6 Not-to-Be-Missed Japanese Art Exhibitions to Visit in 2023
With its distinctive style and emphasis on minimalism and organic themes, Japanese art has had a profound impact on global culture, art, and design. From woodblock printing to calligraphy scripts, from silk kimonos to metal masterpieces, Japanese artisans and craftsmen have played a vital role throughout history in shaping the creative scene of art.
These six vital exhibitions of Japanese art range from painting to fashion to cast a new light on the contributions of the nation. Experience the gift of Japan’s beauty and creativity with a visit to one—or all—of these amazing art exhibitions to see in 2023.
Nov. 22, 2022 – May 28, 2023
Musée du Quai Branly, Paris
Designed by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and displayed at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, this captivating exhibition follows the history of Japan’s iconic garment: the kimono. Emerging over a millennia ago, the kimono became a traditional form of Japanese dress at the start of the Edo era (1603-1868), worn by all Japanese regardless of status or gender. Later, it made its way into the fashion world thanks to its popularity among celebrities, particularly Japanese kabuki actors. The show revisits the story of this emblematic clothing, and its evolution and significance in Japanese society both as a link to tradition and as an expression of fashion and style.
Hiroshige and the Fan
Feb. 15 – May 29, 2023
Guimet Museum of Paris
For the first time in France, the Guimet Museum of Paris opens an exhibition dedicated to the work of Japanese artist Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858), whose unique artwork was designed to adorn bamboo fans. The flat fans became popular in Japan in the Edo period as a medium to showcase illustrations and prints of local artists, Most have since been lost, with only select rare copies of the prints still present around the world. This one-of-a-kind Japanese art exhibition showcases approximately 90 of the over 650 prints created by Hiroshige over his lifetime—the largest private collection of his works. Created between 1830 and the 1850s, these rare and elaborate illustrations showcase the artist’s vision and multifaceted creativity, with themes ranging from city and landscape scenes to compositions of flowers and birds, portraits, literary depictions, and more.
Beautiful People: From Shoen to Laurencin
February 21 – June 4, 2023
Matsuoka Museum of Art, Tokyo
‘Beautiful people of all ages’ is the overarching theme for this evocative exhibition, taking place at the Matsuoka Museum of Art in Tokyo. The private museum was established in 1975 in order to showcase the art collection of Seijiro Matsuoka—a trader-turned-businessman who enjoyed sourcing and collecting beautiful objects and artworks. The exhibition is dedicated to seeing the beauty in people around us, through portraits of people from around the world. Among the works are elegant paintings by Shoen Uemura, Kiyokata Kaburaki, Kanzan Shimomura, and Shinsui Ito, as well as the French paintings of Marie Laurencin and Kees van Dongen.
Oct. 15, 2022 – Dec. 31, 2023
Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm
The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities is breaking new ground with its upcoming exhibition, Juxtaposing Craft, which highlights the creative exchange between Japanese and Nordic nations. Contemporary works are shown alongside artifacts sourced from the National Museums of World Culture. Some of the must-see pieces include works by fourth-generation bamboo masters; a bathing ritual from Iceland that uses Jōmon pottery; and eighteenth-century Sami drums. Themes of nature, material, and movement prevail among several interactive exhibits including Masaru Kawai’s forest in Gifu, Japan; a bench crafted by Rebecca Ahlstedt and Seyia Mitazaki in Dalarna; and a dance performance using Nittsjö clay. The exhibition will mark the first instance of such diverse and innovative experiences taking place in the museum’s history.
Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence
Oct. 19, 2023 – Jan. 21, 2024
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle
Famed Japanese master Katsushika Hokusai (1760 –1849) is considered one of the most influential artists of all time, not just in Japan but around the world. His legendary woodblock print Great Wave is immediately recognizable, with its iterations appearing all over, from book covers to anime scenes. Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the exhibition Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence presents an all-new look at the works of the popular artist and his influence on other artists and followers through the years. Over 100 of Hokusai’s woodblock prints will be displayed, along with paintings, books, and works by his teachers, students, and contemporaries impacted by his style, including Winslow Homer and Yoshitomo Nara.
Feb. 25, 2023 – Jan. 28, 2024
Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Elaborately painted screens have long been a mainstay of traditional Japanese interiors, both in religious temples and residential households. The folding paneled shape of the screens allowed artists to experiment with painting techniques and to alter perception, creating scenes to trick the viewer’s eye into creating dimensional scenes: rolling ocean waves, lush foliage, or mythical creatures. This exhibition at the National Museum of Asian Art Freer Gallery showcases this unique art form, with a collection of colorful screens painted in the Rinpa style—a movement spanning the 17th to the 19th centuries, known for brightly colored, stylized forms. The show also includes a collection of Japanese ceramics illustrating the trade between Japan and China.