Last summer, the book Katsura: Picturing Modernism in Japanese Architecture, Photographs by Ishimoto Yasuhiro, by Yasufumi Nakamori, was published to accompany an exhibition of the same name. The College Art Association (CAA) recently announced that the book has received the prestigious Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Award for Smaller Museums, Libraries, and Collections. Honorees will be formally recognized at a special ceremony, free and open to the public, to be held during the 99th Annual CAA Conference on February 10 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A reception will follow; tickets are on sale now.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) published the book, which was distributed by Yale University Press.
The CAA Awards for Distinction honor the outstanding achievements and accomplishments of individual artists, art historians, authors, conservators, curators, and critics whose efforts transcend their individual disciplines and contribute to the profession as a whole and to the world at large. This year’s award committee for the Barr Awards included Anna Chave, Graduate Center, City University of New York, chair; Andrea Bayer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Virginia Fields, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Erica Hirshler, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Anne Woollett, The J. Paul Getty Museum.
“It is extremely rewarding for the Katsura catalogue to be recognized by such a preeminent institution as the College Art Association, and the honor pays tribute to Yasufumi Nakamori’s outstanding work on this book,” said MFAH interim director Gwendolyn H. Goffe. “The author began his research in Tokyo in 2007 and spent many months working directly with photographer Ishimoto Yasuhiro, and the book is a breakthrough in the field, introducing audiences to a specific series of photographs—Katsura—that is at the heart of Ishimoto’s work.”
The Katsura catalogue features the photographs that Ishimoto Yasuhiro (b. 1921) took during 1953-54 of the legendary 17th-century Imperial villa of Katsura, in Kyoto, which infuse the images of the iconic structure with a modernist Bauhaus esthetic. The images are presented in the book un-cropped and as the photographer originally intended for them to be seen—a revelation from how they were known for the last 50 years as cropped images in the landmark 1960 book Katsura: Tradition and Creation in Japanese Architecture. The original Katsura was authored by architect Tange Kenzo and Ishimoto and is widely considered the most significant photographic publication about the relationship of modernity and tradition in postwar Japan, in which Tange rigorously cropped and sequenced the photographs to promote his own agenda. As the CAA’s announcement states, Nakamori’s new book revisits the original, and “. . . while this errand may sound obscurantist to some, the author has a profoundly fascinating story to tell. . . In this astutely, impeccably produced catalogue, Nakamori importantly rehabilitates Ishimoto’s initial vision of Katsura, reproducing his original, perfectly stunning photographs.”
The 2011 Barr Award for Smaller Museums, Libraries, and Collections is a first for the MFAH, and enhances an impressive list of prizes awarded to MFAH books, including the 28th Annual George Wittenborn Memorial Book Award in 2007 from the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) for Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection, and the 2007 first prize for scholarly journals awarded to Versions and Inversions: Perspectives on Avant-Garde Art in Latin America by the American Association of Museums (AAM) Museum Publications Design Competition.
Founded in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is the largest art museum in America south of Chicago, west of Washington, D.C., and east of Los Angeles. The encyclopedic collection of the MFAH numbers over 63,130 works and embraces the art of antiquity to the present. Featured are the finest artistic examples of the major civilizations of Europe, Asia, North and South America, and Africa. Italian Renaissance paintings, French Impressionist works, photographs, American and European decorative arts, African and Pre-Columbian gold, American art, and European and American paintings and sculpture from post-1945 are particularly strong holdings.