Arts & Crafts Takes on a Whole New Meaning in Our Newest Exhibit

Fall is a busy time at Morikami. From gearing up for Lantern Fest to preparing for the new season of educational programs there are lots of changes happening during the “cooler” months coming up. One of those changes is happening as we speak – our galleries are being transformed from a haven for some awe-inspiring Kokeshi dolls, into a space for outrageous fashion and amazing works of Kōgei  art.

You probably already know a little about our upcoming Japanese Street Fashion exhibit, but you may be unfamiliar with Kōgei , as it is sometimes difficult to explain exactly what it is to our non-Japanese  followers. Never fear – we’re here to help.

What is Kōgei ?

Kōgei  is an art that couples form and function, bringing beauty to everyday objects. As one Japan Times article explains it “Kōgei has often been translated into English as ‘crafts,’ and such works don’t fit exactly into the category of fine arts in the West. Against this backdrop, they have been perceived as occupying a lower station than “art.”But in Japan they form a class of their own, as an applied art, with some masters honored by the government as living national treasures. Such handicrafts include ceramics, fine “urushi” lacquer designs, silk fabrics and more.”

In short Kōgei  artists are craftsmen of the highest level who create works of art that also happen to be very common objects such as tea bowls or lacquer ware.

What will the exhibit be like?

This exhibit, Contemporary Kōgei Styles in Japan,  brings together approximately 90 Kōgei-style artworks including ceramics, textiles, dolls, and works of metal, lacquer, wood, bamboo, and glass created by over 40 of Japan’s most influential and leading Kōgei artists of international renown. The exhibit is organized by Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs, Ministry of  Foreign Affairs, Consulate General of Japan in Miami and Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens with special collaboration from the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art, All Nippon Airways Co., LTD., and Stella M. Holmes. We’re also proud to announce that after careful consideration, the Japanese government chose us as the only museum in the country to host this exhibit, so you won’t get to see these pieces anywhere else in the U.S.

These works are by very influential artists including some living national treasures. The exhibit runs from October 8, 2013 through February 18, 2014 and some of the objects will be rotated out for new ones half way through, so you’ll have something new to see each time you visit us.  The video below gives a wonderful overview of the art form and exhibit from the perspective of some of the featured artists as well as some of the exhibit’s organizers.

What’s a Living National Treasure?

Based on Japan’s 1950 Law for Protection of Cultural Properties, some individuals, small groups and preservation groups can be designated Living National Treasures. This mark of distinction means the individual or group has reached mastery in a certain area including drama, music, art, and other intangible cultural artifacts of high value in terms of Japanese history or art.  Today there are over 100 men and women on the list of Living National Treasures in the category of crafts. Though there is no real equivalent to this distinction in our culture, you might compare it to MacArthur Genius Grant recipients or Nobel Prize winners, though these designees may be recognized in a diverse range of fields and Japan’s Living National Treasures are recognized for their skill and commitment in keeping traditional Japanese cultural aspects alive and thriving.

Will I be able to hear from any of the artists?

We’re glad you asked – yes!  Not only will you be able to view work from some of these Living National Treasures, you’ll also be able to hear from one, as well as another featured artist. We’ll be hosting a lecture with speakers Murose Kazumi and Men’ya Shōho on October 9, 2013. You’ll find details and ticket information here.

We hope you’ll join us for this exciting opportunity to see and hear from some of Japan’s top Kōgei artists!

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Morikami Hems In Tokyo Fashion Exhibit This Fall

Harajuku, an area between Shinjuku and Shibuya in Tokyo, has risen to the highest ranks of Japanese fashion. In the late 50s and early 60s the neighborhood was transformed from U.S. soldiers’ housing into a well-spring of youth culture (similar to the likes of Haight Ashbury in 1960’s San Francisco) that solidified into what many call the Harajuku-zoku, or the Harajuku tribe. The neighborhood was overtaken by photographers, models, artists, fashion designers and local youth, and has become the ultimate youth stomping ground.

Some of the most visible and popular movements to come out of Harajuku are Japan’s many street fashions. From Decora to Rock-a-billy, and everything in between, this style-hub has a place for every expression of style.

If you were one of the many Morikami fans to participate in our Hatsume 2013 Costume or Fashion Show Contests, you might have already seen our Street Fashion Facebook Album, but it’s a great visual introduction to some of these popular Japanese street styles:

Decora is characterized by an abundance of accessories.

Decora is characterized by an abundance of accessories on casual clothing. Color is also important, and you’ll see neons as well as pastels.

Lolita style is remniscent of Victorian Dolls, and uses this particular dress sihlouette for a number of "Loli" styles like Sweet Loli, Punk Loli, and Gothic Loli.

Lolita style is reminiscent of Victorian Dolls, and uses this particular dress silhouette for a number of “Loli” styles like Sweet Loli, Punk Loli, and Gothic Loli.

Visual Kei is based on the Glam Rock movement, and employs elements of androgyny.

Visual Kei is based on the Glam Rock movement, and employs elements of androgyny for both males and females.

Kodona is based on the same era as Lolita style except that it focuses on boys' wear. Kodona can be understood as boy style and is worn by both males and females.

Kodona is based on the same era as Lolita style except that it focuses on boys’ wear. Kodona can be understood as boy style and is worn by both males and females.

We’re excited to share that this autumn we’ll be showcasing these expressive styles in a photography exhibit titled “Contemporary Japanese Street Fashion.” If you’ve had the pleasure of snapping shots of the rock-a-billy clubs in Yoyogi Park, or Harajuku girls in Tokyo, we’re asking for submissions to feature in the exhibit. The deadline to submit photos is July 15th, and we’ll be choosing finalists shortly thereafter. Check our website for full submission details.

If you’re not photographically-inclined, but still want to enjoy the outrageous and beautiful fashions of Harajuku, you might be interested in attending the lecture by Professor Yuniya Kawamura of the Fashion Institute of Technology, in NYC. Professor Kawamura will join us Friday, November 1, at 7:15pm for a 45-minute talk on the art of Japanese street fashion, its many subcultures, and its influence in Japanese society and in the West.

Stay tuned for more details on the exhibit and lecture as the fall draws near!