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Netsuke & Other Miniatures Exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia

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by Jenny Esots (subscribe)
A freelance writer and traveller who likes to explore the spiritual, literary and hidden gems of Adelaide and beyond.
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Here is your chance to hear from the experts about Japanese Netsuke
Art Gallery of South Australia, North Terrace entrance.
Art Gallery of South Australia, North Terrace entrance.

Finding out about the art form of Netsuke has been a delight. My first discovery of this ancient art form was via a book entitled 'The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal'.

The author described his family history and in the process the journey of the heritage of his family's collection of Netsuke.

Further to this exploration of the art of miniatures, the Art Gallery of South Australia now has a major display of this strange and captivating art form. The curator, Jennifer Harris is also publishing a comprehensive book on this topic.

Japanese Netsuke
detail: Japan, Okimono, Karako playing 'blindman's bluff', late 19th century, ivory with inlaid semi-precious stones and lacquer, 6.8 cm; M.J.M. Carter AO Collection 2004

2014 is also the centenary of the establishment of the Art Gallery's important collection of Japanese netsuke, inrō and other carvings. This collection, numbering around 300 works of art, has been developed through the generosity of many South Australians, including early notable art connoisseurs such as Sir Samuel Way (1836-1916) and more recently, Max Carter AO. 

What are Netsuke?
Netsuke are miniature functional toggles to secure small containers that were worn suspended from men's belts during the Edo period (1615-1867). In the late nineteenth century, netsuke carvers applied the same traditional techniques to create ornamental sculptures, known as okimono, for export to the West at a time when Japanese art was highly fashionable and much sought after. 

The Art Gallery of South Australia is indeed fortunate to have collectors and benefactors, which have enabled this fine collection to be developed.

The carvings in the display illustrate the themes of Auspicious animals, Myths and legends, Beliefs and superstitions, and Daily Life. 

A richly illustrated book 'Netsuke and Other Miniatures' from the Art Gallery of South Australia by Jennifer Harris is also available.

The book has large reproductions of the Netsuke, enabling the reader to see the rich detail in these tiny works of art.

It is also helpful to gain further background on the meanings of all the miniatures and the culture that brought them to life.

To this end several seminars will be offered at the gallery in July.
Wikimedia Commons

Here is your chance to hear from the experts about Japanese Netsuke.

When: Saturday 19 July 2-4pm 

2pm - Max Carter AO, gallery patron recounts his discovery of netsuke.
2.30pm - Jennifer Harris, Curator, Netsuke and other miniatures discusses iconography, aesthetics and wonder 

3.15pm - Catherine Truman, contemporary jeweller and object-maker speaks about her practice and the influence of netsuke

Cost: Free 

Where: Radford Auditorium

Bookings essential: Ph 8207 7035 or email or Book online 

Music & Dance 

Japanese folk dance and Shakuhachi flute performances. 

When: Saturday 19 July, Short performances between 2.30-3.30pm 
Where: Santos Atrium & Gallery 21

Cost: Free

Carve Up 
Artist and sculptor, Silvio Apponyi demonstrates netsuke carving techniques.

When: Saturday 19 July, 12pm– 3pm

Where: Gallery 21 

Cost: Free

Weekend Talk
Jennifer Harris, visiting research fellow at the University of Adelaide and contributing writer to the exhibition catalogue reflects on the influence of Menpes's Japan travels on his practice.
Cost: Free
Where: Meet at the entrance to the exhibition. 

When: Sunday 20 July, 1pm

Where: Gallery 21 

Cost: Free
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Why? Finding out about the art form of Netsuke
When: 11th of April until August 31st
Where: Art Gallery of South Australia, North Terrace, Adelaide
Cost: FREE
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