Modern Japan History Workshop on Government-Sponsored Art Exhibitions - Friday, March 13th

Joelle Tapas's picture

Please join us for the next meeting of the Modern Japan History Workshop on Friday, March 13th at 6:00 pm.  Our presenter this month will be Nicole Valentova (SOAS), who will present her work on government-sponsored art exhibitions (details below).

We will meet in Room 110 in the Komaba International Building for Education and Research (KIBER, 駒場国際教育研究棟) at the University of Tokyo’s Komaba I Campus (campus map available here).

The workshop is open to all, and directions to the venue are available here.

Please direct any questions to Joelle Tapas at  We hope to see you there!

Bunten: The First Official Government-Sponsored Art Exhibition and the Significance of its Political Affiliation

Nicole Valentova, SOAS

After the Meiji Restoration, in an attempt to identify and generate objects worth representing Japan and creating a strong and attractive presence at the international expositions, the government organised an event similar in nature on a domestic scale; altogether five Domestic Industrial Expositions (J: naikoku kangyō hakurankai) between 1877 and 1903, and the Tōkyō Industrial Exposition (J: Tokyo kangyō hakurankai) organised by the magistrate in spring 1907. Fine art was an integral part of the fair, however, the emphasis on export and the trade enhancement was a considerably limiting factor. It was not until autumn 1907 that an exhibition liberated from this export-driven framework focusing on the contemporary art production, support and supply for domestic market was established by a political institution, the Ministry of Education. It was the Ministry of Education Art Exhibition (J: monbushō bijutsu tenrankai), commonly known as Bunten, that is widely credited for uniting the fragmented Japanese art scene while serving as a battlefield for the progressive faction shinpa and the conservative faction kyūha. During this presentation we shall have a look at what led to the establishment, what was the relationship between Bunten and the government, and if the exhibition’s political affiliation affected the selection of the exhibited art.