Arts of Japan
The John C. Weber Collection

14.10.2006 to 07.01.2007

Museum für Asiatische Kunst

The Museum of East Asian Art celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding with the world premiere of one of the most important private collections of Japanese art in the West. The exhibition at the Museum of East Asian Art, Berlin - the exclusive venue for Germany - shows around eighty superb works from the collection of Dr. John C. Weber, New York, whose great-grandparents left Germany for the United States about one hundred years ago.

The works selected for exhibition range from twelfth-century calligraphy to twentieth-century folding screens and textiles. There are small-format poetry sheets and sublime ink landscapes as well as vivid battle paintings on gold-ground screens. Luxury lacquers and ceramics impress the visitor with the skill of their workmanship and the modernity of their designs. The collector has a special interest in Japanese textile arts and a fascination with the fine technical quality and richness of imagination characterising the patterns and fabrics, a thread running through the entire exhibition. Images of beautiful women in the latest fashions from the entertainment districts of the Edo period offer extensive insight into three centuries of Japanese ideals of beauty. The restrained aesthetic of works associated with the tea ceremony and the splendour of screens with epic narratives steeped in one of the world's oldest literary traditions round off this unique presentation of Japanese art.

With this exhibition, the museum continues a long history of commitment to the achievements of private collectors. We hope to encourage the formation of similarly high-quality collections of Japanese art in Germany as well as to initiate a new era of cooperation between private collectors and our museum.

The exhibition is divided into five sections:

China in Japan
looks at how Japanese ink painters and calligraphers of the 14th to 17th centuries reinterpreted Chinese models from the Song and Yuan Dynasties (10th to 14th centuries). Calligraphy and monochrome landscapes are placed alongside religious figurative images and representations of Confucian virtues. Colourful ceramics with Chinese motifs and red Negoro lacquer pieces are stunning counterpoints.

The Aesthetic of Tea
explores the development of new aesthetic ideals around 1600. These ideals are epitomised in the concentrated silence and intimate dimensions of the modest but exceedingly sophisticated rooms for tea gatherings. Understated tea ceramics harmonise with small fragments from handscrolls which, remounted as hanging scrolls, decorated the picture recesses (tokonoma) of the tea rooms.

Golden Fables and Panoramas
unfold on magnificent screens which lent splendour to the castles of the powerful military elite of the 16th to 17th centuries. At the heart of the exhibition, half a dozen pairs of these large-scale paintings give an overwhelming three-dimensional impression of the grandeur of the battlefield and the romances of Japan's classic age.

A Gallery of Beauties
shows portraits of celebrated beauties from the 17th to 19th centuries who fascinated the public of Japan's big cities. The esprit and chic of the courtesans and actors of the floating world-the entertainment districts of the large urban centers-epitomize the verve of Japan's burgeoning urban culture.

Japan's Fashion Obsession
presents the magnificent clothing of the urban elite. The Weber Collection documents the constantly changing tastes and styles of fashion from the 18th to the mid-20th centuries-from battle jackets to firemen's coats to luxurious kimono for a woman of the daimyo stratum to a dress for the "modern girl."