Deco Japan Symposium

March 24, 2012
past event image

Professor Gennifer Weisenfeld of Duke University, an authority on Japanese design and consumerism in the early 20th century, and Professor Vera Mackie of the University of Wollongong, one of Australia’s leading scholars of Japanese gender and cultural studies, join Deco Japan curator Dr. Kendall Brown for an exploration of the historical and social conditions associated with the Art Deco movement in Japan.


$11/$7 Japan Society members, students & seniors (includes exhibition admission)

Buy Tickets Online or call the Japan Society Box Office at (212) 715-1258, Mon. – Fri. 11 am – 6 pm, Weekends 11 am – 5 pm.


Japanese ‘Applied Arts’ and National Policy, 1937-1945
Kendall H. Brown
Professor, California State University, Long Beach

Despite the tendencies to imagine Japanese applied art of the1930s in terms solely of avant-garde experimentation brought short by war restrictions, “art crafts” flourished in the war years. This talk utilizes objects in the Deco Japan exhibition to explore militarist themes in subject matter, the ideological value of applied arts, and the larger political implications of materiality, technique and style during the era of ultra-nationalism. In these ways, “Japanese Deco” opens up some of the complexities of Japanese visual culture in the mid-20th century.

Saitō Kazō’s “Synthetic Art”: New Designs for Modern Japan

Gennifer Weisenfeld, Associate Professor
Duke University, Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies

The work of celebrated Japanese designer Saitō Kazō (1887-1955) and the contemporary circle of Tokyo-based clothing and interior designers who worked around him in the 1920s-30s provides an excellent opportunity to examine how Japanese modern identity was negotiated through sartorial and spatial means. Destabilizing the persistent binary between East and West, Saitō played a central role in defining Japan’s modern design movement, and his work illuminates the proliferation of new creative hybrid forms in vestimentary culture and the built environment.

Fashioning Femininity: Modern Girls and Patriotic Women

Vera Mackie, Professor and Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Wollongong

Art deco was an international style, which involved the adoption, adaptation and appropriation of motifs from around the world. Similarly, the ‘modern girl’ (modan gâru) in 1920s and 1930s Japan borrowed elements of style from the flappers, garçonnes and new women from Europe and North America. The image of the modern girl was used in advertising campaigns for cosmetics, alcohol and cigarettes. Her bobbed hair, western dress and conspicuous consumption could also, however, be demonized in nationalist campaigns promoting more patriotic forms of femininity. The modern girl was an icon and a focus for the desires, tensions and anxieties of consumerist capitalism in 1920s and 1930s Japan.

  • Saturday, March 24, 2012
  • 1:00 pm