It is with tremendous sadness that I announce the death of one of the seminal figures in the world of Japanese contemporary ceramics, Madame Tomo Kikuchi. She passed away on August 20th at the age of 93 and her funeral was held on the 24th at which time more than 1500 people were in attendance. Her impact on the field was unrivaled and global.
She was the doyenne of this field for more than four decades, having both discovered and supported many of today’s greatest ceramists. She opened the renowned Kandori Gallery at the New Otani Hotel, Tokyo in 1974 and from this venue launched countless careers. Just five years later, she opened her temporary boutique at Bloomingdales NY and while there made the necessary connections to arrange for the ground-breaking exhibition, Japanese Ceramics Today, held at the Smithsonian Institution in 1983 followed by the Victoria & Albert Museum. She was a generous patron of that museum and sponsored numerous acquisitions. Through these key exhibitions, she inspired many future collectors and curators.
Arguably her principal legacy is the Musée Tomo, established in 2003 on family-owned land just behind the Hotel Okura in Tokyo. Actively involved with nearly every aspect of its creation, Madame Kikuchi built this tall and elegant building primarily to house the offices of the numerous energy-based, family-owned corporations that she ran. However, it was the museum that spoke to her heart and the jewel that it has become is the direct result of her exquisitely refined eye and impeccable taste. It was created to showcase her vast collection and to further the field through focused exhibitions, publications, competitions and lectures.
On a personal note, Madame Kikuchi has always been an inspiration and model for me. A carefully arranged meeting with her in 1984 set me on my course as a passionate promoter of the field of contemporary Japanese clay art. Her support, encouragement, connections and insights proved invaluable through the decades. She will be terribly missed by art lovers and artists throughout the world.