Manchester Art Gallery

Modern Japanese Design

Thirty two designers display over one hundred pieces in a dynamic display conveying the essence of the unique Japanese design ethos.

Manchester Art Gallery
Friday 4 December 2015–Sunday 23 April 2017


Drawn from Manchester’s own collections, the show provides an overview of the past fifty years of Japanese design. It highlights the breadth of Manchester’s collections, bringing together fashion, furniture, lighting, ceramics, glass, metalwork and jewellery.

The exhibition, located in the refurbished 19th century former Athenaeum theatre space, includes works from thirty two designers with over one hundred pieces on display. It shows how respect for nature and natural forces and the innovative use of materials and revolutionary techniques have influenced Japanese design. The display also reveals the importance of philosophical and spiritual ideas derived from Buddhism that have influenced the aesthetic and conceptual direction of Japanese design through the approaches of minimalism, deconstruction, and wabi sabi.

In addition to traditional materials, designers’ use of man-made, more commercial materials such as steel mesh, polycarbonate and recycled materials, seen in the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles used by Issey Miyake, is explored. Some of the most contemporary pieces on display are created by recent Royal College of Art graduate Maiko Takeda, who now works for Issey Miyake in Japan. Takeda created the dramatic headresses worn by Bjork as part of her Biophilia tour and the display includes two stunning head pieces from her Atmospheric Reentry series.

Featured contemporary jewellery designer Mizuki Takahashi’s work will be on sale in the gallery shop as part of a brand new range of jewellery focusing on makers who are inspired to push the boundaries of the materials they work with.

Included designer makers


Keiko Mukaide
Ayako Tani
George Elliot


Takahiro Yede
Hiroshi Suzuki
Junko Mori
Naoki Takeyama
Ryota Nishikata
Alistair McCallum

Large print guide

A large print version of the exhibition labels is available to download here.

The Design Gallery

In 2002 the former Athenaeum Club theatre, which had been derelict for decades, was restored to public use as the Gallery of Craft and Design. Thirteen years on, a substantial grant from the DCMS/Wolfson Museums & Galleries Improvement Fund has allowed us to re-imagine this extraordinary, ornate space as a dedicated Design Gallery for the gallery’s collections of fashion, design and craft.


The Independent on Sunday
13 December 2015

It has taken the rest of the fashion world three decades to make ground on Japan’s pioneers, and even now, it lags behind. Read more


Takahiro Yede, Hibiki (Echoes), 2015. Acquired through the Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund


Funders and supporters

The re-furbishment of the Design Gallery has been made possible by DCMS/Wolfson Museums & Galleries Improvement Fund.

Arts Council EnglandVictoria and Albert MuseumArt Fund

Modern Japanese Design is supported by Ferrious and GF Smith

FerriousGF Smith Papers


Want to know more?

Keep up to date with exhibition and display information from our team of curators @MAGcurators