Press Release

Japonisme: A Passion for Japan


 Charles Schuler 
Director of Marketing & Communications 
San Francisco International Airport
(650) 821-5031

Japonisme: A Passion for Japan
New exhibition features Japanesque decorative arts made in the United States and Europe from the 1870s­–90s, all of which reflect an early and remarkable example of international cultural exchangebetween Japan and the West.

SAN FRANCISCO— French author Philippe Burty (1830–90) coined the term Japonisme in 1872 to describe the new fervor for all things Japanese, following Japan’s opening to international trade after a prolonged period of isolation from the West. The increased visibility of Japanese art and design overseas profoundly affected European and North American audiences as ceramics, ukiyo-e woodblock prints, metalwork, lacquerware, fans, and textiles flooded Western markets. Japonisme permeated fine and decorative arts, interior design, and graphic arts. Artists such as Vincent van Gogh (1853–90) and James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) were deeply inspired by Japanese art. American silver manufacturers including Tiffany & Company and the Gorham Manufacturing Company were determined to create metalwork as fine as Japan’s. English potteries took heed of Japanese designs to create a plethora of new patterns. 

Western decorative arts manufacturers adopted Japanese motifs, such as asymmetry and imagery inspired by the natural world, including insects, birds and sea creatures, foliage, and flowers. Rather than directly copying, Western artists drew freely from Japanese ornament reinterpreting objects ranging from sterling silver flatware and holloware to colorful ceramic plates and vessels. Designs on Japanesque lamps, fire screens, and book covers are among the many everyday items that also feature imaginative imagery on display in this exhibition.

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Japonisme: A Passion for Japan is located post-security in Terminal 2 of the San Francisco International Airport. This exhibition is accessible to ticketed passengers from May 04, 2022–April 02, 2023.     

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Established in 1980 by the Airport Commission, SFO Museum’s mission is to delight, engage, and inspire a global audience with programming on a broad range of subjects; to collect, preserve, interpret, and share the history of commercial aviation; and to enrich the public experience at San Francisco International Airport. The Museum has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums since 1999 and retains the distinction of being the only accredited museum in an airport. Today, SFO Museum features more than twenty galleries throughout the Airport terminals displaying a rotating schedule of art, history, science, and cultural exhibitions, as well as the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, which houses a permanent collection of more than 140,000 objects related to the history of commercial aviation. To browse current and past exhibitions, research our collection, or for more information, please visit Follow us on,, or

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