Give yourself a moment of Zen by taking a stroll through the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Japanese Gallery which showcases oriental treasures from the museum’s permanent collection. During a walkthrough of the space my family found the place to have a sense of peacefulness that radiated from the objects on display. The artwork has a commonality of sharing the complementary qualities of stillness and movement which are inherent in many Japanese works. Walking through the gallery the sight of magnificent folding screens and solemn statues provide the ambience of being inside a tokonoma, an alcove in Japanese homes and teahouses where treasured items are displayed.
The centerpiece of the gallery is an interactive table where a digital host guides you through a traditional Japanese tea ceremony experience. Participants wield a real teal bowl which is incorporated into the animated presentation projected upon the table. This was a real hit with all the kids who came upon it.
A Noh performance mask and robe are also on exhibit. This is a traditional Japanese theatrical act which combines dance and song which developed from Shinto religious rites and has been consistently been performed within the culture since the 14th century. The DIA partnered with Kanze Kyukokai Theater in Tokyo to produce a short film on display at the gallery that features a Noh performance which features a mask similar to the one on display at the museum. I’d encourage you to take a moment to view this interesting video which highlights a theatrical performance vastly different than anything you’ll see in a Broadway show.
The DIA’s Japanese Gallery also has some intricate folding screens and paper artwork on display that are remarkable to look at. Cultural artifacts within the exhibit also give you a look into the history and artistic stylings of Japan. Two of my favorite pieces being shown were an authentic 17th century Samurai warrior helmet and a statue from an ancient Buddhist temple. The detail put into these items is amazing for being made in a time that lacked the tools and technology that we have today.
Not everything shown within the gallery is an antique though. For example, we saw a ceramic sculpture that fascinated my kids by the way it looked like a fantasy monster or sci-fi alien. It is actually a contemporary piece of art created by Tomoko Konno. The artist used a decorative process established in Japan called Nerikomi that involves stacking colored clays and then slicing through them to create a three-dimensional cross section pattern to create her “Creature” (2015).
Objects in the exhibit will consistently be switched in and out every four to six months to allow the variety of Japanese artwork and artifacts with the museum’s collection to be showcased. So repeat visitors will be able to regularly discover new things being displayed. That is a nice thing about the DIA, the museum frequently rotates artwork and galleries so that there are always different things on display that you might not have seen there before during a prior visit.
Plus, they’ve been doing a great job of incorporating technology within the museum using augmented reality, interactive digital displays and video projections to enhance your experience there. My kids really appreciated these special touches that make educational aspects of a visit to the museum entertaining. Learning while having fun is always the best way to capture someone’s attention after all.
If you are in the area think about a visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts. Located in the city’s Midtown neighborhood, the DIA is home to more than 60,000 pieces of art and historical relics including the first Van Gogh painting to become part of a U.S. museum’s collection (Self-Portrait, 1887), the first over-life-size enlargement of Rodin’s “The Thinker” sculpture (1904), and Diego Rivera’s world-renowned “Detroit Industry” murals (1932-33). It also hosts special galleries and traveling exhibits all the time.
This excellent facility has garnered a reputation as being one of the United States’ premier art museums. If you are in town and don’t stop by you are really missing out. For more information about the Detroit Institute of Arts, travel over to dia.org.