The V&A’s Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art, originally revealed in 1986, has re-opened after a six-month refurbishment programme. The new-look space will exhibit 550 works, a mere fraction of the 40,000 pieces in the permanent collection.
The gallery retains the Stanton Williams-designed wooden building-within-a-building, a nod to traditional Japanese architecture, but the lighting and internal fabric has been updated. The redesign has taken into account the changing nature of the collection, which now includes pieces of interior and product design, fashion, electronics, photography and graphics as well as crowd-pleasing Samurai armour and kimonos, ceramics and lacquer work.
Works on display include a selection of Naoto Fukasawa-designed mobile phone; Sony’s first Walkman, launched in 1979; a Hello Kitty rice cooker; an origami inspired outfit from Issey Miyake; Noritaka Tatehana’s high-heels-on-a-plinth; Shiro Kuramata’s Cabinet de Curiosité from 1989; and BCXSY’s lovely folding screen from 2010.
The strength of the V&A’s collection of Japanese art and objects is partly down to timing. 'Japonisme', a craze for all things Japanese, was all the rage amongst the metropolitan elites of Paris and London when the museum opened in the mid-19th century. But, as the gallery makes clear, even as our fascination has waxed and waned, the Japanese capacity for extraordinary craftsmanship, technical innovation and radical design has been a constant.