Decorative Arts and Design
On View: Decorative Art, 20th-Century Decorative Arts, 4th Floor
Across the world, modernisms evolved in distinctive ways, shaped by the social, cultural, and historical conditions of their time and place. In early twentieth-century Japan, for example, concerns about the country’s ongoing industrialization and modernization prompted a reappraisal of simple handicrafts like the bowl and lacquered bento box seen here. Led by the philosopher Soetsu Yanagi, the Mingei (or folk craft) movement shared affinities with the nineteenth-century British Arts and Crafts movement. Mingei, which continues today, was highly influential in its advocacy of humble, anonymously crafted objects made for everyday use.
Concurrently, designers such as Ubunji Kidokoro were adapting new ideas and forms using traditional materials and techniques. In 1937, as part of the Mitsukoshi department store’s efforts to promote “modern” furnishings for the home—at a time when sitting in Japanese domestic interiors was mostly done on tatami (woven rush) mats—Kidokoro presented a cantilevered bamboo chair. It was possibly modeled on the Finnish designer Alvar Aalto’s Model 31 Chair (seen nearby). Later, Sori Yanagi, the son of Soetsu Yanagi, combined industrial production with Mingei aesthetic principles in designs like the Butterfly Stool, now one of the most recognizable examples of mid-twentieth-century Japanese design.
Rosewood veneer on plywood, brass, metal
15 x 16 7/8 x 12 1/8 in. (38.1 x 42.9 x 30.8 cm) (show scale)
Alfred T. and Caroline S. Zoebisch Fund
Yanagi Sori (Japanese, 1915 - 2011). Butterfly Stool, 1954 (designed). Rosewood veneer on plywood, brass, metal, 15 x 16 7/8 x 12 1/8 in. (38.1 x 42.9 x 30.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Alfred T. and Caroline S. Zoebisch Fund, 1997.67.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CUR.1997.67.1.jpg)
. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2010
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