The tools of Japanese lacquer makers are implements of prolonged use and objects of remarkable beauty. These humble, functional boards, bowls, buckets, shelves, and drawers were used to produce lacquer and in that process they became aesthetic objects. In their myriad colorful drips and accumulated layers of viscous texture, they record the countless lacquer objects created from them. Lacquer makers, aware of how intimately their tools reveal the physical properties of lacquer and trace the craftsman’s work habits, sometimes augmented those random results with deftly placed drips that transform those tools into a kind of artistic object. When their years of use were over, the objects might be polished to reveal buried layers of color. Such “interventions” stem from the craftsman’s creative curiosity and, in some cases, his desire to find buyers so that the tool may begin a second life as something to be collected. As process and product, device and object of desire, these hybrid articles tell us much about Japanese lacquer making and the relationship of craftsmen to their tools.


On View: Oct 29, 2016 - Apr 30, 2017


More Exhibitions


Arline Fisch

One of a Kind

Featuring jewelry, body ornaments and a collection of knitted and crocheted wire hanging flowers and sea creatures by internationally-renowned artist, Arline Fisch.

June 17, 2017 - January 7, 2018


Indonesian Shadow Puppets

An intimate exhibition in the Museum’s Theater Gallery featuring a selection of shadow puppets from Indonesia.

July 19, 2017 - March 18, 2018


Art of the Americas

Pre-Columbian Art from Mingei's Collection

Part of the Getty Center-led initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, this exhibition offers the most comprehensive presentation to date of the Museum’s significant holdings of objects used by people from the ancient cultures of Mexico, Central and South America.

September 16, 2017 - February 18, 2018



Recycled and Embroidered Textiles of Bengal

Featuring approximately 40 kantha (decorative stitched quilting made from recycled sari) from the Museum's permanent collection.

October 28, 2017 - March 25, 2018


Weaving a Path

Navajo Women and the Feminine Ethos

December 9, 2017 - May 20, 2018