneto Shindo from the Foundation’s Film Library.
Friday, March 4
Rashomon (1950) 88 min. B&W
Directed by Akira Kurosawa, starring Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo and Masayuki Mori.
Saturday, March 5
The New Tale of the Taira Clan (1955) 108 min. Color
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, starring Raizo Ichikawa and Yoshiko Kuga.
Sunday, March 6
Kwaidan (1965) 183 min. Color
Directed by Masaki Kobayashi, music by Toru Takamitsu, starring Katsuo Nakamura, Keiko Kishi, Michiyo Aratama and Rentaro Mikuni.
Friday, March 11
Ugetsu (1953) 97 min. B&W
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, starring Machiko Kyo, Kinuyo Tanaka and Masayuki Mori.
Sunday, March 13
Miyamoto Musashi (1961) 110 min. Color
Directed by Tomu Uchida, starring Kinnosuke Nakamura and Michiyo Kogure.
Friday, March 18
Brave Records of the Sanada Clan (1963) 90 min. Color
Directed by Tai Kato, starring Kinnosuke Yorozuya and Misako Watanabe.
Saturday, March 19
Onibaba (1964) 103 min. B&W
Directed by Kaneto Shindo, starring Nobuko Otowa and Jitsuko Yoshimura.