Blooming Japan | New exhibition from April 9, 2021

29 ARTS IN PROGRESS gallery presents Blooming Japan. Flowers and gardens in late nineteenth century Japanese photography

Blooming Japan
Copyright © MUSEC / Ada Ceschin and Rosanna Pilone Foundation Ogawa Kazumasa Peonia, 1896 Hand–colored collotype, unique piece 21×21 cm

From the 9th of April to 22nd of May 2021, 29 ARTS IN PROGRESS gallery Milan (via San Vittore 13) will present, in collaboration with the Museum of Cultures in Lugano (MUSEC), the exhibitionBlooming Japan”, curated by Moira Luraschi.

The exhibition brings together a refined selection of thirty works of Japanese hand-tinted albumen prints and collotypes leading right up to the period between the end of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century.

The photographs belong to the Ada Ceschin and Rosanna Pilone Foundation in Zurich whose collection of hand-painted Japanese photographs is among the largest in the world and was entrusted to MUSEC in 2012.

The photographs in the exhibition are excellent examples from the so-called ‘Yokohama School’, born in Japan in the second half of the nineteenth century as a result of the union between Western imported photographic techniques and the centuries-old craftsmanship of local painters. The photographs are without equal for the delicacy of their composition and the fine colouring of the images.

Japanese photography in the Meiji period (1868-1912) developed out of a response by the first Western travellers to take with them a souvenir of  a country which, alongside the reopening of its frontiers, had begun a rapid and radical modernisation. Beyond representing a precious documentary testimony to Japanese society of this period, the photography of the ‘Yokohama School’ conveys a sense of nostalgia for a glorious but also fragile exotic world destined to disappear with the dawn of the twentieth century.

The exhibition focusses on Japanese flowers and gardens. The protagonist here is nature and specifically, Spring which in nature represents rebirth and blossoming. Its photographic representation is aimed at paying homage to the fleeting beauty of the flowers as much to the ephemeral nature of life itself, an ode to both the present and the eternal alternating between death and rebirth.

If gardens are linked to dimensions of space in so much as they recreate a little cosmos in miniature, the concept of “flowers” is intended to signify the passing of time felt even in the most subtle changes linked to the changing flora and fauna in a cyclical vision of time typical of Oriental philosophy and linked to the Buddhist concept of impermanence. In the exhibition there are works by some of the greatest names of the Yokohama School, such as the Vicenza born Adolfo Farsari and the Japanese Kusakabe Kimbei, Esaki Reij and Ogawa Kazumasa. The last of these, Kazumasa, was the founder of the first Japanese collotype agency. For the characteristics of this type of printing, the flowers of Ogawa Kazumasa go beyond the usual codes of nineteenth century representations of nature, deliberately positioning themselves on the subtle boundary which separates photography from the graphic arts and painting.


29 ARTS IN PROGRESS is an important gallery specialising in art photography situated in the heart of Milan in the historic district of Sant’Ambrogio. The gallery represents the work of internationally recognised photographers with a special focus on portrait and fashion photography. Since opening the gallery has curated exhibitions in partnership with public and private museums, among them The Hong Kong Arts Centre, the V&A in London, the Multimedia Art Museum of Moscow, the Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art in St Petersburg, Palazzo Reale and the Triennale in Milan.

MUSEC – Museo delle Culture, Lugano

The Museum of Cultures (MUSEC) was founded in the mid 1980’s and was based on a donation to the city of Lugano of a collection of masterpieces from the South Seas set up by the Swiss artist Serge Brignoni (1903-2002). In the last 15 years the museum has developed a rich exhibition programme, also abroad, and has notably added to its collections thanks largely to donations, bequests and private deposits.

April 9 – May 22, 2021
Via San Vittore 13, Milano

© Courtesy of 29 ARTS IN PROGRESS gallery