NHK Films Australian Lacquer Collectors

Outside support for Japanese culture is seen as a fillip to the national psyche in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.

Australian collections of Japanese lacquer and our support for the continuation of the tradition in the works of Unryuan Kitamura Tatsuo were the feature of an NHK broadcast on May 11 and will also be part of an arts program on NHK 2 on June 3. NHK is the Japanese government broadcasting commission, the equivalent of the ABC/BBC.

Accompanied by our director Lesley Kehoe, an NHK crew were in Sydney and Melbourne in April to film Unryuan’s works in Australian collections. Filming started at the AGNSW with their three works by Unryuan. An interview with curator of Japanese Art Dr Khanh Trinh and philanthropist Mrs Pauline Gandel highlighted the importance of the work and the significance of private donors to the museum collection. Ground-breaking Rinpa style new work by Unryuan will feature in the forthcoming Rinpa exhibition at the AGNSW opening on June 21.

The crew then moved to the home of Dr and Mrs Darryl Hodgkinson in Sydney who have a number of Unryuan inro in their collection. Dr Hodgkinson provided a lively commentary to the collection which also covered a number of rare historical pieces. A recent incense container featuring Unryuan’s unique shell technique from the Hodgkinson Collection is currently on loan to an exhibition at the 21st Century Museum in Kanazawa.

The collection of Mrs Pauline Gandel provided the highlight of the Melbourne filming. The artist was on hand to deliver personally a unique sample set of inro making to the Gandel Collection. Unryuan’s works are a continuation of Mrs Gandel’s commitment to the art form of Japanese lacquer and form the 21st century chapter in a collection that starts in the 14th century. A significant piece from the Gandel Collection is also on loan to the exhibition at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa.

The program went to air in Japan on May 11 and the Director reports that it had the highest viewer rating in its history with viewer responses signalling enthusiasm for Unryuan’s works and great appreciation for those supporting it outside of Japan.

Of course the Unryuan story begins at Lesley Kehoe Galleries where Unryuan has been represented internationally by the gallery for over 15 years. This representation has seen Unryuan’s works placed in significant Australian collections as well as international private and museum collections. NHK could not film all the Australian collections containing Unryuan’s works, but the Australian contribution to the support of Japanese culture is significant and well recognized in Japan.