Kazari: Decoration and Display in Japan,
15th-19th Centuries

Installation view: Kazari: Decoration and Display in Japan, 15th –19th Centuries
Japan Society Gallery, New York, October 17 – December 31, 2002. Photo: Sheldon Collins © Japan Society, New York

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Kazari: Decoration and Display in Japan,
15th – 19th Centuries

Conceived and directed by Alexandra Munroe, in collaboration with Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere and Tsuji Nobuo

Co-organized by Japan Society, New York, and the British Museum, London, in association with the Suntory Museum of Art, Tokyo

Japan Society Gallery and the British Museum, 2002–03

“‘Kazari’…it’s an ambitious and arresting show. Through a buildup of diffuse visual splendor, it sets out to upset the exoticizing view of a placid, clean-surfaces Japanese culture.”
— Holland Cotter, New York Times

A major international exhibition introducing innovative scholarship on Japanese art to the West, Kazari: Decoration and Display in Japan examined the dynamic development of Japanese art over five centuries, focusing on particular periods of high cultural achievement. The show aimed to revise conventional notions of Japanese art by demonstrating its diversity, exuberance, and conceptual complexity. Offering an unprecedented gathering of superb Japanese art from private and public collections in the United Kingdom, Japan, and the United States, the exhibition featured a selection of approximately 200 remarkable objects in all major media — painting, ceramics, lacquer, textiles, metalwork, and glass.

Excerpted from the British Museum 

Kazari is the Japanese art and experience of arranging and displaying decorative objects. It refers not only to the object, but also to its use in specific settings and contexts, and requires the active participation of imagination or memory. Stimulating the senses through the acts of viewing, using, or adorning a work of art, kazari manifests the dynamism inherent in Japanese aesthetics, and suggests the process that transforms the everyday into something extraordinary.

The exhibition consists of a selection of remarkable and often unexpected objects in all media — painting, ceramics, lacquer, textiles, glass and metalwork — from major collections in Britain, Japan, and the United States.

The exhibits will be organised in six chronological and thematic sections, presenting superb examples of decorative and fine art objects that correspond to particular periods of high cultural achievements from the Muromachi (1392–1573), Momoyama (1573–1615), and Edo (1615–1868) periods. From the shogun’s court in the fifteenth century, through the prosperous merchants of the early seventeenth century, to the pleasure districts of burgeoning Edo, the exhibition will show how the arts of decoration and display were integral to Japanese culture.

The exhibition is co-curated by Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Art and Culture (SISJAC), London and Norwich, and Tsuji Nobuo, Tama Art University, Tokyo.

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Alexandra_MunroeKazari: Decoration and Display in Japan, 15th-19th Centuries