Torii Ippo

June 25, 2021–July 24, 2021

OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, June 25, 5-7pm

Torii Ippo (1930 – 2011) began his career in bamboo arts at the age of 20 after his father’s death. He didn’t have much of a choice as his father’s bamboo business was his family’s only means of support. He taught himself the craft by making copies of his father’s tea ceremony baskets.

In 1959, Torii visited the Tokyo National Museum at Ueno Park where “Treasures from the Shoso-in” were being exhibited. Shoso-in is the treasure house that belongs to the Todaiji Temple in Nara, one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant temples. At that time, Torii felt unsure of whether or not he had the talent to become a bamboo artist.

“I remember that my eyes lingered on a bamboo basket that was said to have been used as a flower basket for the memorial services of Emperor Seimu in 757 AD,” he recalled. “The basket was almost flat, and it was still in perfect condition, even after 1200 years! Its power charmed me. That moment determined my career as a bamboo artist.”

In 1980, Torii submitted a large, architectural bamboo piece to the Japan Contemporary Craft Arts Exhibition. The boldly sculptural work was a dramatic departure from the traditional baskets he had been making for the previous 30 years. The following year, Torii successfully showed his newly established signature style of dynamic “band” work at Nitten (Japan Fine Arts Exhibition). He quickly became one of the most creative and original bamboo sculptors of his time. In 2006, he became the third bamboo artist to be awarded Nitten’s top prize.

This exhibition is a retrospective showcasing twelve masterworks, including Torii’s first Nitten submission, Bond, 1981, and the last piece he completed, Spring Surf, which was posthumously exhibited in the Modern Craft Artists Exhibition in Japan in 2012. Torii’s work is in collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens; De Young Museum; Asian Art Museum San Francisco; Nishio City Museum; and Mint Museum. For further information and image requests, contact the gallery at (505) 984-1387 or