Newark Museum Opens ‘New Look’ Japanese Galleries To Mark Its Centennial Celebration

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NEWARK—As part of its eventful year-long centennial celebration, the Newark Museum opens its newly re-conceived Japanese Galleries with the exhibition “From Meiji to Modern: Japanese Art Goes Global, 19th to 21st Centuries.”  This new installation showcases a dazzling array of Japanese art drawn from the museum’s own renowned permanent collection of the arts of Asia, a collection now consisting of more than 30,000 objects.

The starting point of “From Meiji to Modern” is the exciting time of international exposure as  Japan began to participate in International Expositions held in Europe and the US revealing its artistic prowess to an astonished and receptive audience beyond Asia.  The gallery show then proceeds on through the twentieth century, detailing an aesthetic continuum of heightened global impact wherein the arts of a newly industrialized Japan helped spark, shape and define international modernism in all its manifestations.

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The visitor is then whisked into post-modern twenty-first century.  Scene by gallery scene, the rich historic range of Japanese creativity is presented beautifully – from No theater masks and Kabuki prints; to small Buddhist and Shinto shrines, from sheer fun of robes decorated with Mickey Mouse and Frank Lloyd Wright’ Imperial Hotel in Tokyo to a hand-scroll painting of New York’s Central Park in the 1960s; from ornate silver tea services to outstanding examples of Netsuke to the most minimalist of ceramic pots.

The installation is comprised of four distinct but inter-related sections highlighting Japanese masterworks in vibrant prints and paintings, meticulous sculpture, glittering ceramics, metal-works and sacred shrines, luxurious textiles and other decorative arts from lavish to spare. Katherine Anne Paul, Newark Museum’s curator of the Arts of Asia, who organized this exhibition, noted that: “‘From Meiji to Modern’ reveals a complex cultural narrative, told in many mediums, of grand-scale trans-Pacific aesthetic exchange between East and West that transformed artistic expression wherever it traveled.”

Mary Sue Sweeney Price, the Newark Museum’s director points to the re-opening of the Japanese Galleries as another example of the vital role the Newark Museum has played on a global scale, since its inception, saying:

“This show – and our special centennial-centered exhibitions like Yinka Shonibare’s Party Time and Unbounded: New Art for a New Century and the upcoming 100 Masterpieces of Art Pottery, 1880-1930 – are reflective not only of this institution’s role as a great repository of culture, but also as its pioneering champion.   It is fitting that along with rare items from the museum’s 1909 founding Japanese collection of over 3,000 objects (one of the earliest and best collections of its kind in America), are later acquisitions through the 20th century and up to the present, including seminal artworks created by those deemed Living National Treasures of Japan.”

This exhibition examines Japan’s entry onto the world stage and how the mystical refinement and other-worldly beauty of its art turned conventional Western art practice inside-out.  In wave after wave the delicate but enduring cross-currents of its influence can be traced through every period – the Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic Movements, Art Nouveau and Art Deco and onto modernist modalities like abstract expression and minimalism.

As the Japanese aesthetic captivated artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Mary Cassatt, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Frank Lloyd Wright, to name just a few, infusing their work with profound new perceptions, so “From Meiji to Modern: Japanese Art Goes Global” will offer the museum-goer new ways of seeing their surroundings that will resonate with today’s ever-changing, truly gone-global world.

“From Meiji to Modern” coincides with the debut of a new collections group at the Newark Museum: Friends of Asian Art. It is one of four such groups that help support the preservation and growth of a specific collection. Museum Friends learn about a collection through hands-on workshops, curator lectures and visits to other related museums, galleries and private collections. In addition to Friends of Asian Art, the Newark Museum has Friends of African Art, American Art and the Decorative Arts. For more information about the Friends program, including events and fees, call 973-596-6337.

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Dragon and Crystal Ball Signed: Koreyoshi Late 19th Century Silver & Rock Crystal Bequest of Joseph S. Isidor, 1941 41.236 a.b.

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Dragon and Crystal Ball Signed: Koreyoshi Late 19th Century Silver & Rock Crystal Bequest of Joseph S. Isidor, 1941 41.236 a.b. (detail)

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Champleve Enameled Silver Flower Vase Signed: Funada Ikkin II (ca. 1840-1885) 1875 Japan Silver & Enamel The George T. Rockwell Collection 9.1129

Photos courtesy of the Newark Museum


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