Exhibition — 7 Sep 2019 until 2 Feb 2020

The exhibition ‘Colorful Japan’ shows 226 Japanese posters in the Gallery of Honor of the Stedelijk Museum – from floor to ceiling.

Colorful Japan is the Stedelijk Museum’s posthumous tribute to Japanese graphic designer Shigeru Watano (1937-2012) and features 226 Japanese posters on display in the Gallery of Honor. Watano, who lived in the Netherlands, was a vital link between the Stedelijk and numerous Japanese designers. Through his help, the Stedelijk was able to acquire many Japanese posters, and Japanese designers generously donated their work to the museum. In 2018, DNP Foundation for Cultural Promotion presented us with a lavish gift of 92 posters, thanks to which the Stedelijk collection of 800 Japanese posters is leading in Europe. 

The exhibition showcases a cross-section of Japan’s unique graphic design with work by designers such as amongst others Hiroshi Ochi, Kazumasa Nagai, Ikko Tanaka, Yusaku Kamekura, Mitsuo Katsui, Shigeo Fukuda, U.G. Sato, Ken Miki and Eiko Ishioka. The oldest poster dates from 1937, the most recent from 2018. One wall of the exhibition is devoted exclusively to the internationally-famed graphic designer and artist Tadanori Yokoo. In 1974, with the help of Watano, the Stedelijk was the first European institute to display his work.

Kazumasa Nagai, ‘Human Rights’ - Living Together, 1989. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Kazumasa Nagai, ‘Human Rights’ - Living Together, 1989. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Spotlighting 226 Japanese posters from our collection, Colorful Japan literally explodes with color. With posters floor-to-ceiling, the Hall of Honor walls immerses visitors in a kaleidoscopic world.

— Curator Carolien Glazenburg
Kazumasa Nagai, ‘Himeji Shirotopia Exhibition 1989’, 1988. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Kazumasa Nagai, ‘Himeji Shirotopia Exhibition 1989’, 1988. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Compared to its European cousin, Japanese poster design is a relatively recent discipline. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that posters became used for advertising.The posters vary widely in style; some flaunt vivid tones, and others are quiet, reserved and minimal. Japanese designers explore a very different visual language to that found in Europe. Japanese visual culture is less direct and morenuanced, very often poetic. Meaning that, to our eyes, the image doesn’t always seem to match the subject, like a magnified character with a lyrical text for a pop concert, for instance. 

Japanese characters play an important decorative role when positioned horizontally (European style) and vertically (the traditional Japanese manner). Particularly after World War II, designers use photography to great effect as the medium becomes rapidly accessible and Japanese manufacturers like Canon and Nikon became major players.

Exhibition hand out

This exhibition comes with a hand out (DU en ENG) with more information about the posters on view.
Download (PDF)

  •  Exhibition: Colorful Japan. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 2019. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij
    Exhibition: Colorful Japan. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 2019. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij
  • Kiyoshi Awazu, ‘The 5th Exhibition of Contemporary Japanese Sculpture’, 1973. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Kiyoshi Awazu, ‘The 5th Exhibition of Contemporary Japanese Sculpture’, 1973. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Shigeo Fukuda, ‘Victory 1945’, 1976. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Shigeo Fukuda, ‘Victory 1945’, 1976. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Tadanori Yokoo, ‘Beams’, 1997. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Tadanori Yokoo, ‘Beams’, 1997. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Kazumasa Nagai, ‘Life’, 2010. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Kazumasa Nagai, ‘Life’, 2010. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Ikko Tanaka, ‘Noh Performance’, 1958. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Ikko Tanaka, ‘Noh Performance’, 1958. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Ikko Tanaka, ‘Japan’, 1986. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Ikko Tanaka, ‘Japan’, 1986. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Ryuichi Yamashiro, ‘Forest’, 1954. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Ryuichi Yamashiro, ‘Forest’, 1954. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Tadanori Yokoo and Will van Sambeek, ‘Tadanori Yokoo’, 1974. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Tadanori Yokoo and Will van Sambeek, ‘Tadanori Yokoo’, 1974. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Eiko Ishioka, ‘Parco’, 1976. Collectie/collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Eiko Ishioka, ‘Parco’, 1976. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Yusaku Kamekura, ‘Nikon SP’, 1957. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Yusaku Kamekura, ‘Nikon SP’, 1957. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Tadahito Nadamoto, ‘A story about the bomb’, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Tadahito Nadamoto, ‘A story about the bomb’, 1969. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Muneji Satomi, ‘Japan’, 1937. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Muneji Satomi, ‘Japan’, 1937. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
  • Tadanori Yokoo, ‘Amazo’, 1989. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
    Tadanori Yokoo, ‘Amazo’, 1989. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

AUTUMN 2019: 3X GRAPHIC DESIGN AT THE STEDELIJK MUSEUM

This fall, three exhibitions on graphic design can be seen at the Stedelijk. Colorful Japan is accompanied by the exhibition Wim Crouwel: Mr. Gridnik (28 September 2019-22 Mar 2020), and the presentation Best Dutch Book Designs 2018 (25 September-30 October 2019).

Credits

The exhibition Colorful Japan – 226 posters from the collection is generously supported by Teijin.