Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection at The Met Fifth Avenue, through February 4, 2018

Photographs by Corrado Serra.

“Bamboo, in all its utilitarian and artistic forms, has long been an integral part of the Japanese lifestyle. The fastest-growing grass plant, it was used in traditional architecture as well as for objects such as flower baskets, tea scoops, and fans. The oldest surviving baskets (precious holdings of the Shōsōin Treasure House in Nara) were created in the eighth century for Buddhist rituals. It was not until the end of the nineteenth century, however, that bamboo craftsmanship began to be recognized as one of the traditional Japanese decorative arts and, over time, accepted as an art form.

This exhibition features more than ninety baskets and sculptures drawn from the Diane and Arthur Abbey Collection—one of the finest assemblages of Japanese bamboo works in private hands—including numerous masterpieces by the six bamboo artists designated as Living National Treasures. The majority of these works are promised gifts from the Abbeys to The Met.

Given the important regional distinctions in plaiting techniques and styles, the exhibition is organized broadly around the three main production areas: Kansai, or western Japan, with the cities of Osaka and Kyoto; Kantō, the eastern region centered around Tokyo; and Kyūshū, the southernmost island of Japan. Highlighting key stages in the modern history of Japanese bamboo art, the presentation brings into focus significant transformations in style and function while tracing the lineages of masters of the medium and showing the emergence of a contemporary bamboo art scene. It also explores related themes such as the four seasons, floral compositions (ikebana), the tea ceremony, and bamboo as a motif in East Asian art.” — Introductory Wall Text

Exhibition entrance with a site-specific installation created for The Met. Bamboo sculpture by Tanabe Chikuunsai IV (b. 1973)

Installation view of Gallery 224

Installation view of Galleries 224 and 225

Installation view of Galleries 224 and 225

Installation view of Gallery 225

Left: Hayakawa Shōkōsai I, Japanese, 1815–1897. Bowler Hat, Japan, Meiji period (1868–1912), ca. 1880s–90s.

Installation view of Galleries 224 and 225

Kato Tōshōsai, Japanese, active early 20th century. Basket in the Form of a Flower Cart (Hanaguruma-gata hanakago), Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), ca. 1920–30s

Center: Tanabe Yōta, Japanese, 1944–2008. Earth Dedicated to Children, Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), 1975

Installation view of Gallery 226

Left: Sakaguchi Sōunsai, Japanese, 1899–1967. Moon Reflected on Water Fruit Tray (Kudamono-kago), Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), 1929. Center: Tanabe Chikuunsai I, Japanese, 1877–1937. Lily-Shaped Flower Basket (Yuri-gata hanakago), Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), 1926–37. Right: Tanabe Chikuunsai I, Japanese, 1877–1937. Lily-form Flower Basket (Yuri-gata), Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), ca. 1930

Left to right. Tanabe Chikuunsai II, Japanese, 1910–2000, Gourd-Shaped Flower Basket (Hanakago), Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), mid-20th century; Prosperous Peony Basket (Botan hanakago) Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), ca. 1940–50, Moon Flask–Shaped Flower Basket (Henko-gata hanakago), Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), ca. 1955–65. Tanabe Chikuunsai III: Japanese, 1940–2014 Delight for the Future, Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2008

Left: Tanabe Chikuunsai IV, Japanese, born 1973. with Wakamiya Takashi, Japanese. Setting Sail (Boat-Shaped Flower Basket), Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2015. Right: Tanioka Shigeo, Japanese, born 1949. Sacred Trees Flower Basket (Hanakago), Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2006

Right: Suemura Shōbun, Japanese, 1917–2000. Cabinet for Sencha Tea Ceremony (Kikyoku), Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), ca. 1950–70s

Installation view of Gallery 226

Installation view of Gallery 226

Maeda Chikubōsai I, Japanese, 1872–1950. Left:  Offering Tray (Morikago) in the Shape of a Ceremonial Toasting Cup, Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), 1940. Center: Boat-Shaped Flower Basket (Funa-gata Hanakago), Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), ca. 1930s. Right: Peony Basket (Botan-kago), Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), ca. late 1940s

Left: Maeda Chikubōsai I, Japanese, 1872–1950. Peony Basket (Botan-kago), Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), ca. late 1940s. Center: Maeda Chikubōsai II, Japanese, 1917–2003. Flower Basket (Hanakago) in the Shape of a Blossoming Flower, Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), early 1960s. Right: Maeda Chikubōsai II, Japanese, 1917–2003. Flower Basket (Hanakago), Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), ca. 1880s

Installation view of Gallery

Installation view of Gallery 227

Iizuka Rōkansai, Japanese, 1890–1958. Holy Shrine Flower Basket (Hanakago), Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), ca. 1940s

Left: Honma Hideaki, Japanese, born 1959. Flowing Pattern, Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2014

Honma Hideaki, Japanese, born 1959. Front: Flowing Pattern, Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2014. Back: Flowing Water Framed Panel Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), 1983

Right: Nagakura Ken’ichi, Japanese, born 1952. Sister Moon Flower Basket (Hanaire), Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2004

Left: Torii Ippō, Japanese, 1930–2011. Swirl of Blue Water, Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2006. Right: Fujitsuka Shōsei, Japanese, born 1949. Tide, Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), 1978

Left: Shiotsuki Juran, Japanese, b. 1948. Standing Basket (Objet), Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), ca. early 1990s. Right: Shōno Tokuzō, Japanese, born 1942. Blossoming, Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2015

Left: Monden Kōgyoku, Japanese, born 1916. Wave, Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), 1981

Right: Honda Syōryū, Japanese, born 1951. Dance, Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2000

The exhibition is organized by Monika Bincsik, Assistant Curator in the Department of Asian Art at The Met.