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Meaningful artworks by 12 Japanese National Living Treasures are showcased in an evocative exhibition

Flower Basket Spring Tide crafted by Japanese National Living Treasure Noburu Fujinuma©Le Van Chau Gerald

· The exhibition will present masterpieces by 12 Japanese National Living Treasures, the exceptional artisans who have been designated by Japan’s cultural ministry as “Preservers of Important Intangible Cultural Properties” will be on show

· The objects are displayed in the magnificent Palladian Refectory Vestibule on 12 blocks in the shape of stone designed by Naoto Fukasawa inspired by the traditional Japanese garden

· Selected by Naoto Fukasawa and Tokugo Uchida, the exquisite works include kimonos, an urushi lacquered harp, a bamboo flower basket, Bizen ceramics and intarsia wooden boxes among others


This September at Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice, an exhibition celebrates masterpieces by 12 Japanese National Living Treasures. 12 Stone Garden, envisioned by Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa, will display deeply meaningful objects in the 16th century Palladian Refectory Vestibule. A fitting tribute to the rich cultural heritage for fine craftsmanship safeguarded by Japan, guest of honour for Homo Faber.

The exquisite works of the 12 National Living Treasures selected by Naoto Fukasawa and well-renowned Japanese museum director Tokugo Uchida, reflect a wide variety of traditional Japanese crafts and diverse materials and techniques. Visitors will be able to get a close up view of kimonos, an urushi lacquered harp, a bamboo flower basket, Bizen ceramics and intarsia wooden boxes among others. Behind-the-scenes videos will be a window into the secret processes used to handcraft each object. In an adjacent exhibition, photographer Rinko Kawauchi will show the 12 National Living Treasures at work in their ateliers.

Naoto Fukasawa seeks to give a unique perspective on the room to surprise visitors with its scale, with the contrast between the imposing interiors of the room and the 12 blocks and by his subtle use of lighting. Fukasawa imagines a space that is on one hand dynamic and on the other hand a harmonising experience for visitors. On closer inspection, visitors will be able to observe the details of the artworks and learn about the age-old traditional processes used to create them, the skills, techniques and savoir-faire that render each object meaningful, infused with “makoto” (crafted with sincerity).

“The mind of a craftsman has to take some responsibility to make sure the history or traditional skill is continued for the future, not just focusing on creating the objects.” – Naoto Fukasawa

The 12 National Living Treasures whose objects are on display:


Imaemon Imaizumi XIV, master of the traditional technique of overglazing in making ceramics, and the 14th successor in the family that served Lord Nabeshima as officially appointed potter.

Zenzo Fukushima makes Koishiwara ware, celadon based on traditional ceramic-making techniques and materials from the 17th century.

Kunihiko Moriguchi, a textile dyer adept at geometric designs using natural motifs such as flowers, snow and streams, in Kyoto’s yuzen textile-dyeing tradition.

Sonoko Sasaki dyes tsumugi-type silk yarn in colours derived from grasses and leaves using the kasuri weaving technique. She has been awarded the Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette.

Kazumi Murose makes urushi lacquer wares using the technique of maki-e, which dates to the 8th century, to create highly refined modern designs.

Isao Onishi undertakes the whole process himself of cabinet making, from moulding cypress wood to finishing the lacquer. His work has a sense of powerful and assertive presence. His designation as a National Living Treasure is for the lacquering technique known as kyushitsu.

Yukie Osumi, a master of metal forging, she uses silver sheet metal and mallets to create her work, which is characterised by modern design and gold/lead inlay. Her designation as a National Living Treasure is for tankin (metalwork).

Noboru Fujinuma weaves or braids fine sticks of bamboo into fine baskets and other objects. Designation is for bamboo craftwork, which was transmitted from 8th century Chinese Tang culture.

Komao Hayashi employs a style of making toso (paulownia paste) dolls that dates to the 17th century. His work is informed by knowledge of the Noh theatre and other long-established performing arts such as kyogen, kabuki and Kyoto-style dance. He was awarded Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette.

Jun Isezaki is one of the most renowned master artisans of Bizen ceramics, a traditional ware that emerged over a thousand years ago in the Bizen district.

Takeshi Kitamura is a textile artist who employs ancient weaving techniques, recreating traditional methods in Nishijin, the historical home of textiles in Kyoto region of Japan.

Kenji Suda is a woodwork artist and cabinetmaker using a traditional technique called sashimono to create intricate intarsia wooden boxes, using Japanese lacquer or urushi.

What are the National Living Treasures?
Craftsmanship has been deeply rooted in the Japanese culture since the beginning of its artistic history. To safeguard this cultural heritage the Japanese Government has been appointing National Living Treasures since 1950. National Living Treasures are exceptional master artisans who, with their time-honoured techniques, ensure the preservation of traditional Japanese intangible heritage. The cultural system aims to preserve time-honoured knowledge and ensure it is passed on to future generations. Those who have been designated National Living Treasures are expected to comply with a strict set of requirements.


Nekano bowl with moon white glaze (big size) crafted by Japanese National Living Treasure Zenzo Fukushima - Naoyuki Kondon©Michelangelo Foundation 12 Stone Garden will be set in the Palladian Refectory Vestibule at Fondazione Giorgio Cini. It is one of 17 exhibitions that comprise Homo Faber, organised by Michelangelo Foundation.
Special thanks to the Japan Kôgei Association for collaborating on the exhibition 12 Stone Garden


Notes for editors
Homo Faber
Crafting a more human future
Fondazione Giorgio Cini, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
Register for tickets at homofaberevent.com


Homo Faber is the main event organised by the Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship, an international non-profit organisation based in Geneva, Switzerland, which was set up to celebrate and preserve master craftsmanship around the world and strengthen its connection to design. Rooted in a tradition of culture and excellence and in the realities and challenges of today’s global economy, the foundation aims to support those who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of master craftsmanship and to foster a new cultural movement built around the values that are essential for their work. The Foundation focuses on Europe as a starting point for its activities, in recognition that craftsmanship has been a vital part of the economic and cultural fabric of the region for centuries, providing both a rich heritage and a competitive advantage in a global world. michelangelofoundation.org

Naoto Fukasawa
A Japanese designer, professor and curator who has brought his unique design philosophy to leading brands around the world. Naoto Fukasawa works with major international manufacturers across different design disciplines from precision electronic equipment to furniture and interior spaces. What links his work is a dedication to the sublime beauty of form and the power of silence, a design philosophy that has garnered him international recognition for his ability to express the true essence of an object. Additionally, he is the director of The Japan Folk Crafts Museum, a professor at the Tama Art University and has sat on several judging panels including the Loewe Craft Prize. In 2007, he was named Honorary Royal Designer for Industry by the UK’s Royal Society of Arts. He has won numerous awards for his work including the 2018 Isamu Noguchi Award.

Tokugo Uchida
Director of the MOA Museum of Art and Hakone Museum of Art, Tokugo Uchida is one of Japan’s foremost cultural commentators. Tokugo Uchida completed his PhD in aesthetics at Keio University in 2007 and has since lectured widely in Japan and abroad. His cultural expertise led him to sit as a member of the National Council for Cultural Affairs, deliberating the designation of National Living Treasures in Japan. He has also presided over a government subcommittee on traditional craft and is an expert on lacquer, being Vice-President of the Academy of Lacquer Research and the author of several books on the subject.

Collaborating on Homo Faber with the Michelangelo Foundation are partner organisations that share its vision including: the Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte, the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, and The Japan Foundation.

Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte
The Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte is a private, non-profit institution founded in 1995. Based in Milan, it promotes cultural, scientific and educational initiatives for the protection and diffusion of artistic crafts. The Fondazione Cologni’s mission is to inspire a “new Renaissance” of the artistic crafts and rescue them from the threat of extinction. Many of its initiatives focus on young people and training future generations of artisans. fondazionecologni.it

Fondazione Giorgio Cini
The Fondazione Giorgio Cini is a non-profit cultural institution based in Venice, Italy. Established by Vittorio Cini in 1951 with the aim of creating an international cultural centre re-integrating the San Giorgio Maggiore Island into the life of Venice and the region, today it is an important centre of humanistic studies and encourages the creation and development of educational, social, cultural and artistic institutions in the surrounding territory. cini.it

The Japan Foundation
The Japan Foundation, established in 1972, in Tokyo develops international cultural exchange programmes globally. The foundation’s aim is to promote Japanese culture to the world through programmes and activities in the following categories: art, cultural exchange, Japanese-language education and Japanese studies. The foundation has a global network, with 25 overseas branches in 24 countries. As part of their cultural programme, the foundation offers successful applicants support in the form of grants, research scholarships and training opportunities. jpf.go.jp

Bowl with pearlbush design in overglaze enamel and sumi-hajiki_Imaemon Imaizumi XIV©Japan Kôgei Association Flower Basket_Spring Tide_Fujinuma Noboru Artisan©Le Van Chau Gerald Food vessel made by bending work_Isao Onishi Artisan©Japan Kôgei Association HARP Saiyu_Kazumi Murose Artisan©MOA Museum of Art Nakano bowl with moon white glaze (big size)_Zenzo Fukushima Artisan_Naoyuki Kondo©Michelangelo Foundation Silver flower vessel made by hammer work_Blue sea_Yukie Osumi Artisan©Japan Kôgei Association Ginkan (Milky way) Kenji Suda Artisan©Tanaka Shunji 12 Stone Garden_Rendering©NAOTO FUKASAWA DESIGN ltd Japan Kôgei Association MOA Museum of Art, Japan Kōgei Association Eastern Japan Branch Tokugo Uchida Curator©All rights reserved Naoto Fukasawa Curator_Laila Pozzo©Michelangelo Foundation