• Various Artists

As kimono culture flourished during the Edo period (1603-1868), netsuke, small carvings, were created as toggles to hold pouches and cases containing tobacco and medicine in place on the obi sash worn with the kimono.

What began as functional pieces to prevent those little suspended containers from falling to the ground evolved into small but highly creative carvings. Today, classic netsuke have gained international acclaim as remarkably detailed carvings. Contemporary netsuke incorporating new subject matter and approaches have also been attracting attention.

This traveling exhibition showcases contemporary netsuke carved of wood by living netsuke craftsmen in Japan, plus netsuke created by contemporary artists such as Izumi Kato. Through this exhibition, visitors will appreciate the sophisticated skills and playful minds behind contemporary netsuke as well as its formal beauty and contemporaneity.

Organised by the Japan Foundation and the Consulate-General of Japan in Auckland in Te Uru’s Learning Centre Gallery, this innovative contemporary craft exhibition presents 65 works by contemporary netsuke carvers and artists. Visitors will be able to explore the subtle and highly artistic skills, and playfulness, embodied in netsuke and consider the practicality and charm of netsuke today. The exhibition includes netsuke that can be held, so the tactility of the items can be experienced first-hand.

When discussing the selection process for the exhibition, the organisers were interested in the similarities and differences between traditional and contemporary understandings of netsuke practice:

“When contemporary artists and contemporary netsuke carvers confront the concepts of sculpture and netsuke, their contexts, genealogies, and traditions overlap. Attempting creative work that presents ”netsuke-like“ appropriateness and “difference without difference” signifies the current era's ceaseless search for “newness“, regardless of whether the field is fine art or netsuke. It is a quest that resonates in both fields. That resonance is incorporated in the display of works on our platform, the international traveling exhibition.” –The Japan Foundation

Opening Hours

  • Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-4.30pm


  • 420 Titirangi Road
  • Auckland 0604