Cartier Celebrates 50 Years in Japan with a Stunning Tokyo Exhibition

by Barbara Wilson

In a splendid celebration of its 50-year relationship with Japan, Cartier has teamed up with the Tokyo National Museum to present an exhibition titled Musubi — Half-Century of Cartier in Japan and Beyond: An Everlasting Dialogue of Beauty and Art. This exhibition, which is held at the Hyokeikan building until July 28, offers a rich tapestry of art and objects that underscore the enduring bond between the French maison and Japan.


A Fusion of Elegance and Tradition

The term “musubi” in Japanese mythology signifies the divine power of unity, a fitting theme for this grand exhibition. The display, conceived by Studio Adrien Gardere, artfully combines traditional Japanese aesthetics with Cartier’s timeless elegance, harmonizing with the western-style architecture of the Hyokeikan building from the late Meiji period.


The exhibition unfolds in two parallel narratives: Cartier and Japan, a Tribute to Art and Beauty, and Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain and Japanese Artists, a Never-Ending Conversation. These narratives are beautifully showcased in the symmetrical wings of the Hyokeikan, with exhibits displayed in niches and on tables inspired by traditional Japanese architecture.


Celebrating Artistic Dialogue

The right wing of the Hyokeikan showcases over 170 objects, chronicling Cartier’s legacy of dialogue with Japan. This collection, sourced from Cartier’s archives and private loans, features emblematic creations, archival documents, and personal accounts. Notably, Louis Cartier, despite never visiting Japan, amassed a collection of over 200 Japanese art objects that inspired many of Cartier’s designs. These influences are evident in creations such as clocks inspired by Japanese hand mirrors and brooches adorned with diamond-studded dragonflies.


Cartier’s induction of traditional Japanese materials and techniques, such as lacquer work and Katagami stencils, is prominently featured. These techniques have adorned various Cartier creations, including vanity cases, brooches, and modern wristwatches. The exhibition also highlights Cartier’s use of floral and faunal motifs that symbolize longevity and beauty, embodied in designs featuring turtles, birds, and butterflies.

Highlighting Cultural Exchange

A look back at past Japanese exhibitions dedicated to Cartier since 1988 is also part of the exhibition, showcasing prestigious pieces from the Cartier Collection. Milestones such as the opening of Cartier’s first Tokyo boutique in Harajuku in 1974, the 1997 collaboration with Katsuhiko Hibino, and Shingo Katori’s 2017 work celebrating the Tank watch’s centenary are highlighted.

Fashion designer Chitose Abe’s recent reinterpretation of the Trinity ring exemplifies the ongoing cultural exchange between Cartier and Japan, showcasing the maison’s continuously evolving dialogue with the country.

Journey Through Nippon

The left wing of the Hyokeikan explores Fondation Cartier’s patronage of Japanese artists since 1984. Over 120 works are displayed, representing various art forms from painting and photography to architecture, design, and video. This section underscores Fondation Cartier’s role in introducing Japanese talents to a European audience and its commitment to pushing the boundaries of artistic thought.

Highlighting the depth of this collaboration, the exhibition features works by notable Japanese artists supported by Fondation Cartier, such as Daido Moriyama and Tatsuo Miyajima. The centerpiece of this section is Sho Shibuya’s Fifty Sky Views of Japan, an installation commissioned by Cartier to celebrate its 50-year milestone in Japan. This series of acrylic paintings, inspired by Hiroshige Utagawa’s Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido, symbolizes the shared and evolving history between Cartier and Japan.

An Everlasting Dialogue

Cartier’s Tokyo exhibition is a testament to its deep and ongoing relationship with Japan. Through this exquisite showcase, visitors are invited to experience the rich cultural exchange and artistic dialogue that have defined Cartier’s journey in the Land of the Rising Sun.


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