Interiors in the Japanese Aesthetic
Michael Smith Inc.
I'm drawn to the serenity and balance in Japanese art. There is a spare and very deliberate use of line that reads as utterly simple, but also incredibly noble and heroic. It's proof of the paradox that simplicity can be unbelievably rich.
Virtually every kind of Japanese art is compelling, from basketwork to bronzes. Each piece carries the touch of the hand, and makes a western interior feel warmer and more worldly. Japanese craftsmen intuitively know how to bring out the essence of a material, whether it's straw or metal, wood or stone. Even a simple, utilitarian object like a teakettle transcends its function and becomes a model of refinement.
I'll often steer my clients toward Japanese screens to go with their contemporary art, because I think there's a direct correlation in terms of composition. The screens seem to be poised on that tipping point between representation and abstraction, allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks between the abstraction of the line and the thing it represents, whether it's an object or a landscape. Any work that makes you participate like that is captivating. It's almost like listening to someone tell you the first sentences of a story. Your mind races to know the rest.
My interest is not limited to any one type or period. I look at Japanese art in the same way I look at any work, focusing not just on provenance but on what it says to me and what it will bring to a room. Japanese art looks great in any kind of interior. It adds a sense of breath and lightness to a room.
Japanese ceramics have a purity of shape that creates the same kind of impact as a sculpture by Brancusi or a painting by Morandi. The forms are so powerful that the negative space around them seems to become charged with energy as well. Imari porcelain tempts me with its eccentricities of pattern and saturated colors-cobalt blue, burnt red, and lustrous gold.
I'm far from alone in my appreciation. Marie Antoinette collected Japanese lacquer, building on an initial group of pieces bequeathed to her by her mother, Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria, who famously declared that she valued her lacquer boxes more than her diamonds. Lacquer, to me, is an otherworldly material. You look into it and see your reflection in its depths. I use a low, lacquered Japanese dining table as a coffee table in my Manhattan living room. Two old kimono trunks double as side tables. I put a tonsu chest in a kitchen in Malibu.
Japanese furniture has a very clean sense of purpose. There's a kind of minimalism-a clarity of form and an elegance to the finish-no matter whether the piece is simple and nave or embellished with intricate decoration. I think that's one reason why it coexists so harmoniously with other styles. Yet it's never cold. There's none of that mechanized, machine-made quality. Even though it may be extraordinarily precise, you still perceive it as made by the hand of man. And that involves a certain kind of acceptance. If the wood has a knot or the glaze drips, it gets incorporated into the work and becomes a feature. Japanese art respects the character of a material, and it is not afraid to reveal the process. In fact, it celebrates it.
Michael Smith is one of the world's leading interior designers, using a blend of European classicism and American modernism. In 2010 he was appointed by President Obama to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.
MORNING SESSION AT 10.30AM
LOT 1 - 247