Art Services International Exhibitions

Fashioning Kimono premieres at the Philadelphia Museum of Art -- April 26

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Alexandria, VAArt Services International is pleased to announce an exhibition highlighting 97 kimono of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The kimono portray two important facets: they represent one of the most dynamic periods in the history of Japan's national costume, and they also depict the last historical era of the "living kimono"-when kimono was being worn by the large majority of the populace.  But the kimono never lost its appeal; it remained the dominant dress form from the early 20th century until the 1940's, as it took on, little by little, a more formal meaning.  In the minds of the Japanese at this time, the kimono symbolized Japan before the war.  The exhibition includes formal, semi-formal, and casual kimono, haori jackets, and undergarments worn by men, women, and children.  The kimono are drawn from the Montgomery Collection in Lugano, Switzerland, and are featured along with a selection of period photographs on loan from the International Hokusai Research Centre in Milan.  

The exhibition is organized into four sections: Traditional/Transitional Kimono, Men's Garments, Children's Garments, and Women's kimono.  Selected from the internationally-renowned Montgomery Collection by Guest Curator Annie Van Assche, the textiles will be accompanied by a select group of vintage photographs which place the kimono in vivid context.  His Excellency, Ryozo Kato, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the United States of America, is the Honorary Patron of the exhibition.  The exhibition will open at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on April 26, 2008, and then travels to museums in North America through 2009.

Prior to the Meiji period, silk kimono were affordable only to the members of the upper class in Japan, and governmental restrictions further limited the scope of who was allowed to wear silk kimono.  Instead, simple, striped kimono made of cotton or bast fibers – handspun and hand-woven at home – were worn by the large majority of people in Japan.

All of this changed in the Meiji period when the feudal system was abolished.  At the same time, the government revamped the silk industry with new technologies and machinery imported from the West.  Silk soon became Japan’s main export product and the major driving force behind its industrial revolution.  These improvements to Japan’s silk industry had a strong impact on the domestic demand for silk fabric, as it became more affordable to the average person.  By the early 1900s, several of the traditional textile centers located just outside of Tokyo – Japan’s new capital and largest urban center – were supplying the new consumer with fashionable silk fabrics in the latest colors and patterns and distributing them through the new, large department stores located in the fashionable districts of Tokyo and Osaka.

With the increasing demand and sophisticated tastes of the new consumer came the need for good designers.  The department stores responded by establishing their own design sections and hiring new graduates from the best of Tokyo’s art schools.  Soon their chic, modern zuan-zukuri (design-made) products, advertised in newspapers and on posters, became the rage.  Well aware of the exotic appeal that Western fashion had on the Japanese at the time, designers created exciting, bold motifs which would appeal to their main customer, the “new woman.”  Western designs often were juxtaposed against traditional Japanese textile patterns, thus transforming the kimono into a fashionable, modern garment.

The Montgomery Collection of Japanese art comprises over 1200 objects.  Approximately three hundred of these objects are textiles, the majority of which belong to the mingei (Japanese folkart) genre.  While these mingei textiles have been published widely in various publications and exhibited around the globe (i.e., “MINGEI: Japanese Folk Art from the Montgomery Collection,” organized and circulated by Art Services International in 1995; “Wrapped up in Myth: Fabrics and Costumes from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century from the Montgomery Collection,” Geneva, 1995; and “Fabrics of the Floating World: Traditional Textiles in Japanese Woodblock Prints,” Milan, 2003), the outstanding garments in this exhibition have never been seen in North America (their only previous presentation was a brief 2005 installation at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum).  The collection of vintage and modern photographs is from the JCII Photo Salon of Tokyo, on loan from the International Hokusai Research Center in Milan.

Accompanying the exhibition is “FASHIONING KIMONO: Art Deco and Modernism in Japan,” a new edition of the full-color catalogue produced for the “FASHIONING KIMONO: Dress and Modernity in Early Twentieth-Century Japan” presentation at the Victoria & Albert Museum.  Published by 5 Continents Publishers, it contains essays by Guest Curator Annie M. Van Assche, a respected Japanese art historian and textile scholar; Reiko Brandon (former Curator of Textiles at the Honolulu Academy of Arts); Anna Jackson (Deputy Keeper of the Asian Department, Victoria & Albert Museum); Akiko Fukai (Chief Curator and Director of the Kyoto Costume Institute in Kyoto); and Elise Kurashige Tipton (Associate Professor and Chair of Japanese and Korean Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia; along with updated details of the U.S. tour.

The exhibition premieres at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (April 26 – July 20, 2008); and continues to the Tyler Museum of Art, Texas (September 5 – November 15, 2009).  Other venues include the Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach. Florida (December 4, 2009 – January 10, 2010); and the Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, New York (January 30 – April 11, 2010).  To inquire about venue opportunities, please contact Douglas Shawn, Deputy Director for Exhibitions, at Art Services International, 703-548-4554.

Credit Information

Please mention Art Services International in any articles or written references to the exhibition:
The exhibition is organized and circulated by Art Services International,
Alexandria, Virginia

His Excellency, Ryozo Kato, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the United States of America,
is the Honorary Patron of the exhibition.

Art Services International is a nonprofit educational institution that organizes art exhibitions of the highest quality. These exhibitions include paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, and decorative arts that range from art of the ancient world to works of the Old Masters, and continue through to the contemporary period. ASI exhibitions are drawn from museums, galleries, and private collections in the United States and abroad, and are hosted by museums throughout the United States and Europe. ASI shares with the hosting museums a commitment to enhancing the appreciation of art. Fully-illustrated catalogues and additional educational materials are provided for each project.

For further information, publicity images, and catalogue orders, please contact Sara Rycroft, Manager, Publications and P.R., Art Services International, 1319 Powhatan Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.  Kimono images are courtesy of and used under license from the Montgomery Collection, Lugano; and photographs are courtesy of and used under license from The International Hokusai Research Centre, Milan; unless another source is noted.

Traveling Exhibitions from Art Services International
Images courtesy of and used under license from the Lenders, unless another source is noted.
Art Services International Exhibitions