The spirit of “Mingei” in Japan: folk art design
September 30, 2008 – January 11, 2009
Temporary exhibit in the Garden Gallery
Exhibit curator: Germain VIATTE
Assistant curator: Akemi SHIRAHA
Organizer’s Notes On Exhibit’s Purpose
This exhibit is based on a specific case-that of thinker Yanagi Soetsu, promoter of the “Mingei” movement, and his son, Yanagi Sori, who was a premier post-war designer. The exhibit causes one to reflect on the relationship, established during the 20th century, between the rediscovery of certain traditional arts and international modern art through design.
This dynamic comes out of a strictly ethnographic and anthropological perception of traditional folk art. Accordingly, it can be inscribed inside of a specific historical situation: that of Japan during the first half of the 20th century (until the end of the 1950’s). It also has to do with an aesthetic, moral and formal perspective that today is echoed by the “original forms” of certain contemporary designers.
« Mingei »
The word “Mingei” is an abbreviation for “minshuteki kogeï,” which means “folk art,” or “popular art, created by the people, for the people.”
A thinker and man of action, Yanagi Soetsu campaigned his entire life for the promotion of folk art. He did this through writings, most notably in the monthly publication, “Kogeï (which means “folk art”), teaching and with exhibits. As a reflection of the spirit and traditional Mingei techniques, he constructed the “Nihon Mingeikan” in Tokyo, during 1936.
Questions that might be posed concerning the chronological coincidence of the Mingel Movement with the rise in Japanese nationalism and imperialism between the two world wars should be cleared up, from the start: starting in 1919, Yanagi Soetsu wrote about his disagreement with Japan’s policy of military aggression. Moreover, in 1924, he dedicated the creation of the Korean people’s folk art museum in Seoul (the first of its kind in Asia) to the “beauty of Korean art,” and he turned the same into a testimonial of his “deep respect and affection for Korea.”