Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Netsuke at LACMA: The Bushell Gifts
March 8, 2014 – November 2, 2014
Pavilion for Japanese Art, Raymond and Frances Bushell Netsuke Gallery
Raymond Bushell began collecting netsuke in the 1940s shortly after arriving in Japan. After decades of collecting and with access to an abundance of netsuke Bushell amassed a collection that was to gain fame not only for its masterpieces but also for the range of carvings exemplifying the great variety of subjects represented in netsuke as well as the types of materials and techniques employed by netsuke carvers.
After lending netsuke to LACMA for several exhibitions in the mid-1980s, Raymond and Frances Bushell initiated a series of gifts to the museum, donating to LACMA over 800 individual netsuke as well as twenty ensembles of inrō with attached ōjime and netsuke.
The first of the Bushell gifts entered the museum’s collection during the construction of the Pavilion for Japanese Art in 1987. The final gift was acquired by LACMA in 1998 as the museum celebrated the tenth anniversary of the building.
Few public collections of netsuke are sufficiently broad enough to present a complete view of netsuke as both functional objects and works of art. Not only does the Bushell collection include exceptional examples and pieces by the most highly regarded netsuke carvers it is also notable for its wide variety.
Realistic renderings with minute details executed by master carvers are contrasted by bold and simple forms from the hands of amateurs. Subjects portrayed include those from Chinese and Japanese mythology, religious themes, and designs inspired by historical figures and events as well as renderings influenced by Western sources during Japan’s mid-late 19th century period of modernization.
Likewise, the array of materials from which netsuke were fashioned is impressive and range from native woods, deer antler, and lacquer and ceramic works to non-native woods, ivories, and rhinoceros horn. Glass, cloisonné, and a tiger’s tooth are some of the more unusual materials found in the collection.
Not only is LACMA known for the quality and breadth of its netsuke collection, the museums gallery designated for the permanent display of netsuke sets it apart from any other museum worldwide. In addition to their donation of netsuke the Bushells funded the design of a gallery specifically for the display of their collection.
In the Raymond and Frances Bushell Netsuke Gallery, the museum is able to exhibit 150 individual netsuke and six inrō sets at a time. The innovative case design enables viewers to examine each miniature carving from both the front and back.
Highlighting the comprehensiveness of the Bushell collection this exhibition aims to present netsuke in all their possibilities, from the earliest functional carvings to those produced by the newest generation of carvers.
Arranged chronologically, the installation begins with works that were practical in nature and closes with miniature sculptures that were likely never meant to sit atop a kimono sash.
Netsuke at LACMA: The Bushell Gifts is exhibited at Raymond and Frances Bushell Netsuke Gallery in the Pavilion for Japanese Art. Los Angeles County Museum of Art is located at 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036.www.lacma.org
Museum hours: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 11 am – 5 pm; Friday, 11 am – 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10 am – 7 pm; Closed Wednesday. For further information about Japanese art exhibition at LACMA, call (323) 857-6565