2024/03/04 Closing / Portland Japanese Garden presents “Masterpieces in Miniature: The Art of Netsuke Sculptures” Dec. 16, 2023 to March 4, 2024

PORTLAND, Ore. —Dec. 6, 2023— Portland Japanese Garden is delighted to present its final new art exhibition of 2023, Masterpieces in Miniature: The Art of Netsuke Sculptures.

Once immensely popular across Japan, netsuke (pronounced nets-keh) were miniature sculptures that also served a purpose as personal fashion accessories, helping overcome the lack of pockets in traditional men’s clothing by helping hang small items from a kimono sash.

What started as simple accessories evolved into beautiful and complicated sculptures created in a variety of exquisite materials over a span of more than two hundred years during Japan’s Edo period (1603-1868).

Masterpieces in Miniature draws on Portland Japanese Garden’s collection of netsuke that were first gifted to the Garden by Marian Plumb Miller and then expanded through a further gift from The Netsuke Collection of James R. Coonan, Denise C. Bates and Lurline C. Menzies.

Guest curator Peter Doebler, the Kettering Curator of Asian Art at Dayton Art Institute, has crafted an exhibition featuring both never-before-seen netsuke as well as pieces not displayed at Portland Japanese Garden since 2010. Masterpieces in Miniature explores new stories and subjects to deepen our appreciation for these little wonders.

“Whenever I encounter netsuke, I end up with a smile on my face,” Doebler notes. “It is easy to overlook netsuke since they are so small, and having an exhibition dedicated to the subject encourages guests to really pay attention…Gazing closely at a netsuke, I often sense the artist grasped the essence of the subject and distilled that into a piece of wood or ivory smaller than a golf ball, creating a unique object that has a life of its own.”

Masterpieces in Miniature: The Art of Netsuke Sculptures will be on display in the Pavilion Gallery from December 16 through March 4, 2024.

Portland Japanese Garden receives support from the Oregon Arts Commission, a state agency funded by the State of Oregon and the National Endowment for the Arts.