Kimono: A modern history
The Arts of Japan Galleries have been transformed into a dazzling fashion show of kimono from the late eighteenth century to the present day. Translated literally as “thing to wear,” the kimono has gone through major transformations throughout history: in the Edo period (1615–1868) it was an everyday garment, and now it is worn mainly on special occasions and collected as “traditional Japanese art.” Its design, function, and meaning have shifted dramatically in the last one hundred and fifty years, shaped by the dialogue of Japanese traditions, modern inventions, and Western ideas. Featuring more than fifty spectacular robes, this exhibition tells a story about the Japanese garment whose designs mirror trends in pictorial and decorative arts of every era. Both sumptuous garments custom-made for wealthy patrons and everyday wear available for sale to the general public are represented. Highlights also include three examples of contemporary kimono created by designers designated by the Japanese government as Living National Treasures.
Some twenty-five robes on loan from private and public collections, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the John C. Weber Collection, Julia Meech Collection, and others complement examples from the Metropolitan’s Asian Art and Costume Institute collections; they are exhibited together with paintings, prints, and illustrated books, as well as lacquerware and ceramics, that share common design patterns with kimono. These T-shaped robes, decorated with a seemingly infinite variety of designs, not only reflect fashion trends but reveal much about Japanese culture, history, and society if we unlock the circumstances of their manufacture, sale, and ownership.
The exhibition is made possible by The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation Fund.