Five Centuries of Japanese Screens at the Asian

SF Civic Center blog, 14 October 2010

The Shanghai show is finally out of the house at the Asian Art Museum, and has been replaced by a touring exhibit of five centuries worth of Japanese screens.

The show originated in a sharing of treasures by the St. Louis Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, where Jay Xu (above), the new director of San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum, worked from 2003 to 2008.

“This is the first exhibit I planned myself for the Asian, from day one,” he told the press on Wednesday morning, and let’s hope it is only the start of more exchanges with the great museum collections of the Midwest.

The inked, painted, and goldleafed screens made of paper and silk were created for Buddhist monasteries, temples, wealthy homes, and royal palaces, and the exhibit has a large selection of minimalist 17th century screens that look bizarrely modern.

Even the 1990 Red Rash (above) by Sasayama Tadayasu, made out of stoneware and metallic glazes, didn’t look at all out of place.

Best of all, the museum is presenting this exhibit without walls of glass to protect the screens from the patrons, which is unusual and makes all the difference in the world.

The exhibit is opening Friday morning, and will be in town for the next three months.

Much of the fun is reading the stories associated with the screens, such as the 1820 Fans and Stream (above, detail) by Sakai Hôitsu. The following is from the Saint Louis Art Museum website:

“Scattering fans is associated with the art and culture of the ancient capital Kyoto and a particular outing of aristocrats and ladies along the scenic mountains of Arashiyama. As the procession crossed the Sugagawa River near Tenryuji Temple, the fan of a young courtier was caught by a sudden gust of wind and drifted down into the waters below. Delighted and inspired by the beautiful and poignant image, others threw their fans over the bridge to watch them float on the breeze into the flowing stream.”



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