Last Monday, when I was wandering around Heian shrine taking pictures of unsuspecting young people in their wonderful kimono, all of a sudden a woman approached me and gave me a ticket for an art exhibition at the Kyoto Municipal Museum which is nearby Heian shrine. It came completely out of the blue, I was very surprised and thanked her with many arigatou’s and bows. I am not sure if she had given tickets to other people as well, but it was nice to have the foreigner bonus this time…
Anyway, as I had nothing better to do and needed to find a topic for yet another blog post, I went to the museum this afternoon, where the 45th Nitten Kyoto Exhibition takes place until Sunday. This exhibition is organised by the Japan Art Academy, an organisation that was founded in 1907 and is considered the highest ranking artistic organisation in Japan. The JAA, with its at most 120 members, elected for life, advises the Minister of Education and promotes art in general. There are three distinct categories: Music and Drama, Culture (essentially literature) and Fine Arts, the last being divided into Japanese and Western painting, sculpture, crafts, and calligraphy. 300 works of Fine Arts from Japanese artists travel around Japan in this exhibition and at the Nitten Kyoto Exhibition another 300 works from artists based in or around the Kyoto area are added. You can find all works of art that are exhibited on this Nitten page, you need to do quite some clicking to get to the pictures unfortunately.
I did not bring a watch with me, but it must have taken me close to two hours looking at all the art, and that although I did not go into the calligraphy section. Sadly, I don’t know what to look for in calligraphy beyond the meaning of the words – which is obscured by my lack of vocabulary. I can see that the writing is beautifully executed and certainly better than anything I could produce, but the finer details escape me.
I am a big fan of sculptures though, and although there was only one room dedicated to them, I spent quite some time there. The nude female body obviously still inspires many artists, but ultimately I found many of them comparatively static in posture and thus uninspiring. My favourite was this sculpture by Kuwayama Yoshiyuki, the angle of the photograph is not well chosen; the hands are holding a puppet in traditional Japanese dress, it is facing away from the camera, so it is hard to recognize.
The whole second floor of the museum was dedicated to paintings and crafts. I am not a huge fan of paintings (I like Dali though), but some of them struck a chord within me, and I bought a few postcards at the end. My most favourite piece of art from this exhibition however, is the following “painting” by Namiki Tsunenobu. Actually, it is not a painting, but a piece of exquisit lacquerware (urushi or shikki) with inlaid pieces of gold for the stream at the bottom and a golden moon on top. Once again, the photograph does not quite do it justice, the stream appears more golden than silver in reality. It is 162 x 112 cm large and of perfect craftsmanship, the black lacquer is flawless. It must be worth a fortune.