Imagine standing in your storage room one day, surrounded by boxes of artwork. How would you go about choosing which artwork to display?
The factors often considered in selecting art in Japan include seasons, people and occasions (celebrations, literary events and other gatherings). In line with these traditions, we have chosen to rotate several pieces
in the exhibition. We also want to share a piece that we were not able to include for display, a screen depicting two tigers and a leopard
, in a web exclusive.
Seasonal art in Japan is exemplified by 17th-century folding screens depicting Waka poems over autumn grasses and morning glories with scattered fans . The screens, featured in In the Moment, include 16 fans tossed or blown into fields of plants associated with autumn. Scattered lines of calligraphy make the screens appropriate for a literary gathering.
Waka poems over autumn grasses and morning glories with scattered fans, Edo period (1615 –1868), 17th Century. Japan. One of a pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, colors, and gold on paper. Courtesy of the Larry Ellison Collection, EX 2013.2.013.2.
The massive painting of the death of the Buddha is a great example of art used for specific occasions. It is removed from its box and unrolled for display one day each year on the anniversary of the historical Buddha’s death. Otherwise, the painting remains in storage.
Parinirvana of the Buddha, Nanbokuchō (1333 –1392)–Muromachi period (1392 –1573), 14th century. Japan. Hanging scroll; ink, colors, and gold on silk. Courtesy of the Larry Ellison Collection, 2013.2.80.
Auspicious paintings like Soga Shohaku’s cranes and deer might have been used for a celebratory occasion marking an age milestone.
Cranes and deer, Edo period (1615 –1868), by Soga Shohaku (1730–1781). Japan. One of a pair of hanging scrolls; ink and light colors on silk. Courtesy of the Larry Ellison Collection, EX 2013.2.039.2.
The tastes, interests and social relationships of the collector also factor into the selection of art for display.
Subject matter is a key variable: Larry Ellison favors paintings of flowers and animals and images of legendary battles and classic romances. His choice of paintings might focus on these themes with selections attuned to the interests and tastes of his visitors.
Art displays also reflect collectors’ stylistic preferences. Among the diverse painting styles seen in Japan, Larry Ellison’s collection focuses on three major traditions