Kanban | Mingei International Museum
Image: Shitta kanban for blade shop (front view), late 19th century, Japan, wood, paper, pigment, metal fittings. Mingei International Museum Purchase, 2009-48-001

On View

Apr 15 - Oct 8, 2017

Curated By

Alan Scott Pate

A tantalizing look at this distinctive fusion of art, design and commerce with nearly 60 two- and three-dimensional Japanese shop signs in a variety of lively forms and mediums.

Created from wood, bamboo, iron, paper, fabric, lacquer, and even stone, kanban form a rich, visual vocabulary of traditional advertising. Elongated panels of lacquered wood ornamented with elegantly inscribed calligraphy; whimsically carved three dimensional scenes of carp climbing waterfalls or munificent deities presiding over hoards of bounty; oversized, functional Buddhist prayer beads; stencil dyed segments of colored cloth fluttering in front of an open doorway, geta clogs; sword scabbards; iron furniture fittings; combs; parasols; writing brushes; images of seductive courtesans with painted faces and coiffed hair; and giant silk thread skeins are all signs and images that would have been a familiar sight on traditional Japanese commercial streets. This exhibition provides a rare opportunity to enter this world and to figuratively walk and shop the streets of traditional Japan.

KANBAN is accompanied by a beautiful and comprehensive 176-page hardbound publication by Guest Curator Alan Scott Pate, with 155 illustrations and over 50 kanban represented. The exhibition and catalogue offer new insights into Japan’s commercial and artistic roots, the evolution of trade, the links between commerce and entertainment, and the emergence of mass consumer culture.

Plan your Visit

The Museum and Shop Mingei are open Saturday-Wednesday from 10am-5pm and Thursday & Friday 10am-8pm.