After more than two hundred years of national seclusion, Japan opened its ports to foreign trade and soon embarked on a campaign of modernization and Westernization. “Presenting the New Japan,” on view beginning May 13, 2017, reexamines a broad spectrum of works created during this time of cultural exchange.
Shibata Zeshin (1807–1891) understood the new international markets. His lacquerware, scrolls, and folding screens combine traditional Japanese techniques with Western formats and were highly sought after by European and American collectors as well as members of Japan’s new mercantile class.
The gallery also features groups of objects that have rarely been displayed together. Until recently, works that were produced for the Western market, such as intricately decorated metalwork and lacquerware, were snubbed in Japan as “export art.” Meanwhile, objects that were made for Japanese audiences, such as paintings with traditional formats and themes, were largely ignored by Western collectors. Bringing these objects together shows the influence, both at home and abroad, of artistic dialogues between Japan and the West during the Meiji era.