It does not sound like anything I would have been interested in, and you may easily feel the same way. And yet, "The Art of the Samurai," just put up on view at The Met, is an exquisite, do-not-miss, unbelievable exhibition-even for those of us who know absolutely nothing about Japan, ancient or recent history, ferrous metallurgy and/or war. At heart, this exhibition is actually about super fabulous outfits! I mean, mind-blowing, 400-year-old, space-age, unbelievable, gorgeously-made rock star outfits, constructed from hay-smoked deer leather and steel and silk and gold.
There is an outfit of ceremonial armor made for an ambassador who went traveling around the world somewhere around the time when John Hancock was in diapers. (I may be off by 75 years one way or the other because I know nothing about history! But the context: unbelievable!) There are hats so gorgeous and so refined and bizarre that they look like some crazed concoction of scatter-brained, pot-smoking French 1980s fashion designers. One, in particular, is a swooping black swirl, that resolves into a black, angled fist at the top; it is clutching a Buddhist ceremonial object that looks like an infinity symbol version of an eggbeater. It is insane.
The entire exhibition is a giant, mind-blowing WTF explosion. WHAT IS THIS COAT, with Dutch sailing ships on the back?
HI, VOLCANO COAT, from the 17th Century!
I don't even know what to say about this.
Also there are swords galore. Now I am not a person who cares about swords. But this is some unbelievable swordy goodness. Also there is an insane video about the traditional making of swords, which is some seriously laborious business, taking as it does some six months and undoubtedly much accidental burning and mutilation.
The show is rotating objects throughout its run, so you should go now, and then in a few months, in part because NO ONE WILL EVER SEE much of this again. Like, it is cobbled together from families and repositories of official cultural treasures and stuff and that we even get to see it at all is amazing. We highly endorse it.