The Art of Impermanence at Asia Society Museum, February 11 – April 26, 2020

“Through nearly 70 masterpieces of calligraphy, painting, sculpture, ceramics, lacquers, and textiles drawn from two of America’s great Japanese art collections, The Art of Impermanence examines Japan’s unique and nuanced references to transience. Impermanence is a pervasive subject in Japanese thought and art. Objects in the exhibition span from the Jōmon period (ca. 15,000-300 BCE) to the twentieth century. From images that depict the cycle of the four seasons and red Negoro lacquer worn so it reveals the black lacquer beneath, to the gentle sadness evoked in the words of wistfully written poems, this exhibition demonstrates that much of Japan’s greatest art alludes directly or indirectly to the transient nature of life.” — Asia Society Museum

A richly illustrated catalogue copublished by Asia Society Museum and Officina Libraria accompanies the exhibition which is curated by Adriana Proser, John H. Foster Senior Curator of Traditional Asian Art. In her introductory essay for the catalogue, scholar Melinda Takeuchi of Stanford University notes: “Although cultures have decried the impending end of civilization through the ages. . .impermanence takes on a particular urgency—and particular irony—in today’s world.”

1979.191 View A

Descent of Buddha Amida. Japan.   Kamakura period, late 13th century. Hanging scroll; ink, color and gold on silk. H. 38¾ x W. 16½ in. (98.4 x 41.9 cm). Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.191. Photography by Synthescape, courtesy of Asia Society

Fig 232_1979.204ab

Amida Nyorai. Japan. Kamakura period, mid-to late 13th century. Cypress wood with traces of pigment and cut gold leaf and inlays of crystal. H. 47 x W. 20½ x D. 20½ in. (119.4 x 52 x 52 cm). Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.204a–b. Photography by Synthescape, courtesy of Asia Society

JC049a

Flame-style Vessel. Japan. Middle Jōmon period, 3500–2500 BCE Earthenware. H. 11⅝ x Diam. 11⅝ in. (29.5 x 29.5 cm). John C. Weber Collection. Photography courtesy of John C. Weber Collection

JL024

Bottle. Japan. Nanbokuchō–Muromachi period, 14th–15th century. Red-and black-lacquered wood (Negoro ware). H. 12¼ x Diam. 8¾ in. (30.9 x 22.2. cm). John C. Weber Collection. Photography by John Bigelow Taylor

JP025ab

Tosa Mitsuoki (1617–1691). Blossoming Cherry Trees at Yoshino (detail). Japan. Edo period, 17th century. Pair of six-panel screens; ink, color, gold, and gold leaf on paper. Each, H. 65 x W. 140 in. (165.2 x 355.4 cm). John C. Weber Collection. Photography by John Bigelow Taylor

JP081 detail 4

The Illustrated Life of Shinran Shōnin (detail). Japan. Edo period, 1699. Four hanging scrolls; ink, color and gold on silk. Each, H. 53⅛ x W. 31½ in. (135 x 80 cm). John C. Weber Collection. Photography by John Bigelow Taylor

JS024

Reliquary in the Form of Five Elements (gorintō).   Japan. Kamakura period, 14th century. Rock crystal with later mercury-gilt copper and wood lotus pedestal base. H. 5⁵⁄₁₆ in. (13.5 cm). John C. Weber Collection. Photography courtesy of John C. Weber Collection

JS029

Wheel-shaped Ring (sharinseki). Japan, Nara Prefecture, Shimanoyama Tomb. Tumulus period, 4th century. Green tuff with red pigment. H. 8½ x W. 7¾ x D. ⁹⁄₁₆ in. (21.5 x 19 x 1.5 cm). John C. Weber Collection 
Photography by John Bigelow Taylor

JP036

Illustrated Poetry Contest with Poets from Various Periods, Tameie Version. Japan. Kamakura period, 14th century. Fragment of a handscroll mounted as a hanging scroll; ink on paper. H. 11 x W. 18¾ in. (28 x 47.4 cm). John C. Weber Collection. Photography by John Bigelow Taylor

JS028

Namikiri Fudō Myōō. Japan. Kamakura period, 13th century. Wood with pigment, lacquer, cut gold leaf, inlaid crystal eyes, and gilt-copper fittings. H. 19½ x W. 14 in. (49.5 x 35.6 cm). John C. Weber Collection. 
Photography courtesy of John C. Weber Collection

Images courtesy Asia Society Museum.