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Antiquescopyrights
Herald Tribune asahi
Japanese People Do Not Know Japan
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Essence rather than the real thing

When you make judgments about various values of beauty in art, you should do so comprehensively, including in your judgment awareness of what standards people who have criticized or evaluated the art work in question have and what the sources of their awareness and values are, in addition to the art itself. This is because such criticism and evaluation have not always been pure criticism or evaluation of the art itself. Although there have always been sound criticism and opinions to counter dubious criticism and evaluation in any age, it is also a fact that sound criticism and opinions have been dismissed or marginalized by a kind of power which aims to make a monetary profit from art. As I wrote in the articles of this fifth series, nowadays values of beauty of many art objects themselves are fabricated and art is bought and sold like financial products. Certainly, in terms of the values of capitalism, the monetary evaluation - the price - is the true reflection of the value of the work. Ambiguous things such as beauty and human mind have no value. If something does not make a profit, it will not be considered necessary.
 
In this way, the values and systems that deal with beauty and also the human mind as products have come to have a malign influence on society, I believe. Who made these values and systems, and for what and for whose benefit? Under a relativistic value system, we can recognize light as light because there is darkness. Now, however, I would like to rethink whether the "light" that people recognized as light is really light, and the "darkness" really darkness. I believe we should redefine our values, setting aside conventional values and stereotypes we have been imprinted with and become familiar with.
 
Meaning of these articles

I have written 16 articles in the fifth series entitled "Power of Beauty." In these articles, I wrote that beauty is energy itself, and sought the essence of beauty through a study of the quality and quantity of beauty. And also, in accordance with types or genres of energy which beauty includes, I categorized the various types of beauty _ beauty which has now come to be distorted by monetary values. My aim has been to show you how to properly see beauty and how to choose art works. At the same time, I hoped to help you to understand what Japanese beauty is.
 
Many Japanese people do not know the history or have knowledge of the art objects of their own country, due to the distorted postwar education curriculum. Even more basic than that, they have little awareness of the country they were born in, Japan. To be sure, art works and antiques have been dealt with only by experts and dilettanti. And Japanese people have rarely had occasion to talk about Japanese beauty and its essence to non-Japanese people. Besides, we antique dealers ourselves have not done that. In the steadily growing postwar economy, absorbed in selling only, many dealers did not put any particular effort into appreciating beauty or developing values of their own. It is one of the factors contributing to the current chaotic situation. Reflecting on such history, I have been writing this series of articles in this paper so as to make as many people as possible aware of the attractiveness of Japanese art objects and antiques, their values, and the meaning of owing them (the articles are available on THIS PAGES).
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New world

Since olden times aristocrats and the wealthy have had a spirit of noblesse oblige. They also have collected art objects and antiques as an avocation or hobby, and they have often had a conscious intention to preserve the skills involved in and the culture of the art they collected. The goal of such activities was contribution to human history and culture, not monetary speculation. In my opinion, beauty is an expression of wisdom, and an understanding of beauty is proof that a person has a background of culture and knowledge.
 
However, with the chaos after WWII, a certain kind of power and part of the mass media have more and more come to deal with art works and antiques as financial goods. And finally they began to fabricate values of beauty, and involved art in the speculative money game. Recently, works which are valuable mainly in terms of speculation have been recognized as superior art works. And above all, what is the most serious problem is that people have become blind to the essence of beauty and the meaning of appreciating beauty, overwhelmed by monetary values.
 
Live as a human being

Several months after I started the fifth series, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and it precipitated the global financial crisis. In this dire situation, I believe the values of some people who sought exclusively monetary values in the steadily expanding global economy have started to collapse. We have made various distortions in society and caused psychological problems because we acknowledged only monetary values in all things with the expansion of the market economy after the war. Now many people have questions and anxiety, and are searching for new values. I believe a hint of the new values can be found in the kindness and in the traditional mindset of the Japanese people, which is not dependent on immediate interests and profit, and which also underlies the aesthetic sense and respect for creating things of Japanese people.
 
Around ten years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, because of various disclosures of information we began to understand that even some ideologies and religions are a kind of economic activity, and that monetary economy itself is a money collecting system for some people. At around the same time, conventional values began to collapse. Now, under the unprecedented chaotic global economy, many people have started to seek the real essence of things, not fabricated "real things." Casting aside the imprinted money-oriented values, reevaluating the standards of appreciating beauty, which is a gift only human beings can enjoy, and also rethinking the meaning of owning works of artistic beauty _ all this could provide a good opportunity for us to reexamine how to live as a human being in these chaotic times.
 
Please send your comment or opinion to hadv@asahi.com
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