I had a splendid afternoon crashing the press preview of the newly opened Eastern Exchanges: East Asian Craft and Design exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery yesterday. More than a few standout pieces – as well as a chance to peek at a couple of other shows now on and to have a look at the gallery’s impression permanent collection – made my northward daytrip well worth the time on the train. Fans of design would do well to follow suit before the show closes at the end of May.
Displaying historic pieces from the gallery’s collection alongside contemporary works, Eastern Exchanges aims to give fresh perspectives on historic East Asian craft and illustrate how traditional craft skills still inspire innovation.
The show leans heavy on porcelain and ceramics – and I reckon that’s a good thing indeed. I absolutely adored Danful Yang’s blanc-de-chine Girly Series kitsch update on Chinese traditional mythological creatures. And Jin Eui Kim’s intensely (and deceptively) simple and arduously produced ceramics were a marvel to behold (the self-narrated short film of the artist at work was a treat to see as well).
Fumio Enomoto’s elegant bamboo Weave Stool impressed immensely with its emphasis on maximum strength from minimal structure.
As for the historic stuff from the gallery’s collection, teensy and highly detailed works such as a series of netsuke miniature figurines from the 1800s wowed in equal measure to oversized pieces like the massively grand Norimono (sedan chair, Japan, 1800-1850).
Need more reason to poke your head in the gallery? Opened concurrently is House Proud, an exhibition of glass, metalwork and furniture “inspired by the gallery’s pioneering Industrial Art Collection” and focused on the 1930s to the end of the 20th century. I found my roam through the show a delight. I – and everybody else who had a look at it – especially loved the Circus eathernware dinner service set (designed by Dame Laura Knight for A J Wilkinson, 1934).
Also on now with big plans to (literally) continue growing throughout the summer is The Lost Gardens of Manchester, a team up with the National Trust to reclaim the city centre’s urban spaces with at least a bit of green.
Eastern Exchanges: East Asian Craft and Design runs from 2 April to 31 May at Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester, M2 3JL. Entry is free. Find out more at manchesterartgallery.org.