Exhibitions and Events

For the last ten-odd years, Kohei Nakamura, a leading figure in avant-garde ceramic sculpture, has been grappling with tea bowls. Nakamura refers to his matcha (powdered green tea) bowls as "vessels of thought."

"How contemporary a shape is is less significant to me than how contemporary its underlying idea is," says Nakamura in a remark that seems to illustrate his current preoccupation well. "Today, we are increasingly awakening to a reappraisal of Japanese culture, or a return to the classical, perhaps in part to counterbalance modernism. As a ceramic artist, I consider quoting--rather than copying--old pottery and ceramics as my way of conveying their significance."

Nakamura's art underwent several stylistic changes before finally arriving at highly ornate porcelain sculptures that reference elements of Baroque. It is interesting to learn that the maker of such works has come to the conclusion that the period in which they held fascination was coming to an end, replaced by a period of tea bowls.

What exactly are the "vessels of thought" Nakamura pursues? As cited above, he apparently questions whether the idea is of our times, rather than whether the resulting visible form is old or new. What, then, makes an idea contemporary? Nakamura gave birth to and imbued his "vessels of thought" with original creative thinking as a means of overcoming the skills-dominated world of conventional ceramics in which a work was deemed better the more closely it emulated a classic such as a Goryeo ware tea bowl passed down through generations.

"You come to a moment when your wheel work turns out just right--a soul emerges from the clay, the shape acquires a life of its own and becomes a living tea bowl. This is the moment your body learns the meaning of good wheel work, which is not necessarily skillful wheel work," says Nakamura.

I once had a conversation with Seizo Hayashiya about the Ido tea bowl Nakamura exhibited in Master Teabowls of Our Days (Musée Tomo, Tokyo), which the ceramics expert praised but argued was a piece of sculpture. If Nakamura's "vessel of thought" is indeed a sculpture assuming the form of an Ido tea bowl, I feel that that is exactly the hallmark of Kohei Nakamura. It was probably in this sense that ceramicist Kyusetsu Miwa referred to Nakamura as the first to "endow the Ido tea bowl with expression."

Kyusetsu Miwa is a ceramicist whose works are underpinned by individualistic ideas and artistic philosophies. However, such qualities are becoming more rare in contemporary ceramics in an age where works exhibit less individuality, which I feel makes them less appealing.

In a paradox that is uniquely his own, Kohei Nakamura today produces "vessels of thought" that quote the form of the Ido tea bowl, after an earlier career of producing highly ornate works quoting the Baroque. This exhibition includes Nakamura's Ido tea bowl, Ao-Ido tea bowl, Kase-glazed black Raku tea bowl, white Raku tea bowl (Fujisan), Irabo tea bowl, Hakeme tea bowl, Kohiki tea bowl, Mishima tea bowl and other vessels embodying his remarkable creativity. His works demonstrate how excellent tea bowls are also excellent sculptures, which I believe makes this exhibition all the more meaningful.

Mori Koichi, Art Critic, Executive Director, Japan Ceramic Society

  • October, 2018
  • October, 2018
  • October, 2018
  • October, 2018
  • October, 2018
    photo: Hidekazu Oginuma
  • October, 2018
    photo: Hidekazu Oginuma
  • October, 2018
    photo: Hidekazu Oginuma
  • October, 2018
    photo: Hidekazu Oginuma
Date 5 October - 23 October, 2018
Open Hours 10:00 - 18:00
Closed Wednesdays
Admission Free
Planned and organized by LIXIL Corporation



1948 Born in Kanazawa as the third son of Baizan Nakamura
1973 Graduated from the Department of Sculpture, Tama Art University
1979 Selected as one of the first domestic trainees by the Agency for Cultural Affairs
1984 “Contemporary Ceramic Art II—What Can Be Seen in Large Ceramic Works Now” (Yamaguchi Prefectural Art Museum / Yamaguchi)
1986 “International Ceramics Festival ’86 Mino”, Japan (Tajimi, Gifu)
“Osaka Contemporary Art Fair ’86” (Osaka Contemporary Art Center / Osaka)
1988 “Shiga Annual ’88: Clay Work, the Repro-Action of Form” (Museum of Modern Art, Shiga / Shiga)
1989 “Clay Works Today” (Kanagawa Kenmin Hall / Kanagawa)
Won the Grand Prix, the Kazuo Yagi Award, in the Kazuo Yagi Award Contemporary Ceramics Exhibition ’89 (Tokyo, Osaka)
“International Ceramics Festival ’89 Mino”, Japan (Tajimi, Gifu)
1990 “Japanese Contemporary Clay Work” held by the Japan Foundation (South Korea / Australia / Malaysia / Indonesia / Thailand)
Invited to the Asahi Modern Craft Exhibition (Hankyu Umeda Main Store / Osaka; Hankyu Yurakucho Store / Tokyo)
“Ceramic Annex Shigaraki” (Traditional Crafts Center of Shigaraki and Gallery in the Museum of Modern Art, Shiga / Shiga)
1991 “Metamorphosis of Contemporary Ceramics: The International Exhibition of Contemporary Ceramics” (Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park / Shiga)
“Earth’s Messages in Mino” (Tajimi City Cultural Hall / Gifu)
1992 “NICAF YOKOHAMA’92” (PACIFICO Yokohama / Kanagawa)
“Actuality of Ceramics” (Seibu Kobe / Hyogo; Seibu Ikebukuro / Tokyo)
Exhibition of Selected Ceramic Works from the Six Old Potteries in Japan (Seto City Cultural Center / Aichi)
“Nagoya Citizens Art Festival ’92: Ceramics—Magnetic Force of Space” (Nagoya Citizens’ Gallery / Aichi)
“International Exhibition of Ceramic Art” (National Museum of History / Taiwan)
“58 Contemporary Ceramic Artists in Japan” (Mitsukoshi Etoile / Paris, France, and traveling exhibitions at main and branch stores)
1993 “Contemporary Ceramics 1950–1990” (Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art / Aichi)
1994 “Current Trends in Ceramics” (Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum / Aichi)
1996 “The Suntory Prize '96” (Suntory Museum of Art / Tokyo)
1999 “Contemporary Ceramic Art” (Metropolitan Museum of Art / New York, U.S.)
“Tougei Japan” (Intex Osaka / Osaka)
“100 Contemporary Japanese Handicraft Works” (Mitsukoshi Etoile / Paris, France, and traveling exhibitions at main and branch stores)
“Japanese Contemporary Ceramic Art ” (Museum van Bommel van Dam, Venlo / Netherlands)
2005 “Ars Nova-Between the Contemporary Avant-garde Art and the Crafts” (Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo / Tokyo)
2009 “Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale” (Tokamachi, Niigata)
2012 “Art Crafting towards the Future” (21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa / Ishikawa)
2013 “Master Teabowls of Our Days” (Musée Tomo / Tokyo)
2016 “Japanese Kogei | Future Forward” (Museum of Arts and Design / New York, U.S., and other venues)