Arts of Japan at MIA

By Lavender March 13, 2008

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Arts of Japan: The John C. Weber Collection, at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) through May 25, offers 95 extraordinary objects from the 12th to the 20th Centuries. The objects are stunning not only in their own right, but also in the exceptional condition of each piece—paintings, textiles, sculptures, ceramics, hanging scrolls. It is as though one were viewing them in their own time and setting. It becomes clear, even to the uninitiated, that this collection represents an intensely personal passion.

Detail: Courtesan in Her Boudoir; Utagawa Toyokuni (1789-1825). Tokugawa period, c. 1818-25; hanging scroll, ink and color on silk.Weber bought his first piece of Japanese art in 1966, and hasn’t looked back. Indeed, he has noted in his catalogue introduction, “The passion for collecting is just part of my psychological being. Some people drink. Some gamble. I collect.” Starting with baseball cards as a boy, he went on to Rembrandt etchings as a young man, then Chinese art. Later on, he explains, “The Japanese art historian Julia Meech came into my life, and redirected my neurosis to Japanese art.”

With the keen eye Weber developed as a teacher of anatomy and medical imaging at Cornell University, joined to the equally keen eye and formidable knowledge of Japanese art of “my best friend and sensei Julia Meech,” they spotted and procured the objects currently on view at the MIA. The exhibition not only fills (for the first time) the entire Target Gallery, but also will morph, swapping out more than 40 items for new treasures on April 8 (making two visits a must).

It is obvious that the two heeded the advice given to them by Tokyo National Museum’s Nishioka Yasuhiro: “Don’t buy anything that you could walk by without stopping.”

For more information and ticket reservation, visit www.artsmia.org, or call (612) 870-6323.

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