Creating National Art, Constructing National Art Museums in Modern Japan

Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 5:30 p.m.
Recital Hall

Case Western Reserve University presents its 25th Annual Harvey Buchanan Lecture in Art History and the Humanities with Professor Alice Y. Tseng, Boston University. Japan’s systematic approach to designating, protecting, researching, and disseminating its national art has been in place since the end of the nineteenth century. The creation of a category of works representative of Japanese history and culture was a deliberate and contingent process that directly responded to the political, religious, and economic demands of the time, no less than the artistic. The construction of a network of museums to house and showcase the collection similarly engaged broader discussions of national identity and values at a time when Japan was actively shaping its international profile as a modern nation-state with a defined cultural legacy. Tseng examines the evolving collecting policy, exhibition strategy, and architectural expression at the national museums from the foundational period in the 1870s to the present. Serving as barometers of Japan’s history of changing relationship with the rest of Asia and with Euro-America, the museums’ art and architecture have harkened to a combination of regional, national, and international developments in cultural management and exhibitionism. Defining Japan by its art, therefore, has implicated practices, perceptions, and even properties beyond its national borders.


25th Annual Harvey Buchanan Lecture, Sponsored by the Department of Art History, Case Western Reserve University