This exhibition, Kokusai the Genius, is a milestone in netsuke scholarship and appreciation: bringing together over 600 works (255 of those by Kokusai) from Japan, the United States and Europe (including the United Kingdom) in the first major retrospective of a solo netsuke artist. It tackles Kokusai’s artistic output in minute detail: celebrating his unprecedented masterpieces; illuminating signature details and influences; considering aspects which may have been produced by the workshop rather than the master’s hand and juxtaposing originals with fakes.
The exhibition also explores Kokusai’s legacy, including an extraordinary range of works by followers and admirers that demonstrate his profound influence on the art form – particularly centred on the 1860s to c.1890, during which there was a Tokyo-centric vogue for Kokusai’s style that inspired contemporaries, copyists, and later carvers.
Image: Stag antler obi-hasami netsuke of a monkey by Kokusai, 4 and 5/16th inches tall, collection of Dr. Joe Kirstin, Miami FL. Copyright, Sydney L Moss.