Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art Celebrates Its Centennial With an Exhibition at Kyoto’s Oldest Zen Temple

Project Is a Partnership With Canon Inc. and Kyoto Culture Association
August 17, 2023
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Ikeda Koson, Edo period, Japan, six-panel screens

One of a pair of six-panel screens: Maple leaves on a stream (front); mountain views (reverse), Ikeda Koson, Edo period, 1856-1858, Japan, Screens (six-panel), Ink and color on gilded paper; ink on paper, H x W (image, each screen): 66.3 × 343.2 cm (65 1/2 × 135 1/8 in) Credit: Ikeda Koson/Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: Purchase—Harold P. Stern Memorial Fund and funds provided by the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries in appreciation of James W. Lintott and his exemplary service to the galleries as chair of the Board of Trustees (2011-2015), F2014.7.1-2

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art has announced a partnership with Canon Inc. and the Kyoto Culture Association (KCA) to present the exhibition “Masterpieces from Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art: Special Exhibition Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of America’s First National Museum of Art.” Eighteen high-resolution facsimiles of Japanese artworks will be on view within Kyoto, Japan’s oldest Zen temple, Kenninji, Oct. 13 to Nov. 3.

This setting allows the works to be seen in natural light, something impossible to achieve with the original paintings. This installation will create an experience unlike any museum exhibition and allows the National Museum of Asian Art to share its collection with visitors from across Japan and around the world. The innovative presentation and partnership also help to celebrate the museum’s centennial.

Because of legal restrictions that date from the founding gift of Charles Lang Freer, pieces in the Freer Collection cannot be lent. Seeking to find creative ways to share its Japanese collection with the people of its country of origin, the National Museum of Asian Art initiated this partnership over a decade ago. Kenninji has thousands of visitors each day, and the exhibition will take place in the most prominent space in the temple, ensuring the reproductions reach a broad audience.

“We are grateful to Canon and the Kyoto Culture Association for making this unique exhibition possible,” said Chase F. Robinson, the museum’s director. “This celebration during our centennial is a meaningful way to honor the National Museum of Asian Art’s longstanding relationships in Japan. As the museum enters its second century, we are focusing on making our work accessible to even more people to promote understanding of Asian arts and cultures. This exhibition at Kenninji demonstrates how shared stewardship of objects is one way to make that possible.”

Canon and KCA created these facsimiles of the most important Japanese paintings in the museum’s collection using a combination of advanced printing technology and traditional craft, such as hand-applied gold leaf and traditional fabric mountings. The National Museum of Asian Art has partnered with Canon and KCA for several years as part of its shared stewardship efforts, making available replicas of Japanese hanging scrolls and screens to audiences in Japan. The most recent project was the creation of high-resolution facsimiles, “Maple leaves on a stream (front) and mountain views (reverse),” “Screen with Scattered Fans” and “Landscapes, flowers, and trees of the four seasons,” three of the most important art works in the museum’s collection. A previous project was a large exhibition of 13 works by Hokusai at the Sumida Hokusai Museum in 2019. The facsimiles are created by ink-jet printing high-resolution photographs of the originals and mounting them using traditional artisans and materials.

“It is a great pleasure for us, Canon and KCA, to present these works in this commemorative exhibition,” said Noriko Gunji, executive officer, Group Executive of Sustainability Headquarters, Canon Inc. “We hope this exhibition will be an opportunity for visitors to learn more about the superb Japanese art collection of the National Museum of Asian Art.”

Since the 1923 founding of the National Museum of Asian Art, its collection of Japanese art has grown to a total of 15,000 pieces that showcase Japan’s deep cultural history for American and international audiences.

“This is a rare opportunity to show works from our collections in a traditional environment, without glass and without electric light,” said Frank Feltens, the National Museum of Asian Art’s curator of Japanese art. “Thanks to Canon and the Kyoto Culture Association, we are able to offer visitors in Kyoto a unique experience during our centennial year.”

Two of the original works that will be featured at Kenninji, “Screen with Scattered Fans” and “Cranes,” are currently on view at the National Museum of Asian Art through February 2024.


“Masterpieces from Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art: Special Exhibition Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of America’s First National Museum of Art” is presented by Canon Inc. and KCA.

About the National Museum of Asian Art
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art is committed to preserving, exhibiting, researching and interpreting art in ways that deepen our collective understanding of Asia and the world. Home to more than 46,000 objects, the museum stewards one of North America’s largest and most comprehensive collections of Asian art, with works dating from antiquity to the present from China, Japan, Korea, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Islamic world. Its rich holdings bring the arts of Asia into direct dialogue with an important collection of 19th- and early 20th-century American works, providing an essential platform for creative collaboration and cultural exchange between the United States, Asia and the Middle East.

Beginning with a 1906 gift that paved the way for the museum’s opening in 1923, the National Museum of Asian Art is a leading resource for visitors, students and scholars in the United States and internationally. Its galleries, laboratories, archives and library are located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and are part of the world’s largest museum complex, which typically reports more than 27 million visits each year. The museum is free and open to the public 364 days a year (closed Dec. 25), making its exhibitions, programs, learning opportunities and digital initiatives accessible to global audiences.

For more information, visit the museum’s website and follow updates on Instagram at @natasianart, Twitter at @NatAsianArt and Facebook at @NatAsianArt.

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