|Media only: James Gordon, 202.633.0520; Rebecca Fahy, 202.633.0521
September 7, 2006
This year’s prize is awarded for Watsky’s book “Chikubushima: Deploying the Sacred Arts in Momoyama Japan” published by the University of Washington Press (2004).
The award ceremony will take place Thursday, Dec. 14 at 10:30 a.m. in the Freer Gallery of Art’s Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Auditorium. A colloquium on Japanese art of the Momoyama era is planned in conjunction with the award ceremony.
“Chikubushima: Deploying the Sacred Arts in Momoyama Japan” represents one of the most significant monographs concerning the art of the Momoyama period (1568-1615) published to date in any language. Its carefully argued main thesis is that the sponsorship of sacred arts by the Toyotomi, one of the warrior-class houses of 16th-century Japan, served in various ways to define family identity after the death of the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1598. This book provides a new framework within which to understand a wide range of cultural production during the latter half of the Momoyama period.
Watsky constructs his argument through a rigorous, textured study of the Tsukubusuma Shrine on the sacred island of Chikubushima, located in Shiga Prefecture, north of the ancient capital of Kyoto. Dedicated to the deity Benzaiten, this profusely decorated monument, as the author demonstrates, is in fact a composite made up of an outer structure dating to the 1560s and a central core, formerly a Buddhist memorial to Sutemaru, the prematurely lost son of the warlord Hideyoshi. Eschewing conventions in Japanese art history that tend to treat media in isolation from one another, Watsky analyzes the architecture, painting, lacquerware, relief wood carving, metalwork and architectural coloring in an integrated fashion to understand the true nature of this palimpsest-like structure.
Meticulously researched, elegantly structured and beautifully written, Watsky’s book exemplifies the ideals upon which the Shimada Prize was founded. The translated documentation in the appendix and 150 reproductions (more than 60 in color) reflect the author’s commitment to his subject and discipline and ensure that this study will serve for years to come as a veritable textbook for the art and cultural history of one of the most dynamic eras in premodern Japan.
Watsky received his bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and his master’s degree and doctorate from Princeton University. His book “Chikubushima: Deploying the Sacred Arts in Momoyama Japan” also was awarded the Association for Asian Studies’ John Whitney Hall Book Prize in 2006.
The award selection committee consisted of Dame Professor Jessica Rawson, Chair, Warden, Merton College, Oxford University; Robert D. Mowry, Alan J. Dworsky Curator of Chinese Art, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University; Robert E. Harrist, Jr., Professor, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University; and Yukio Lippit, Assistant Professor, Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University.
The Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Ave. S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Freer houses a major collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century American art. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day, except Dec. 25, and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, the public may call (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 357-1729, or visit the exhibitions section of the galleries’ Web site: asia.si.edu.