The Ming Exhibition at the British Museum

Chinese Warriors I went along to the new Ming exhibition at the British Museum just because I wanted to see it, not thinking it would have much of a Japanese aspect to qualify it for a blog post. But, as so often happens, once I got there I found all sorts of references to Japan – not really surprising when you consider that Japan is China’s nearest neighbour after Korea. So here’s a Japanese take on a Chinese exhibition for you. Continue reading

Tattoo Art at Somerset House

Kazuaki ‘Horitomo’ KitamuraLet’s get one thing clear to start with – the artworks in Tattoo Art aren’t tattoos. They’re works in other media by artists who normally specialise in tattooing. It’s a very mixed bag, and some of the works were pretty horrible (deliberately so), but there were others which definitely earned their place on the Somerset House Embankment Gallery walls.  Continue reading

Style tips for the Bertie Woosters of old Japan

British Museum Dressing to Impress We’re so used to seeing netsuke (tiny ivory and wood carvings) reverently displayed in museums, it’s easy to forget that they’re actually fashion accessories, as important to the Bertie Woosters of old Edo as a Rolex is to their equivalents today. Or as a cigarette case and lighter was to Bertie and his chums at the Drones club before we found out that smoking kills. But now there’s a new mini-exhibition in Room 3 at the British Museum titled Dressing to Impress to bring us up to speed with samurai fashion. Continue reading

Vikings and Cherry Blossom at the British Museum

BM Vikings Tyskegard Hoard

This post is a study in contrasts. I visited the British Museum to see the new blockbuster show about the Vikings, and took the opportunity to see a new folding screen in the Japanese collection as well. A bit of an odd combination, I know, but that’s the charm of London museums and galleries; you can see what you want, when you want, without anyone telling you they don’t go together. I enjoyed my ill-assorted mix – let’s see if you do too. Continue reading

Earl’s Court hosts Craft, Home and Top Drawer

Earl's Court Craft/Home/Top Drawer

Ever since Boris approved the plans to demolish Earl’s Court and build a residential and retail estate in its place, I’ve been expecting it to sink into decay and oblivion, if not vanish altogether. But no, it’s still there, hale and hearty and actually in much better nick than I expected. Maybe that’s because the set of three exhibitions Yannick and I went to see were, as one of the titles said, top drawer, or maybe the exhibition centre is refusing to go quietly. Either way, we were impressed. Continue reading

Mingei at the Pace Gallery

Pace Gallery Mingei

The Pace Gallery in Soho surprised me, perhaps because I’m used to seeing their website, which has a big international gallery feel, and their new and imposing flagship gallery in Burlington House, shared with the Royal Academy. So I didn’t expect a discreet, almost hidden door down a back street behind Piccadilly Circus. But I duly rang the bell and climbed to the first floor to find a spacious gallery which has apparently been there for years without my noticing. And a remarkable exhibition of Mingei. Continue reading

Japanese Art Auction at Bonham’s, New Bond St

Kitaoji Rosanjin - Sakura

This week I’m living in the lap of luxury, thanks to Asian Art Week. No more obscure East End galleries you can only get to on the Overground – nowadays it’s Bond St all the way. Elegant premises and top of the range art. Nowhere more so than at Bonham’s, whose brand new £30 million headquarters building at 101 New Bond Street was officially opened  just two weeks ago by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. And they’ve got not just one but two auctions of Japanese art this week. Talk about spoilt for choice! Continue reading

Ely House – A treasure trove of art and antiques

Ely HouseEly House is on Dover St, off Piccadilly, in the heart of the pricey art gallery district. It’s where Mallett show their antiques to people with a few hundred thousand to spare. But it’s not like your average shop; it’s housed in the most amazing restored 18th century house. If you get there by 20th July you can catch their current free exhibition, The Age of Elegance: Treasures from the Eighteenth Century Town House, which combines Mallett’s antiques with some splendid pictures from Old Master dealer Colnaghi. Continue reading

Asian Propaganda at the British Museum

The Mouse's Wedding

Propaganda flourishes in wartime, and the Asian Propaganda exhibition at the British Museum has plenty of examples from Japan’s twentieth century wars – with China (1894-5), Russia (1904-5), Korea (1905), China again (Asia-Pacific War 1931-1945), when Japan occupied Manchuria, and America and its allies (World War II 1941-1945). A sad start to the twentieth century, but a rich source of propaganda art. Continue reading

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2013

RA Summer Exhibition 2013The RA Summer Exhibition is here again! As reliable a sign of summer as Wimbledon, Royal Ascot and Glasto, it’s been held every year since 1769 and is open to ‘all artists of distinguished merit’ – in other words, anybody at all, so long as their work is good enough. This year over a thousand works in all styles and media made the grade and they’re all (or nearly all) for sale. Here’s my personal pick of the best – along with a quick introduction to the five Japanese artists in the show. Continue reading