The Five Directions: Lacquer Through East Asia traces the flow of materials and ideas throughout the region. Lacquer, a natural polymer derived from tree sap, was a widely circulated and prized commodity. Stylistic variations set regions apart. Still, the dynamic flow of techniques, materials, and visual vocabularies continued uninterrupted even during times of relative isolationism. Drawing inspiration from a spatial conception where North, South, East, and West are joined by a fifth direction, the Center, the exhibition unpacks the nature of these exchanges—as trade, tribute, and treasure.
Visitors are invited to circumnavigate islands of micro-stories and trace the development of lacquer art as a multi-directional process. With over 80 important works from LACMA’s collection, The Five Directions offers a nuanced rethinking of lacquer in the region, celebrating Japan, Korea, China, and the Ryūkyū kingdom (Okinawa) as meeting points as well as centers in their own right.