Since it opened in November of 2016, the Sumida Hokusai Museum in Tokyo has already recorded 100,000 visitors, proving that the enigmatic Katsushika Hokusai continues to be an object of deep fascination. But for their 2nd exhibition, the museum is turning the spotlight on two primary collectors of Hokusai’s work.
The museum is not shy about admitting that they would not be what they were without these two collectors. The exhibition “The Collectors Who Support the Sumida Hokusai Museum” is a display of 130 works by Hokusai, with the 2 collections separated on different floors. Both collectors have now passed away, but the exhibition features their words and thoughts on why they dedicated their lives to Hokusai.
One of these collectors was the extraordinary and eccentric Peter Morse, a reclusive American collector who lived in Hawaii by himself, surrounded by his print collection. According to this 1994 article, Morse spent his father’s entire inheritance on perfecting his collection, which numbered 691 prints by the time of his death in 1993. Apparently the family agreed to give the entire collection to the Sumida Hokusai Museum, which was already being planned, for $1 million, a mere fraction of their market price.
The other collector is Muneshige Narazaki, a Japanese art historian who helped elevate ukiyo-e to an area of academic study, as well as fine art. The two collectors seemed to be in contact at times, as evidenced by personal belongings that are also on display, like a signed copy of Narazaki’s signed book that was kept by Morse.
The exhibition is on display at the Sumida Hokusai Museum in Tokyo now through April 2, 2017.