While the Japanese Art Society of America now addresses all aspects of Japanese art and culture, it traces its origins to a small group of ukiyo-e print collectors in and around New York City in 1973, at a time when Parke-Bernet Galleries (later to merge with Sotheby’s) had begun to develop a market for Japanese art. The first major auction was the 1969 sale of the Blanche McFetridge estate, consisting of ukiyo-e prints once owned by Frank Lloyd Wright, followed by the 1972 sale of the estate of Hans Popper (1904–1971), a Viennese businessman who spent time working in Japan. His collection included masterpieces by Harunobu, Utamaro, Sharaku and Hokusai, and the sale attracted many of the great collectors and dealers of the era, including Richard Pillsbury Gale (1900–1973) in Minnesota, Felix Tikotin (1893–1986), a dealer living in Switzerland, and Nishi Saiju (1927–1995), the first Japanese dealer to attend a sale in the United States.
Programs for members and the public remain the focus of the Society. The 2013–2014 programs for members included a variety of events, such as a tea ceremony in the Japanese teahouse at Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills near Tarrytown, New York; several guided tours of “The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection” led by John Carpenter, Curator of Japanese Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; a viewing of masterpieces of Japanese prints and printed books at the New York Public Library led by Roger Keyes; a visit to a New York private collection of paintings, Oni Zazen, led by John Carpenter; an excursion to the Brooklyn Museum of Art for a special viewing of prints and a discussion by Sebastian Izzard; and a tour of selections from the Price Collection led by Joe and Etsuko Price on exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Many lectures were open to the public. Dr. Max Moerman revealed the little-known Buddhist history of the Ise Shrines; Jan van Alphen, Chief Curator at the Rubin Museum of Art, New York, explored the work of the Japanese priest-sculptor Enku; John Resig demonstrated his newly created Ukiyo-e.org search engine. Last but not least, JASA sponsored a symposium celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Society, “JASA at the Forefront,” a day of presentations by six outstanding scholars addressing aspects of their current research in Japanese art and culture.
The programs and publications of the Society were extraordinarily valuable in the 1970s, when ukiyo-e studies and, for that matter, Edo period art history had scarcely entered the academic mainstream either in the United States or Japan. The Society communicates with an increasing national and international audience through its newsletter and its annual journal Impressions, recipient of the 2009 Donald Keene Prize for the Promotion of Japanese Culture, awarded by the Donald Keene Center, Columbia University. Both publications are free to members.
The Society also sponsors important exhibitions, such as Designed for Pleasure: The World of Edo Japan in Prints and Paintings, 1680–1860, shown at Asia Society in New York City, Spring 2008. Order a copy of the Designed for Pleasure exhibition catalog here.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Wilson Grabill President
Emily Sano Vice President
Cynthia Bronson AltmanSecretary
Joan D. Baekeland
John Resig Erik Thomsen
Julia Meech Editor in Chief,
Susan L. Peters Editor, JASA Newsletter
Christy Laidlaw Membership Coordinator