In 1983, the Smithsonian exhibited more than 300 ceramics by 100 living Japanese artists.

Here at the Smithsonian: Modern Japanese Art

Watch a recently-digitized video clip featuring Japanese Ceramics Today, an exhibition at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in 1983.

Before the age of YouTube and Instagram, public audiences learned about the happenings at the Smithsonian in newspapers, on the radio, and via public television programming. Between 1982 and 1989, TV viewers could catch up with the Smithsonian’s latest exhibitions and research activities through short video features in a series called Here At The Smithsonian.

In this particular feature, narrator Ann Carroll leads visitors through Japanese Ceramics Today, a 1983 exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The show included more than 300 works—teapots, vases, bowls, vessels, and flasks—by living ceramists from the private collection of Japanese art patron Madame Tomo Kikuchi

This magnificent exhibit shows once again the preeminence of the Japanese genius in ceramics,” Washington Post editor and architecture critic Sarah Booth Conroy concluded in 1983. In another articlePost reporter Hank Burchard also praised the collection and wrote that the ceramics ranged from “arresting to breathtaking” and that Smithsonian exhibit designer Richard Molinaroni “dealt masterfully with an awkward space, particularly in his recreation of Kikuchi’s teahouse.”

One particular work of interest highlighted in the clip was Kikuchi’s 230-piece “Phantom Dinner Set,” a hand-painted collection of dishes by ceramist Fujimoto Yoshimichi. The set was commissioned for a 1976 dinner for the Emperor and Empress of Japan and only ever used once.  

Programming in conjunction with the exhibit included a tea ceremony, lecture by Tokyo National Museum curator Seizo Hayashiya, and weekend screenings of films about Japanese ceramics. 

Tune in on the last Tuesday of each month to explore more video features from Here at the Smithsonian. Head to our YouTube playlist for even more recently-uploaded clips from the series. 

Related Collections

  • Office of Telecommunications Productions, 1982-1989, Accession 00-132, Smithsonian Institution Archives 

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