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Silver Wind

The Art of Sakai Hōtsu

For Japan Society exhibition by Matthew McKelway

Silver Wind


Silver Wind: The Arts of Sakai Hōitsu commemorates two milestones for Japan Society and Japanese art. It is the third exhibtion at Japan Society and Japanese art. It is the third exhibition at Japan Society devoted to Rimpa, an early modern artistic movement that produced works of daring visual innovation often infused with allusions to classical Japanese literature. It also celebrates the two-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of Hōitsu and his art. Exhibitions focused on a single aritst of premodern Japan are rare over-seas, and those held in the past two decades have featured more famous painters such as Katsushika Hokusai, Ike Taiga (together with his wife, Tokuyama Gyokuran), Hasegawa Tōhaku, and Itō Jakuchū. Less familiar to most viewers, even in Japan, Sakai Hōitsu was a prolific artist with a long, well-documented career, and a crucial figure in the canonization of Rimpa as an artistic movement. Although his works have never sunken into obscurith, their relative undervaluation has provided opportunities for the acquisition of important pieces by museums and collectors abroad: all but a handful of the exhibits included in the present show come from American collections, many of them formed or acquired by public institutions in the past few decades. Silver Wind  could not have been mounted in 1971, when the first exhibition at the newly opened Japan House Gallery, Rimpa: Master works of the Japanese Decorative School, included only three works by Hōitsu.