“The bamboo lays a solid foundation for its own growth, just as a person cultivates his own moral integrity. It stands straight on the earth, just as a person keeps his uprightness in character. It’s hollow inside, just as a person stays modest to learn from others. Its bamboo joints are there, just as a person never surrenders.” This is how the great poet Bai Juyi of the Tang dynasty praised the bamboo. The bamboo has always been a symbol of honesty and integrity in China since ancient times. This notion has been spread overseas together with the Chinese culture. The bamboo is also deeply involved with the ceremony of tea, flower and incense in Japanese culture. Its vigorous vitality and strong ability to reproduce are regarded as the representation of the Japanese tenacity and perseverance.
It is the bamboo making art which enjoys a long history that combines the spirit and form of bamboo perfectly. Around the Muromachi era (1333 – 1573), equivalent to the Ming dynasty, China’s bamboo making art and sencha ceremony were both spread to Japan. In places such as Osaka and Eastern Japan, where the Chinese culture enjoyed great popularity, bamboo wares came into being on the basis of literati’s aesthetics. At first, they merely made duplications of Tang bamboo baskets, but later they managed to produce Japanese baskets with contour, color, posture and texture in a harmonious combination. In this way, the bamboo basket was upgraded from practical handicraft to popular works of art, and has now become important form of art in Japan.
Masters of Bamboo: Japanese Baskets from the Cotsen Collection is an exhibition that draws on the richness and breadth of the Lloyd Cotsen Japanese Bamboo Basket Collection, comprised of approximately 900 objects that officially became part of the Asian Art Museum’s collections in 2006. It’s the largest public collection of Japanese
bamboo art in the world. Mr. Lloyd Cotsen has began to collect Japanese bamboo baskets since 1950s, most of which were made by masters of bamboo in Japan. It also reveals his unique insight in the art.
Masters of Bamboo includes 69 bamboo baskets from the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Technical mastery and exquisiteness subsided in the collections as time goes by, and the spirit and craft of bamboo are closely integrated. Both the masters of bamboo and the bamboo of masters are reflections of spirit, regardless of east or west.
Director of Suzhou Museum
旧金山亚洲艺术博物馆 馆长 许杰
I am very proud and pleased that the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco can share this exhibition of Japanese bamboo art from the Lloyd Cotsen Collection. The works shown are selected from among approximately 900 baskets Mr. Cotsen donated to the museum in 2006. Mr. Cotsen’s passion for bamboo art led him to assemble a world-class collection, which ranges from anonymous historical pieces to signed works by the most important bamboo artists active since the late nineteenth century. This exhibition showcases sixty-nine superb works from three distinct regional lineages based in Western Japan, Eastern Japan, and Kyushu. Tracing the connections between these lineages, the exhibition reveals the critical role of Japan’s apprenticeship system in transmitting specialized techniques for sourcing, preparing, and plaiting bamboo. The selection also demonstrates the artistry and diversity of Japanese bamboo works, from traditional flower baskets (hanakago) to highly sculptural creations by contemporary masters. We are delighted that Suzhou Museum is featuring this exhibition, in which our museum’s bamboo treasures are being shown for the first time in China.
FOREWORD, by Jay Xu, director, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
四代 早川 尚古斋 「金明竹耳付花籃」
上田 尚云斋 「凤尾竹 船形盛花篮」
饭塚 琅玕斋 「花篮 御座船」
初代 饭塚 凤斋 桂川笼花入