Activity Reports:Arts and Cultural Exchange:"WA: The Spirit of Harmony in Contemporary Japanese Design" Exhibition in Paris

Visual Arts Div., Arts Dept
Koichi Makise

The Japan Foundation held an exhibition to introduce contemporary Japanese design entitled "WA: The Spirit of Harmony in Contemporary Japanese Design" (hereafter referred to as "WA Exhibition") at the Japan Cultural Institute in Paris from October 22, 2008 through January 31, 2009.

"Wa" (harmony) was the concept of the exhibition curated by four curators (Hiroshi Kashiwagi, prof. at Musashino Art University; Masafumi Fukagawa, curator at the Kawasaki City Museum; Shu Hagiwara, design director; and Noriko Kawakami, journalist). They found the characteristic of Japanese design in the traditional spirit of Wa or harmony, a capacity for blending opposing entities: traditional crafts and advanced technology; handicraft and industry; design activities in metropolitan area and shop-floor production in local areas; Japan and the West, etc.

ar-art0902_1.pngAt the exhibition, 160 items that represent Japan today were categorized by 12 themes (tableware, kitchen & bath, home electronics, etc.). Six keywords (kawaii (cute); craft; texture; touch; minimal; and sensitivity) were presented to assist the visitors to understand Japanese design.

The exhibition presented a wide variety of design items, from Super Cub motorcycle that celebrates 50th anniversary and commonly-used Kikkoman's soy-sauce bottle to state-of-the-art information gadgets and high-style wristwatch. Visitors were looking into display cases with keen interest, guided by handouts in their hand that were provided in place of legends.

We receive favorable feedbacks from visitors: "Fabulous!" "It was an exhibition with playful spirit and numerous discoveries." "This exhibition gave me a sense of "zen"." Some visitors commented: "It was a pity that the exhibits were not for sale." "Where can I purchase these artworks in France without visiting Japan?" The number of visitors totaled approximately 10,000.

ar-art0902_2.pngThis exhibition also received a high degree of media coverage. 166 articles were carried in total on newspapers and magazines. The headlines of major articles are as follows: "French Fascinated with Japan" (Ouest France); "Japan- Rising Sun on Design" (Design Home magazine); "To the Origin of Japanese Design" (La-Croix). French visitors seemed to be very impressed by this exhibition that systematically introduced contemporary Japanese design with its history as well as its social and cultural backgrounds.

On February 25, 2009, a talk session on this exhibition was held in Tokyo. This project will travel to Budapest, Hungary in April 2009 and then to other cities in Europe.

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