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Met exhibit looks at Japan’s fine craft of bamboo basketry

  • This photo provided by The Metropolitan Museum of Arts shows "Dancing Frog Flower Basket" by Hayakawa Shokosai III. The piece is part of the exhibit "Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection" at the Museum in New York which runs through Feb. 4, 2018. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art via AP)

  • This photo provided by The Metropolitan Museum of Arts shows "Flowing Pattern" by Honma Hideaki. The piece is part of the exhibit "Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection" at the Museum in New York which runs through Feb. 4, 2018. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art via AP)

  • This photo provided by The Metropolitan Museum of Arts shows "Dance" by Honda Syoryu. The piece is part of the exhibit "Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection" at the Museum in New York which runs through Feb. 4, 2018. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art via AP)

  • This photo provided by The Metropolitan Museum of Arts shows "The Gate" by Tanabe Chikuunsai IV. The piece is part of the exhibit "Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection" at the Museum in New York which runs through Feb. 4, 2018. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art via AP)



Associated Press
Friday, July 28, 2017

Bamboo is getting attention these days as a versatile and sustainable material for housewares, so the timing is good for a Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit that explores Japan’s ancient craft of basketry.

Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection is devoted to masterworks, including a half dozen works by two artists designated as Living National Treasures in Japan. To highlight the works’ virtuosity and context, they have been displayed alongside paintings, ceramics, bronzes, kimonos and other pieces from different genres.

The exhibit also explores other traditional Japanese arts that are entwined with bamboo basketry, such as ikebana flower arranging and tea ceremony. Bamboo is so central to Japanese culture that the Japanese and Chinese character for bamboo is part of over a thousand other characters, including those for many items traditionally made of bamboo, such as flutes, writing brushes, boxes and baskets.

The Met’s show, organized by Monika Bincsik, assistant curator in the department of Asian art, tells the story of bamboo through almost 100 works dating from the late 19th century to the present. It focuses on the refined beauty and technical complexity of Japanese basketry. The exhibit will remain on view through Feb. 4, 2018.

Although the oldest Japanese baskets date to the 700s and were mainly used as offering trays and holders for lotus petals, there was little focus on Japanese bamboo art in the Western world until relatively recently, Bincsik says. Most of the works fea tured in this show are taken from the Diane and Arthur Abbey Collection, and most have never before been shown to the public. More than 70 of the works exhibited were recently promised as gifts to the Met.

The show opens with a dramatically curvaceous floor-to-ceiling sculpture by master craftsman Tanabe Chikuunsay IV. With its voluptuous shape, the site-specific piece is woven out of rare tiger bamboo, which is mottled with dark spots.

Most of the exhibit is organized geographically into three major Japanese regions; Kansai (mainly Kyoto and Osaka), Kanto (mainly Tokyo) and the southern area of Kyushu.