Sake cup

New Acquisitions: 2017

Ceramic artists Kitamura Junko and Akiyama Yō met in art school in Kyoto; they now share a home, two studios, and two sons in northwest Kyoto. A 1993 Kitamura vase, punctuated with her signature motif of minute, painstakingly impressed patterns inlaid with white slip against a matte black-slip ground, was one of the Sackler Gallery’s earliest purchases of contemporary Japanese ceramics. It appeared in her solo exhibition at the Garth Clark Gallery, New York.

Like most Japanese ceramic artists, Kitamura and Akiyama produce intimate works as well as major exhibition pieces. And like Yamada Hikaru’s coffee cups, these small works strengthen the Sackler’s representation of the diverse output that Japanese ceramic artists undertake as a matter of course.

Akiyama’s two sake cups come from a commission for a large party; the rest were given as souvenirs to attendees. His single sake cup and two cubes are spontaneous experiments with materials. Kitamura’s teacups form part of her domestic output. The two black bowls reveal Kitamura’s thinking about her major works’ surfaces: as she grew discontent with the abrupt divide between outside and inside, she shaped a double-walled, continuous surface on which the pattern had no end.

All the works were gifts to Alice and Halsey North over the years as the artists and collectors met in Kyoto and New York and deepened their acquaintance. In that sense, these cherished vessels may be said to embody the cultivation of friendship.

Sake cup
Akiyama Yō (b. 1953)
Japan, Kyoto, 2007
Blended porcelain and Shigaraki stoneware with wood-ash glaze
5 × 8 cm
Gift of Halsey and Alice North
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery S2017.18