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Japanese Galleries Re-Open at Nelson-Atkins

Updated Lighting and Digital Enhancements Featured

Kansas City, MO. Nov. 16, 2017–The Japanese Galleries at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art re-open on Nov. 18 after being closed for renovation, and will include some of the most celebrated Japanese works in the museum’s collection. Spectacular screens and exquisite robes will be on view, as well as a recent acquisition, Vying Peacocks, created in 1929 by Japanese artist Ishizaka Kōyō.

“We are reopening the Japanese Galleries as part of continuing celebrations of our landmark Asian collections,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO & Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “These galleries are historic in their own right, having been designed by John Yeon, and their refurbishing allows the art to glow while preserving the timeless modern spirit of this renowned architect.”

Objects in the renovated galleries are grouped in sections such as Aristocratic Taste, In Awe of Nature and Fashionable Society. A highlight is a stunning, 18th-century Noh robe that was purchased by the museum in 1932 and has never been on view. Another is a pair of recently acquired monumental screens depicting Vying Peacocks painted on silk over gold by Ishizaki Kōyō (1884-1947) that fills one complete wall of the gallery. On one screen a peacock in flight threatens its rival standing on the ground on the other screen. Beside it a peahen cowers in trepidation. The dramatic composition and virtuoso painting of the peacocks make this pair one of the most important 20th-century Japanese screens in American collections.

The world of Japanese Buddhism is explored in the section titles Divine Inspiration, with many representative works including the Hyakumantō dharani, one of the world’s earliest examples of printing. There are also two bronze figures of Buddha and Bodhisattva from Hakuhō period (645–710 CE) and a sublime gilded and lacquered wood figure of Buddha Shaka from the Kamakura period (1185–1333).

Ceramics are displayed throughout the gallery with outstanding examples representing a broad spectrum, including superb Kokutani and Nabeshima dishes, the latter created under the order of the lords of the Hizen domain in southern Japan ; a monumental Arita blue and white charger; a group of Momoyama period (1573–1615) tea ceremony ceramics; and a Shino ware cake plate by the celebrated potter and restauranteur Kitaōji Rosanjin (1883–1959).

Designed by architect Yeon in the 1970s, the galleries are considered a masterpiece of mid-century modern interior design. Yeon’s extensive use of wood paneling evokes traditional Japanese architecture but also reflects prevailing modernist taste, providing an ideal setting for the museum’s distinguished Japanese art collection. Upgrades to the lighting and deck surfaces, as well as a new digital interactive station, will enhance the visitor experience.


Image captions: Nō Robe with Design of Wisteria and Butterflies, Japanese, Edo period (1615–1868). Surihaku-type robe; gold and silver leaf stenciled on figured satin ground, 67 x 52 ¾ inches. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 32-142/5.

Ishizaki Kōyō (Japanese, 1884–1947), Vying Peacocks, ca. 1929. A pair of six-fold screens; ink and color over gold-foil ground on paper, 67 ¼ x 170 ¾ inches each. Purchase: Asian Art Acquisition Fund in memory of Lawrence Sickman, 2014.51.1,2

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City is recognized nationally and internationally as one of America’s finest art museums. The museum, which strives to be the place where the power of art engages the spirit of community, opens its doors free of charge to people of all backgrounds. The museum is an institution that both challenges and comforts, that both inspires and soothes, and it is a destination for inspiration, reflection and connecting with others.

The Nelson-Atkins serves the community by providing access to its renowned collection of nearly 40,000 art objects and is best known for its Asian art, European and American paintings, photography, modern sculpture, and new American Indian and Egyptian galleries. Housing a major art research library and the Ford Learning Center, the Museum is a key educational resource for the region. In 2017, the Nelson-Atkins celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the Bloch Building, a critically acclaimed addition to the original 1933 Nelson-Atkins Building.

The Nelson-Atkins is located at 45th and Oak Streets, Kansas City, MO. Hours are Wednesday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thursday/Friday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Admission to the museum is free to everyone. For museum information, phone 816.751.1ART (1278) or visit nelson-atkins.org.

For media interested in receiving further information, please contact:

Kathleen Leighton, Manager, Media Relations and Video Production

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art