Takayama 4: An Art Nouveau Surprise

47Walking back from the Hida village we almost missed what was a great experience, a small sign indicating the Hida Museum of Art, focussing on Art Nouveau and Art Décor. This hardly appears in the tourist guides but is a Japanese highlight (for us anyway). The exhibitions of varying Art Nouveau styles are held within a breath-taking modern building, black metal arranged around and through window spaces (who is the architect?). A walkway connects various displays, with marvellous views to the mountains. While there are extensive collections (made by a typically anonymous Japanese collector of immense wealth), the masterpiece around which the museum is designed is Rene Lalique’s fountain. It dates from October 1926, when the Champs-Elysees arcade was opened to great acclaim. A pair of Lalique fountains were set on a corridor style patio called “Gallery Lido”. The idea was for an ultra-modern 6 floor shopping precinct to rival the Place Vendome and L’Opera. The fountains were made of amethyst colour glass and metal with 4 panels, each of which has a motif of Acanthus leaves, above which were women figure who wore their hair long reaching to their feet and holding shells in their hands (the “source de la fountaine”).Lalique was a master jewellery designer during the Art Nouveau period. He applied lost-wax casting on glass works, which was a manufacturing process of jewellery, producing exquisite perfume bottles for Francois Coty. This led to the mass production of glass works (one room has a large collection of such bottles – great stuff). Unfortunately the Gallery Lido was pulled down just before the Great Depression. One of the pair of fountains was miraculously discovered in almost perfect condition in a suburban shed in Paris in 1989. It was restored by Lalique fans and was part of a travelling exhibition, which came to Tokyo in 1992, creating a sensation. Somehow it was purchased and is now living quietly in Takayama, protected from earthquakes by advanced technology. Glass, light and water are united. In a masterful way the light is brought to the domed ceiling, with constantly changing colours to complement the fountain coloration. Do see it if you can. More soon.

4 thoughts on “Takayama 4: An Art Nouveau Surprise

  1. Thank you for this article Paul. It’s lovely to see the fountain again and good to know others can see it too if they wish. If ever my path falls to Japan, I’d love to see it again, especially since my father was part of the special 2 man team responsible for installing and taking it down on it’s journey around the globe. After it’s showing in Japan he was summoned in the middle of the night to come to Heathrow airport, whereby him and his friend were requested to put the fountain together at the behest of the Japanese gentleman who ended up privately buying it. I always wondered where it had gone. Now I know. I wish I knew the identity of the buyer. He must have been a very influential person.

    • We did try to find out who the owner was but the museum told us that the gift had been made to them on the condition that the giver remain anonymous. We understood that he was exceedingly wealthy and one of the greatest collectors of art nouveau in the world. Best regards, Paul.

      • Well then, we’ll never know for sure but something tells me most of this collection is probably his. Was there anything of Alphonse Mucha at the museum? I seem to see a lot of Mackintosh and Lalique from the looks of it.

      • We got loads of information from the Gallery’s tourist information guide (you can probably get this directly from the museum or online. I assume you have got available information about the origins of the Lalique fountain from Google, etc. Most of the info on my blog we got from the handout. The fountains were originally created in what was then the Champs-Elysees shopping arcade, opened in October 1926, in the “Gallery Lido”, designed by Charles Lefevre, with windows by Piccard. Unfortunately the arcade was later pulled down and the pair of fountains removed. One was found in almost perfect condition in a shed in a suburb of Paris in 1989. It featured in a Lalique exhibition in the Muse des Arts in Paris in 1989. Then it came to the National Museum of Modern Art in 1992, causing a sensation. It ended up in the Hida Takayama Museum of Art.

        The museum has an impressive collection of exhibition rooms and many works by Art Nouveau and Art Deco artists and themes. Artists include Emile Galle, Louis Majorelle Daum Freres, Victor Prove and Jacques Gruber. There are some lovely Lalique perfume bottles. There is a furniture room.
        And yes, there is a collection of posters by Alphonse Mucha. Also reproductions of Charles Rennie Macintosh’s work (including some from the famous Willow Tea Room).
        I hope this helps. If you can’t manage to obtain the museum information, we have a summary of it, which we put into our journal of our 2013 trip. We could always post it to you if you send a postal address. But maybe you should just go there Ariadne. Takayama is a great place, we loved it.
        Regards, Paul.

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