Art: Masterpieces of Japanese Art at the Cincinnati Art Museum

Masterpieces of Japanese Art includes paintings, screens, prints, ceramics, lacquer and metal wares, ivory carvings, arms and armor, cloisonné, dolls, masks, costumes and textiles.

click to enlarge “Presentation of a Prince,” a six-fold screen by Chiyo Mitsuhisa
“Presentation of a Prince,” a six-fold screen by Chiyo Mitsuhisa

When an art museum has a collection of more than 65,000 objects, it isn’t surprising that many of them wind up hidden in storage. Sometimes complete collections are stowed there, rarely if ever seen or studied.

That was the case with Cincinnati Art Museum’s Japanese art when Asian Art Curator Hou-mei Sung arrived in 2002. Sung, who has a doctorate in museum studies and Asian art history from Case Western Reserve, discovered that her holdings included roughly 3,000 objects from Japan. 

“I didn’t even know we had a Japanese art collection because most of it had never been published or displayed or organized, and some were not even accessioned,” she says. “Part of the reason is we didn’t have a Japanese gallery, so we sometimes just put one or two things out at the end of the Asian galleries. So I started to research.”

The culmination of that long, meticulous effort will be seen in Masterpieces of Japanese Art (culled from the museum’s collection), accompanied by a catalog showing the 100 objects in the show and telling the stories behind their histories. Those objects include paintings, screens, prints, ceramics, lacquer and metal wares, ivory carvings, arms and armor, cloisonné, dolls, masks, costumes and textiles.

Through Aug. 30. Free. Cincinnati Art Museum, Mount Adams, cincinnatiartmuseum.org.

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