until 1 October 2017
The Message of Things
The role of decorative art in East Asia

With a view to the East Asian aesthetics, the exhibition focuses on the different roles played by decorative objects in China and Japan: in addition to woodblock prints and ink-wash paintings, approximately 60 historical and modern objects of lacquer, ceramic, jade, metal and glass are on view. The first section, entitled "Elegance and Perfection", features works of refined costliness reflecting a penchant for shiny surfaces and monochrome colouration. This was a look that enjoyed particular popularity among the Chinese aristocracy and has undergone a revival in modern times owing to an aversion to ornament. Part two of the show is concerned with the rustic simplicity and closeness to nature that corresponded to the ethical-philosophical mindset of Chinese literary men. In Japan, on the other hand, this aesthetic reached a high degree of perfection in Zen Buddhism and the tea ceremony. The third part of the exhibition, "Abundance, Colour, Craftsmanship", highlights the joy taken in rich and ostentatious design of the kind favoured by the Chinese imperial court and wealthy merchants. Here the visitor encounters strong colours, dense decoration and opulence, demonstrations of skilled workmanship and methods of feigning certain materials and effects such as trompe-l'oeil.

Abb.: Shinsai (1764-1820), still life with laquer bowl, sakepot und pine-bonsai, surimono with poem, coloured woodcut with silver and brass, Japan, 1820 © MKG