Special Exhibition: The Artistic Cosmos of Hon’ami Kōetsu
Japanese Archaeology and Special Exhibition (Heiseikan) Special Exhibition Galleries January 16, 2024 (Tue)-March 10, 2024 (Sun)
Hon’ami Kōetsu (1558–1637) created groundbreaking works of art in a variety of genres during a time of warfare and political turmoil in Japan. These artworks had a tremendous impact on Japanese culture for generations to come. However, Kōetsu’s oeuvre is as profound as a vast cosmos, making it difficult to comprehend in its entirety.
To better understand the context that drove Kōetsu’s artistic genius, this exhibition examines a social group known as the hokke machishū — townspeople who followed the Lotus Sutra, a Buddhist text also devoutly worshipped by Kōetsu and his family. This social group is the thread that connects Kōetsu’s psychological realm — as expressed through his ceramic art and calligraphy — with the creative activities of contemporaneous artisans who were united by a common faith. These artisans produced a variety of art objects in response to the society they lived in, including lacquerware lavishly decorated with gold. This exhibition aims for a comprehensive examination of Kōetsu by juxtaposing the latest art historical research with insights into the religious beliefs of the time.
As stated in a record known as the Hon’ami Gyōjōki, Kōetsu was known as an “eccentric” who “throughout his life, hated to follow others.” Driven by a firmly grounded aesthetic sense supported by unwavering religious faith, Kōetsu produced numerous masterpieces. How do these treasures appear to us in the present day? The exhibition explores this very question.