2008 / LACMA / The Age of Imagination: Japanese Art, 1615 – 1868, from the Price Collection

Cultural News 2008 April Issue

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Age of Imagination: Japanese Art, 1615 – 1868, from the Price Collection

Jun. 22 – Sept. 4, 2008

LAXMA 2008 Price Collection / The Age of Imagination

Ito Jakuchu (1716–1800), Tiger (detail), Edo period, dated Horeki 5 (1755), hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, H 129.7 x W 71.0 cm, Etsuko and Joe Price Collection, © Shin’enkan 2007

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents The Age of Imagination: Japanese Art, 1615-1868, from the Price Collection, featuring more than 100 of the finest paintings from the Japanese Edo period (1615–1868), from June 22 through September 14.

Collectors Etsuko and Joe Price have had a longstanding relationship with LACMA, partially funding the museum’s Pavilion for Japanese Art, built in 1988 to house many of the screens and scrolls they promised or have had on long-term loan to the museum.

Acquired over the past five decades, the Price collection commemorates painting of the Edo period, a time when Japan had purposefully cut itself off from extensive contact with the rest of the world. During that period of national seclusion, independent and diversely creative artists flourished as never before.

At the core of The Age of Imagination: Japanese Art, 1615-1868, from the Price Collection are screens, hanging scrolls, fans and some of the finest examples of the distinctive, hauntingly preternatural renderings of animal life by Ito Jakuchu(1716-1800). Jakuchu’s prominence in recent decades has been greatly aided by the Prices’ intensive interest in his work. The exhibition, as a whole, provides an outstanding representation of the diversity that characterized painting production in the Edo period.

The collection of Etsuko and Joe Price is considered one of the finest private collections of Japanese art in the world and includes more Japanese folding screens than any other collection. The paintings were recently part of a highly acclaimed four-venue tour in Japan that attracted more than 800,000 visitors. During its time at the Tokyo National Museum in 2006, the Price collection became the most highly attended exhibition worldwide.

The tour continues with the current installation (Patterned Feathers, Piercing Eyes: Edo Masters from the Price Collection, November 10, 2007 – April 13. 2008) at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington D.C. The total attendance of visitors worldwide is expected to be more than one million.

“With an exceptionally keen eye, the Prices have amassed one of the greatest collections of Japanese Edo-period paintings in the world,” said Money Hickman, the exhibition’s guest curator. “They have been drawn to works that exhibit exceptional skill and inventiveness, including the work of one of the most imaginative artists of the time, Ito Jakuchu.”

Throughout the length of the three-month exhibition, several works will be rotated to accommodate the scale of the collection and provide protection for light-sensitive works. Edo-period paintings are not meant to be seen by means of artificial light, but rather under a soft glow reminiscent of the light that came through traditional Japanese paper “shoji” doors.

Joe Price trained as an engineer and was tutored by Frank Lloyd Wright. It was under Wright’s influence that Price began collecting Japanese paintings in the 1950s. Price purchased his first painting while on a business trip to New York with Wright. During the course of nearly half a century, Price and his wife, Etsuko, have amassed a painting collection of more than 200 magnificent works.

LACMA’s Pavilion for Japanese Art, partially funded by the Prices and designed by the late Bruce Goff, is unique in America as a separate building dedicated to the display of Japanese art within the complex of a large, encyclopedic museum. The existing Price collection housed in the Pavilion is the largest collection of Edo-period paintings and scrolls existing in the Western world. The Pavilion also houses the museum’s collection of Japanese works dating from around 3000 b.c. to the twentieth century.

Edo-period paintings were designed to be the only decoration in a room, so that no two paintings ever had to compete with each other. The building’s breathtaking shape and interior design was dictated by this principle, with each piece of art illuminated by soft lighting and given its own space.

For the exhibition, several areas will feature works shown under subtle shifts of light intensity, in conditions which move from soft light to moonlight. Such is the way the original artists intended the works to be seen.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a full-color catalog containing numerous illustrated essays and color reproductions of each of the objects included in the exhibition. There will also be a number of educational programs during the exhibition, such as films, musical performances, lectures, and tours.

LACMA is located at 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles CA, 90036. For more information, call (323) 857-6000 or visit www.lacma.org.

Closed Wednesday. Admission (except to specially ticketed exhibitions) is free the second Tuesday of every month, and every evening after 5 p.m.