Tokyo from Utsurundesu series by Ninagawa Mika

Philanthropy Report 2020/21

Celebrating Japanese art and culture at the Ashmolean Museum


Thanks to numerous donations, Ashmolean visitors are discovering artforms dating from Japan’s Edo period through to the present day.

A major exhibition looking at Tokyo through a variety of artforms, from its beginnings over 400 years ago to the current-day 21st-century metropolis, opened at the Ashmolean at the end of July. Incorporating iconic works from artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige, as well as recent photography by Moriyama Daido and Ninagawa Mika, TOKYO: Art and Photography details the city’s history of destruction and renewal over four centuries. The exhibition begins with an immersive installation by Ninagawa Mika, created especially for the museum.

Dr Xa Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean Museum, says: ‘With its tumultuous history and extraordinarily rich and diverse artistic output, Tokyo is one of the most exciting cultural hotspots on the globe. In showcasing this exceptional range of artworks from the 17th century right up to pieces made in 2021, and precious works on loan from Japan, the exhibition is providing a thrilling and unusual insight into one of the most interesting cities in the world.’

The exhibition was made possible thanks to numerous donations, most notably a lead donation from Mr Hiroaki and Mrs Atsuko Shikanai and the Shikanai Foundation. Mr and Mrs Shikanai are also supporting the endowment of the Japanese Collection and the Shikanai Galleries. This includes the ongoing care and management of the collections, ensuring they are shared with the widest possible audience through a strong public programme.

Doll Festival © Shinohara Ushio
  Doll Festival © Shinohara Ushio

The Shikanai Galleries cover the arts of Japan in the Edo period (1603–1867) and the Meiji era (1868–1912) when the country was opened up to the West after 250 years of self-imposed isolation. The first gallery features key artistic developments in the period including porcelain production, painting and woodblock printing, with a suit of Samurai armour enjoying pride of place. The later gallery houses two aspects of traditional Japanese culture: Buddhism and the tea ceremony. A tea house, constructed by master carpenter Amakasu Eiichiro, is built into one end of the gallery and regular demonstrations of the tea ceremony are held there.


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