Author(s): Stéphane Martin
Japanese bamboo baskets have a very long history. Until the 16th century, they were primarily utilitarian and rustic items. Those with an aesthetic value were imported from China. Mirror of the Confucian values, they displayed perfectly symmetrical shapes and a surprisingly regular weaving. The turning point came from the codification of the tea ceremony in the 16th century. Due to their extreme refinement, the Japanese bamboo vases ( hanakago ), containing floral arrangements (ikebana) are elevated to the rank of works of art. The masters of the golden era, founders of this art, constituted in dynasties, established a special relationship between the artist and the patron. But one artist will be particularly honored, Iizuka Rokansai (1890-1958), called the "Picasso of the basket" with his forty pieces. The post-war period is crucial in the diffusion of this art across the world, especially in the USA, in private collections or museums. This resulted in the use of new shapes by contemporary artists, but also in attempts at blending bamboo with new materials. The main question is then about the artistic status of contemporary or modern artists whose work requires great technical and artisanal skills. Inspired by classical formalism, which vocabulary was set up thoroughly by Iizuka Rokansai, the baskets of young contemporary artists are now becoming sculptures. Devoid of any function, they open up a unique artistic field.