KIMBELL ART MUSEUM HOSTS MAJOR EXHIBITION OF ANCIENT JAPANESE ARMOR

Contact: 817-332-8451
Jessica Brandrup, ext. 241, or
jbrandrup@kimbellmuseum.org
Barbara Smith, ext. 248, or
bsmith@kimbellmuseum.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 16, 2014

 

KIMBELL ART MUSEUM HOSTS MAJOR EXHIBITION OF ANCIENT JAPANESE ARMOR

 Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection

February 16–August 31, 2014


FORT WORTH, TX —Fearsome warriors clad head-to-toe in highly decorated armor, samurai of 12th- through 19th-century Japan symbolized the power, honor and valor of the country’s military elite. Led by omnipotent warlords, called shoguns, samurai have long fascinated the public. To provide insight into their military prowess and lifestyle, as well as the artistry of their elaborate armor, helmets and accoutrements of warfare, the Kimbell Art Museum will host Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection.

The exhibition showcases more than 140 works from The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection of Dallas, Texas, one of the finest private holdings of samurai armor in the world. Among the works featured will be 18 full suits of armor, including one formerly owned by the Yoshiki branch of the Mōri clan, a prominent family whose origins date to the 12th century. Special highlights of the exhibition will include three life-size horses clad in armor, illustrating the pageantry of samurai and their mounts in battle or procession, and an impressive array of beautifully detailed helmets and masks. It will be the first traveling exhibition displayed in the Kimbell’s new Renzo Piano Pavilion, and admission is free on February 16, opening day.

“This stunning display of exquisitely ornate and wonderfully forbidding armor re-creates the world of the samurai and brings the viewer face-to-face with the legendary warriors,” commented Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum. “This is the first traveling exhibition to be showcased in the Museum’s new Renzo Piano–designed galleries, and it will be perfectly complemented by the Kimbell’s own renowned collection of Asian art in the pavilion’s west gallery, located adjacent to the special-exhibition space.

To fully appreciate the world of the samurai, the exhibition will introduce visitors to their history and bushidō, the “way of the warrior.” This code of conduct incorporated martial and ethical traditions, including honesty, courage, honor and loyalty, as well as the warrior’s acceptance of death. The history of the samurai begins in 792, when Japan ended its policy of conscripting troops, which led provincial landowners to assemble their own forces for defense, giving rise to the samurai class. By 1185, warlords became the military elite, ruling in the name of the emperor. Leading them was a shogun, commander of the most powerful family or clan. Under him were daimyo, heads of other families, who were served by samurai warriors. Through the centuries, different clans vied for power. However, in 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu became shogun and established a lasting peace that extended some 250 years (Edo period, 1615–1868). During the subsequent Meiji Restoration in 1868, the emperor reasserted his authority as supreme ruler and the samurai as an official elite class was dissolved.

"What is so intriguing about Samurai armor is that it represents a perfect blend of technical virtuosity, functionality and creative artistry," said Jennifer Casler Price, curator of Asian and non-Western art at the Kimbell. "This resulted in the production of some truly fascinating and imaginative works of art, particularly the kawari kabuto (transformed helmets), which are well represented in the Barbier-Mueller collection.”

Creating samurai armor was a highly specialized art form overseen by a lead armorer, who recruited a team of blacksmiths, soft-metal (gold and copper) craftsmen, leather workers, braid makers, dyers, painters and other artisans. The armor they produced protected the wearer and incorporated motifs reflecting samurai spirituality, folklore and nature. To protect the infantry and mounted samurai, armor became increasingly complex and varied, depending on its use and the status of the wearer. It also developed into an intricately designed work of art that served as a symbol of protection, ceremony, and prestige. The exhibition will illustrate the evolution of the distinctive appearance and equipment of the samurai warrior through a detailed look at the component parts of the armor, showcasing a magnificent full suit with all of its accoutrements—several surcoats, equestrian equipment and weapons—passed down through generations for some 900 years by the powerful Mōri.

The spectacle of high-ranking samurai dressed in full regalia for battle, procession and ceremony will come to life in a display of three warriors on horseback. Of particular note is Armor of the Tatehagidō Type, shown with horse armor (bagai), a horse mask (bamen), and horse tack (bagu). Before the 17th century, samurai horses did not wear armor. Subsequently, the armoring of horses conveyed the prestige and power of their owners during ceremonies that paid tribute to high-ranking leaders or marked special occasions.

When not in use, samurai armor would be showcased for guests to see in the shoin, or special reception room of a daimyo’s home, on the 11th day of the first month of each year. In the exhibition, helmets and suits of armor will be presented not only as symbols of power and authority, but also as beautiful works of art. Among the highlights are numerous exquisitely decorated helmets, such as Flame Helmet Representing the Flaming Jewel, which are created in fanciful shapes and adorned with embellishments, including horns, shells, bamboo and Buddhist iconography.

The exhibition concludes by showcasing three magnificent suits of armor that illustrate how these outfits become increasingly decorative during the 250 years of peace that marked the end of the samurai’s dominance. Included among them is the impressive Armor of the Okegawadō Type, a suit of armor featuring three six-foot-tall gilt feathers that acted as a private battle standard, which captures the high drama of the fully outfitted samurai warrior in all of his glory.

This exhibition is organized by The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection, Dallas, Texas. It is supported by a generous gift from Lexus. Promotional support is provided by American Airlines, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and NBC 5.

Publication

The exhibition will be accompanied by the publication Art of Armor: Samurai Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection, edited by J. Gabriel Barbier-Mueller with essays by Morihiro Ogawa, John Stevenson, Sachiko Hori, Stephen Turnbull, John Anderson, Ian Bottomley, Thom Richardson, Gregory Irvine and Eric Meulien and text by Bernard Fournier-Bourdier. It presents, for the first time, the samurai armor collection of The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum in Dallas, assembled over the past 25 years and one of the largest and most important collections of its kind. The book offers a look into the world of the samurai and highlights topics such as the phenomenon of the warrior in Japan, the development of the samurai helmet, castle architecture, women in samurai culture and Japanese horse armor. The book’s final section consists of an extensive catalogue of objects, concentrating on 120 significant works in the collection. The 360-page book includes 310 color illustrations. It is available in hardcover ($65) and softcover ($45) in the Museum Shop or online at www.kimbellart.org.

Collectors Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller

Gabriel Barbier-Mueller has been fascinated by samurai armor since adolescence and acquired his first samurai piece in the early 1990s. He and his wife Ann have continued to expand their collection, admiring the sculptural quality of the objects and the compelling imagination required to create them. This has led them to create The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection in Dallas. This exhibition represents a fraction of their total collection, which comprises several hundred pieces. “It is the combination of art and armor, the boundless creativity of the objects’ forms and the aesthetics used by these fierce, cultivated warriors that drew us in,” said Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller when describing the works that they have collected over the course of two decades. For more information about The Samurai Collection, please contact Jessica Young at jyoung@samuraicollection.org

Kimbell Art Museum

The Kimbell Art Museum, owned and operated by the Kimbell Art Foundation, is internationally renowned for both its collections and for its architecture. The Kimbell’s collections range in period from antiquity to the 20th century and include European masterpieces by artists such as Fra Angelico, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Poussin, Velázquez, Monet, Picasso and Matisse; important collections of Egyptian and classical antiquities; and Asian, Mesoamerican and African art.

The Museum’s building, designed by the American architect Louis I. Kahn, is widely regarded as one of the outstanding architectural achievements of the modern era. A second building, designed by world-renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano, is now open and provides space for special exhibitions, allowing the Kahn Building to showcase the permanent collection.

 

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Images are available on request. Please contact the public relations department at 817-332-8451, ext. 248, or pr@kimbellmuseum.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more information about the exhibition and related events.

Kimbell Art Museum hours: Tuesdays–Thursdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Fridays, noon–8 p.m.; Sundays, noon–5 p.m.; closed Mondays. For general information, call 817-332-8451. Website: www.kimbellart.org. Address: 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth, TX 76107.

*Admission to view the Museum’s permanent collection is always FREE.

**Admission to this exhibition is $14 for adults; $12 for seniors age 60 and over and for students with an ID; $10 for children ages 6­–11; and FREE for children under 6 and for Museum members. Admission is half-price on Tuesdays and after 5 p.m. on Fridays.