If you even have a smidgen of interest in Japanese art, an afternoon well done is visiting the “Patterned Feathers and Piercing Eyes Exhibit” of the “Joe and Etsuko Price Collection” at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery. It’s a great sampling of a huge collection that the Prices have amassed during fifty years of collecting Edo era screens and scrolls.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art Japan Pavilion used to house the collection, but lost it when the Museum decided to turn a scholar study center inside the building into a book store. Price had donated $5 million along with his collection to the Museum, which was matched by a similarly sized donation from the Japanese business community and Japan’s Keidanren.
Joe and Etsuko Price were incensed that the Museum would do away with the only part of the institution really dedicated to serious research and revoked the collection and created an independent scholar study center near Newport Beach, California.
I had the privilege of attending the opening of the pavilion when I ran the Japan America Society of Southern California — and really loved spending time with Joe Price and his family who like my family were from Bartlesville, Oklahoma. For a while, I tried to broker the increasingly tense relationship between the Museum and the Price family, but Joe Price was impressively committed to scholarship more than anything else. One of the interesting things about his collection — which is not part of the Sackler exhibit — was his eye for forgeries made in the Edo and post-Edo period of famous Japanese painters. Price bought the originals and then sought the forgeries as well so as to train contemporary students of these artists and their works.
Here is a peek at Joe Price’s unusual, mushroom-looking Corona del Mar home and tea house — which I saw during construction and for which the architect was Bart Prince, a student of Bruce Goff (who was the architect of the LACMA Japan Pavilion), who was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Unfortunately, in a placard at the Sackler Gallery describing the only Frank Lloyd Wright designed skyscraper — the Price Tower — in Bartlesville, the museum misspelled the oil town’s name as “Bartelsville.”
On behalf of my fellow Bartians and Joe & Etsuko Price, I am made an email plea to the Sackler this morning to fix the spelling.
— Steve Clemons
Update: Good news. The Sackler Gallery emailed today and said that Bartlesville would soon have its spelling corrected in the Price exhibition.