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‘Le Soir’ – Institutional Knowledge Assessment

March 2, 2017

For this piece of writing I chose to analyse ‘Le Soir,’ a lacquered wood jewellery box crafted by Kagari Miyoshi in 1994. It currently resides within the modern and contemporary portion of the Toshiba gallery of Japanese art in the V&A.

The box is made of wood and covered in black lacquer with decoration in gold lacquer and foil-backed mother-of-pearl. The description gives a very brief timeline of when Miyoshi learned the techniques of lacquer-making (1970s) and then goes on to make a general statement of what she has gone on to do (‘develop an extraordinary range of colours by combining mother-of-pearl with different shades of metal backing.’) The description ends with what the design is based on (a night view of Tokyo seen from the top of a skyscraper.)
At first read, this description seemed acceptable to me. Only after spending a longer amount of time with the piece did I begin to question what information this truly gave me. I wanted to learn more about the craftsperson, particularly more history on her practice and origin of materials. I re-read the description a number of times and what had been presented just seemed vague and somewhat unengaged on the curators part. I began to feel as though this piece was put here just to fill up space in the modern and contemporary portion of the gallery and that not a lot of thought had been put into presentation.

I began to examine the objects either side of the jewellery box, these two objects had been placed slightly in front and were significantly bigger than the box, both were also objects that stored other objects- a box and a bowl. The placement of the jewellery box and the juxtaposition of sizes added to the notion that the box had been more of a last minute decision than properly planned out and justified as part of the exhibition. I had personally been drawn to the box because I particularly enjoy smaller, crafted objects but I feel that the box could very easily be missed by someone not as engaged with this kind of design.

As I began to make more conclusions on the justification of the object I turned my attention to the wider space that was being presented in. I noticed the decoration of the gallery, similar to the presentation of my chosen object, also seemed somewhat half hearted. Having recently undergone an extensive refurbishment I was unimpressed with what had been achieved. The wooden slat designs connecting the tops of some of the display cases and breaking up the exhibition seemed slap dash and too typically designed by someone with a general impression of Japan as a country. I discussed this with a Japanese friend of mine and he agreed with this notion. I feel that in its attempts to exhibit a huge amount of objects within the V&A they have neglected the more in depth object justifications for a vaguer, more spread out representation of modern and contemporary Japanese craft and I suspect this also applies to other collections within the museum. This is something I would not have concluded had I not examined this collection and object at length.


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