Japanese American National Museum

Living Flowers: Ikebana and Contemporary Art

June 15 through September 7, 2008

About the Exhibition

Cell Phone Audio Tour Guide

Access special information and commentary about the exhibition.

Traditional Japanese culture has exerted a profound influence on the vanguard of Western art practices for over 150 years. Living Flowers explores this impulse by exhibiting works of contemporary artists alongside ikebana created by masters of the Ikenobo, Ohara, and Sogetsu schools of ikebana.

The title Living Flowers refers to the unique presence of living flowers in the galleries. The exhibition proposes that the practice of ikebana provides way to consider a range of formal, conceptual, compositional, and pictorial strategies in contemporary art, and that conversely, contemporary art can illuminate the principles and practices of ikebana.

The Japanese art of flower arrangement has its origins in fifteenth-century Japan. Over the centuries, ikebana has been transformed into a highly cultivated art form. Today it is practiced by many different schools of thought. Master practioners of Ikenobo, Ohara, and Sogetsu represent the oldest and most established sensei (teachers) in the Japanese American community of Los Angeles and have achieved high levels of certification by their respective headquarters in Japan.

The works of contemporary art were selected because they have affinities with ikebana and share mutual influences. Some of the art directly references ikebana. Other works explore similar issues of composition, ephemerality, shadow and depth, and the ornamental power of flower imagery. By exhibiting these two different spheres of art, Living Flowers highlights the connections between the cultural traditions of Japan and the West.

The exhibition is made possible, in part, by the generous support of the Aratani Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, MetLife Foundation Museum Connections Program, The James Irvine Foundation, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, The Steven and Kelly McLeod Family Foundation, Michael W. Oshima and Chiaki Tanaka, PhD, UCLA Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies, Pasadena Art Alliance, and Mariko Gordon and Hugh Cosman.
Opening Sponsors:
Kirin Brewery of America LLC, Takara Sake USA, and Raymond Vineyard & Cellar.
Media Sponsors:
Los Angeles Downtown News, LA 18 KSCI-TV, The Rafu Shimpo, TV Fan, Kempo TV


August 20, 2008: OHARA SCHOOL OF IKEBANA TO GIVE DEMONSTRATION AUG. 24: One of Three Schools Participating in 'Living Flowers' Exhibition


May 9, 2008: LIVING FLOWERS: IKEBANA AND CONTEMPORARY ART EXHIBIT TO OPEN JUNE 15: Three Ikebana Schools to Create Arrangements Set Next to Contemporary Art

August 13, 2008: Curator Shares Insights to 'Living Flowers'. Flower Blog.

July 23, 2008: Arranged Marriage: Mixing It Up With Flowers and Art. L.A. Weekly.

July 6, 2008: How Their Roots Intertwine. Los Angeles Times.