Press Release

Learning
from Japan

11.08.2015

Danish design learns from Japanese art 

The exhibition is on view from 8.11.2015 – fall 2018.

What do frogs, insects, and reptiles have to do with Danish craft and design? All will be revealed when Designmuseum Danmark opens its major autumn exhibition: Learning from Japan. Visitors will have an opportunity to explore the symbolic universe of Japanese art and learn how, over the years, Japan has been a significant source of inspiration for Danish crafts and design.

This year Designmuseum Danmark celebrates its 125th anniversary. From the very start, the Museum devoted its efforts to collecting Japanese art by way of inspiration for Danish art and industry. In the decades around the turn of the 20th century, the finest Japanese applied art gave a conspicuous boost to Danish arts and crafts. This fascination continued throughout the 20th century, and today the connection between Japanese and Danish design is particularly alive.

The inspiration for the exhibition
Learning from Japan will present the Museum’s impressive Japanese collection alongside Japanese-inspired Danish arts and crafts, design, architecture and graphics. The Museum’s various material groups will all be part of the exhibition, including objects that have only rarely been on display.

The curator of the exhibition, the art historian Mirjam Gelfer-Jørgensen, Ph.D., who is also the author of the book, Influences from Japan in Danish Art and Design 1870-2010, says:

“The encounter with Japanese art provided Danish art with stimuli, which were implemented practically in several areas of applied art. For Danish art, Japanism was a catalyst with a long-range and long-lasting effect. The trend was a major precondition for the modernism, which, in the course of the 20th century, turned Denmark into a design nation.”

Lizards and flowing glaze
This comprehensive exhibition will deal with topics such as natural motifs in Japanese art; processes and materials; architecture and interior design; fashion and lighting; furniture and tableware. All were engendered by the encounter with Japanese art and crafts, but are now an integral part of Danish design.

For example, visitors will get a chance to see: the Museum’s collection of beautiful 18th-century Japanese woodcuts; unique graphic works from the book and picture collections; and pottery created using special Japanese techniques. A number of Danish potters tried their hand at the Japanese flowing glaze technique, investing their works with a particularly tactile and natural, almost painterly surface. Raku ware has also become popular with Danish potters. The technique dates back to 16th-century Kyoto, where it was mainly used in crafting bowls for the tea ceremony.

Meanwhile, in the section devoted to architecture and interior decoration, visitors will see what an important role nature also played in this context. The similarity between Danish and Japanese applied art stems from both countries’ lack of domestic minerals, metals, and fuels. Also, given that Japan is covered by rich forestland, wood has been a significant source for the design of houses and furniture. In Denmark, Japanese inspiration is particularly apparent in in the country’s post-war, low-rise detached houses, constructed of domestic materials such as brick, tiles, and wood. Similarly, bourgeois interior decoration gave way to straw mats, rice-paper lamps and low seating, all of which encouraged a more informal lifestyle.

Learning from Japan
• will run for two years, culminating in 2017 with the celebration of 150 years of diplomatic cooperation between Denmark and Japan. The anniversary will be organised in association with the Japanese Embassy.

• is inspired by the book, Influences from Japan in Danish Art and Design 1870-2010, by Mirjam Gelfer-Jørgensen, Ph.D., who is also the curator of the exhibition. The book was published by Arkitektens Forlag in both Danish and English

• will include more than 400 works, some of which have only ever rarely been shown to the public, if at all. A number of these works are part of the Museum’s extensive collection of books and pictures

• will present works by a number of Danish designers and craftspersons who, over the years, have drawn inspiration from Japanese art and design. They include: Thorvald Bindesbøll, Patrick Nordstrøm, Poul Kjærholm, Bodil Manz,, Børge Mogensen, Jens Quistgaard, Hans Sandgren Jakobsen, Boris Berlin, Knud Holscher, Snorre Stephensen, Gertrud Vasegaard, Lis Ahlmann, Hans J. Wegner, Gunnar Biilmann Petersen and many more