Influential exploration of Japanese folk crafts opens at Crow

By Becky Mayad

A landmark exhibition featuring numerous works never before seen in the U.S., Japan, Form & Function: The Montgomery Collection, will open Saturday, April 15 at the Crow Museum of Asian Art in the downtown Dallas Arts District at 2010 Flora St. in Dallas. Encompassing six galleries and more than 11,000 square feet, the exhibition features nearly 250 stunning works of Japanese art to be presented in major themes and categories. This marks the first time that the Crow Museum will dedicate its entire museum to one exhibition over an extended period. Free and open to the public, Japan, Form & Function will be on view through April 14, 2024. 

Beckoning cat (manekineko). Meiji period, late 19th century.
Photo by Chadwick Redmon

Carefully selected from more than 1,000 objects cultivated throughout Jeffrey Montgomery’s lifetime, the Switzerland-based collection has been regarded as arguably the largest, most comprehensive — and possibly one of the most valuable — private compilations of traditional Japanese works outside of the country. Japan, Form & Function covers 5,000 years of Japanese history, featuring works spanning from the early Jōmon period (5,000-3,520 BCE) to the mid-20th centuries. 

“For the first time in the Crow Museum’s 25-year history, we are devoting every inch of gallery space — and an entire year — to showcase Jeffrey Montgomery’s beloved collection of traditional Japanese art and Mingei that he carefully assembled and nurtured over past decades,” said Amy Lewis Hofland, senior director of the Crow Museum of Asian Art of The University of Texas at Dallas. “We’re so grateful that visitors from North Texas and beyond will get an opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich culture, history and artisan craftmanship that is so exquisitely illustrated in the Montgomery Collection. This exhibition creates the opportunity to ‘see’ Japan at its height of form and function.” 

The collection emphasizes the Mingei Movement, an influential exploration of Japanese folk crafts that began in the 1920s when the aesthetic beauty and simplicity of everyday, handcrafted items were celebrated. While works were originally not made with artistic intent foremost in mind, they reveal high aesthetic qualities that reverberate with modernist ideals of design, abstraction and pattern. The wide range of objects include metalware, textiles such as kimonos and futon covers, ceramics, wooden sculptures, lacquerware, paintings, banners, hanging screens and more. 

Most works from the Montgomery Collection can be identified as Japanese folk art comprising a wide range of media, formats and patterns, which typically differ from region to region. Various influences and styles have impacted each area of the vast country, and the mass production of objects for daily use testifies to the exquisite craftsmanship and the stunning regional diversity that have existed in Japan for centuries. Two key elements are recurrent throughout the exhibition: form and function. Far from referring uniquely to the overall shape of the objects by form, the intended functions of the various components are also revealed. 

The Crow Museum of Asian Art of The University of Texas at Dallas is open Tuesdays-Sundays. Admission is free, and suggested donations are $12 for adults. For more information, go to or call 214-979-6430.