Third Thursday Lecture: Art into Everyday Life: Department Stores as Purveyors of Culture in Modern Japan

In 1907, the Mitsukoshi department store established its art section to display and sell the art of prominent contemporary artists. Following Mitsukoshi’s lead, a number of other Japanese department stores opened art sections one after another. The stores claimed that they would contribute to the cultural cultivation and refinement of the nation by providing expanded opportunities for all Japanese to collect and appreciate the arts. Despite open access to art sections of department stores, however, their primary customer was the rising urban middle class, who purchased art for the interior decoration of their new homes. Japanese department stores became major art entrepreneurs in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Their promotion of “the tasteful consumption of art” played a crucial role in the articulation of social distinctions and contributed to the formation of class identity for the new middle class. In the process, department stores capitalized on the cultural aspiration of their upwardly mobile customers.

Dr Younjung Oh
Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow, Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures

Date: 18 April 2013, 18:00
Venue: Hostry, Norwich Cathedral, Norwich NR1 4EH
Tel: 01603 624349
Fax: 01603 625011
Organiser: Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures

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