Masters of Bamboo Art

14 June - 1 September 2017
Erik Thomsen Gallery is delighted to announce an exhibition of 30 masterpieces by Japan's most outstanding masters of bamboo basketry. Nearly all the works on display were made by members of craft dynasties that flourished during the early and middle years of the twentieth century.
Thanks to major installations, catalogues, and exhibitions, 2017 is already proving a pivotal year for the global appreciation of Japanese basketry. On June 13 New York plays its part with the opening of "Japanese Bamboo Art: The Abbey Collection" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met show establishes Japanese basketry as one of the great East-Asian art forms and vindicates our gallery's long-term confidence in the important role it is set to play in the art market, with major collectors active throughout the Americas, Europe, China, and Japan.
The primary focus of our gallery exhibition is an important group of baskets by the Iizuka family, in particular by Rokansai (1890-1958), who worked in Tokyo and is widely judged to be the greatest of all bamboo masters. Well versed in painting, calligraphy, and poetry, Rokansai devoted his life to elevating basketry to the same level as those prestigious disciplines. He was the first not only to develop a theory of bamboo art, classifying his works as shin (informal), gyo (semi-formal), and so ("grass" or informal), but also to make the naming of his baskets central to his artistic practice, signaling his conviction that bamboo art should be a medium for personal expression.
Our Iizuka-line selection includes major works by Rokansai, by his elder brother and teacher Hosai (1872-1934), and by his son Shokansai (1919-2004), named a Living National Treasure in 1982.
A group of works from the city of Sakai (now part of Osaka) is dominated by a Cabinet for Tea-Ceremony Utensils from the hand of the first Tanabe Chikuunsai (1877-1937), its front and sides formed from rows of antique gilded and lacquered bamboo arrow shafts. The Tanabe Chikuunsai line is perhaps the most revered of the bamboo dynasties in western Japan and our exhibition includes baskets by Chikuunsai I and his son Chikuunsai II, whose grandson Chikuunsai IV has just completed a room-sized installation at the Met.