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The Met's Japanese Bamboo Art Is a Flux of Beautiful Bending

The exhibit features bamboo artists from the Japanese periods of Meiji and Taishō.
Honma Hideaki, Japanese, born 1959. Flowing pattern Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2014 Timber bamboo, men’yadake, dwarf bamboo, rattan, and lacque. 25 1/2 x 10 1/16 in. Promised Gift of Diane and Arthur Abbey. All images courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art

With the malleable ability to be dynamic, enchanting, and inexplicably delicate, artwork made with Japanese bamboo is a time-honored practice. A new show at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York showcases the works of artists whose foremost medium is shaping and sculpting impressive works from bamboo in its exhibit Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection. Created with the deftness of a craftsman's concentrated focus, the works on display are architectural feats bending gravity and with a surprisingly futuristic bent.


The Met will showcase the limits and beauty of working with bamboo, focusing on how the material can create stirring sculptural forms that require impeccable slights of hand. In a description of the show, the museum describes bamboo as initially used to make tools used in an everyday setting to more aesthetically-pleasing decorative vessels.

The beauty of the exhibit is the theme of tradition that permeates each grand piece of art. What feeds into the impressive craftsmanship of the pieces is the practice of passing on family traditions, adding to the immaculate and well-studied aesthetic of the bamboo practice. Throughout show, other themes arise, such as the four seasons, ikebana floral compositions, and the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

The exhibit expands upon The Met's growing Asian art collection with the collection contributed by Diane and Arthur Abbey, stalwart New York art collectors who cite many of the Japanese bamboo art pieces as the works of living national treasure artists.

Torii Ippō, Japanese, 1930–2011 Swirl of Blue Water Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2006. Timber bamboo, rattan, and lacquer 21 5/8 x 25 9/16 x 17 11/16 in

Iizuka Rōkansai, Japanese, 1890–1958 Document Box (Fubako) Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), ca. 1920s–30s Smoked timber bamboo, rattan, lacquer, and gold brocaded silk 6 5/8 x 13 x 10 in

Honma Kazuaki, Japanese, born 1930. Breath, Japan, Shōwa period (1926-89), 1968. Smoked qwarf bamboo, dyed timber bamboo, and rattan, 35 in x 24 in x 12 in

Fujinuma Noboru, Japanese, born 1945 Peerless Fruit or Offering Tray (Morikago) Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2012. Timber bamboo, rattan, and lacquer, 8 1/2 x 5 7/8 x 5 7/8 in

Tide Japan, Shōwa period (1926-89), 1978. Timber bamboo and rattan, 17 1/2 x 33 x 22 in

Iizuka Shōkansai, Japanese, 1919–2004 Box for Accessories (Take sashi-ami katami) Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), ca. 1972–73. Timber bamboo, rattan, and lacquer 12 x 10 x 3 in

Maeda Chikubōsai II, Japanese, 1917–2003 Flower Basket (Hanakago) in the Shape of a Blossoming Flower Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), early 1960s. Timber bamboo and rattan 11 1/2 x 18 in

Yamaguchi Ryūun, Japanese, born 1940 Flow Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2002. Timber bamboo, 21 1/2 x 20 x 12 in

Nagakura Ken'ichi, Japanese, born 1952 Woman Flower Basket (Hanaire) Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2004. Timber bamboo, rattan, lacquer, and powdered polishing stone and clay 34 1/4 in

Honda Syōryū, Japanese, born 1951, Dance Japan, Heisei period (1989-present), 2000. Timber bamboo, and rattn, 18 1/2 x 24 x 19 in

The exhibit Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection runs from June 13th, 2017 through February 4th, 2018. Learn more and purchase tickets on The Met's website, here.


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