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In Pictures: Rare Japanese Textiles from the Minneapolis Institute of Art

The collection includes robes made from salmon skin and a deerskin jacket worn by a 19th century fireman

An impressive collection of traditional Japanese clothing and fabrics made for home, work, and festival celebrations will go on display to the public at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) in 2020, it has been announced. The works, which were acquired by Mia from Thomas Murray, an independent researcher and expert collector of Asian and Tribal art, include objects from across Japan: from subtropical Okinawa the northernmost island of Hokkaido. The collection of 230 objects includes some exceptionally rare items, made between the late 18th and early 20th centuries.

Light blue-ground Ryūkyūan robe (ryūso) with pine and snowflake motif, 19th century, cotton and bingata (stencil resist with applied pigments). Courtesy: Minneapolis Institute of Art and The John R. Van Derlip Fund and the Mary Griggs Burke Endowment Fund established by the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation

The collection includes items made from materials including wild banana fiber, elm-bark cloth, nettle fiber, and salmon skin.

Siberian salmon-skin woman’s robe (hukht) (detail), date unknown, salmon skin, sinew, cotton thread, appliqué and embroidery. Courtesy: Minneapolis Institute of Art

Siberian salmon-skin woman’s robe (hukht) (detail), date unknown, salmon skin, sinew, cotton thread, appliqué and embroidery. Courtesy: Minneapolis Institute of Art

Mia’s exhibition will present around 120 works from the recently-acquired collection and will highlight the resourcefulness of humans in creating textiles from a wide range of materials.

White-ground Ryūkyūan robe (ryūso) with paired cranes pattern, date unknown, cotton, bingata (stencil resist with applied pigments). Courtesy: Minneapolis Institute of Art

White-ground Ryūkyūan robe (ryūso) with paired cranes pattern, date unknown, cotton, bingata (stencil resist with applied pigments). Courtesy: Minneapolis Institute of Art

Andreas Marks, Mary Griggs Burke Curator of Japanese and Korean Art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art said of Thomas Murray’s collection: ‘Built over nearly 40 years by a man with a fantastic eye for textiles, a collection of this importance and breadth could not be put together today. Mia is thrilled to be the recipient of these important textiles, which will catapult us amongst the foremost collections of Japanese textiles in the world.’

Attush robe with light-blue stripes, late 19th century, elm-bark fiber, cotton striping, appliqué, and embroidery. Courtesy: Minneapolis Institute of Art and The John R. Van Derlip Fund and the Mary Griggs Burke Endowment Fund established by the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation 

Attush robe with light-blue stripes, late 19th century, elm-bark fiber, cotton striping, appliqué, and embroidery. Courtesy: Minneapolis Institute of Art and The John R. Van Derlip Fund and the Mary Griggs Burke Endowment Fund established by the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation 

‘The Murray Collection adds important new dimensions to Mia’s Japanese art collection, which is particularly strong in the areas of paintings and prints, sculptures, ceramics, and works of bamboo. Until now, there were only a few textiles in the collection, including Noh robes used in theatrical productions, wedding kimono made of silk, and so-called meisen garments made in the 1910s and 1920s, which feature bold and graphic designs,’ Marks continued.

Dark blue-ground festival kimono decorated with sea creatures (detail), date unknown, cotton; tsutsugaki (freehand resist). Courtesy: Minneapolis Institute of Art

Dark blue-ground festival kimono decorated with sea creatures (detail), date unknown, cotton; tsutsugaki (freehand resist). Courtesy: Minneapolis Institute of Art

This festival robe, decorated using a dye-resist tsutsugaki technique, was used to celebrate a fisherman’s successful catch.

Fireman’s parade leather coat (kawabaori) with Ōhisa family crest, 19th century, deerskin; smoked resist. Courtesy: Minneapolis Institute of Art and The John R. Van Derlip Fund and the Mary Griggs Burke Endowment Fund established by the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation

 

Kawabaori robes, such as this example from the Edo period, were worn by high-ranking Japanese firemen.

Red, blue, and white kaparamip robe, date unknonwn, cotton appliqué and embroidery. Courtesy: Minneapolis Institute of Art

Red, blue, and white kaparamip robe, date unknonwn, cotton appliqué and embroidery. Courtesy: Minneapolis Institute of Art

This robe, made by the indigenous Ainu people from northern Japan is known as a kaparamip, meaning ‘thin cloth’, because it was made of fabric traded from the warmer Japanese mainland.

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