Featuring 226 Japanese posters on display in the Gallery of Honor the upcoming exhibition Colorful Japan is the Stedelijk Museum’s posthumous tribute to Japanese graphic designer Shigeru Watano (1937-2012). Watano, who lived in the Netherlands, was a vital link between the museum and numerous Japanese designers and it was thanks to his help, that the renowned Stedelijk was able to acquire many Japanese posters and expand its network to the country where cherries blossom in the most elegant way possible.

“Spotlighting 226 Japanese posters from our collection, Colorful Japan literally explodes with color. With posters floor-to-ceiling, the Gallery of Honor walls immerses visitors in a kaleidoscopic world” notes Carolien Glazenburg, curator of the exhibition which showcases a cross-section of Japan’s unique graphic design with work by designers such as amongst others Hiroshi Ochi, Kazumasa Nagai, Ikko Tanaka, Yusaku Kamekura, Mitsuo Katsui, Shigeo Fukuda, U.G. Sato, Ken Miki and Eiko Ishioka.

“The oldest poster dates from 1937, the most recent from 2018. One wall of the exhibition is devoted exclusively to the internationally-famed graphic designer and artist Tadanori Yokoo. In 1974, with the help of Watano, the Stedelijk was the first European institute to display his work” notes the museum’s press release. 

“Compared to its European cousin, Japanese poster design is a relatively recent discipline. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that posters became used for advertising. The posters vary widely in style; some flaunt vivid tones, and others are quiet, reserved and minimal. Japanese designers explore a very different visual language to that found in Europe. Japanese visual culture is less direct and more nuanced, very often poetic. Meaning that, to our eyes, the image doesn’t always seem to match the subject, like a magnified character with a lyrical text for a pop concert, for instance.”

In 2018, DNP Foundation for Cultural Promotion presented Stedelijk Museum with a lavish gift of 92 posters, thanks to which the museum’s collection of 800 Japanese posters is leading in Europe.  

This fall, three exhibitions on graphic design can be seen at the Stedelijk. Colorful Japan is accompanied by the exhibition Wim Crouwel: Mr. Gridnik (28 September 2019-22 Mar 2020), and the presentation Best Dutch Book Designs 2018 (25 September-30 October 2019).

Slider image captions: Tadanori Yokoo, Amazo, 1989, Ikko Tanaka, Noh Performance, 1958, Ryuichi Yamashiro, Forest, 1954, Muneji Satomi, Japan, 1937, Ikko Tanaka, Japan, 1986

Kazumasa Nagai, Human Rights – Living Together, 1989

Japanese designers explore a very different visual language to that found in Europe. Japanese visual culture is less direct and more nuanced, very often poetic.

Kazumasa Nagai, Himeji Shirotopia Exhibition 1989, 1988

Colorful Japan, Sep 7, 2019 through Feb 2, 2020. More info here.

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