Dr. Monika Bincsik Presents 2022 Margaret Scolari Barr Lecture

Dr. Monika Bincsik presented to the Upper School, faculty, and alumnae on the topic of “Kimono Arts” for the 2022 Margaret Scolari Barr Lecture on Fine Arts. Dr. Bincsik is the Diane and Arthur Abbey Associate Curator for Japanese Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and has curated the “Kimono Style: The John C. Weber Collection” exhibition currently on view at the museum, in collaboration with The Costume Institute.

Head of School Felicia Wilks opened the assembly and Upper School student Bea H. ’23 introduced Dr. Bincsik, who holds PhDs from both the ELTE University of Budapest and Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, and the first endowed position for Japanese decorative arts in the Museum’s history.

Dr. Bincsik’s presentation included slides of beautifully intricate Japanese kimonos alongside Japanese woodblock prints, Japanese lacquer objects, and Western fashion to show the evolution of Japanese kimono style both in Japan and in relationship with the Western world.

Students learned about the origins of what is considered Japanese fashion and how, as early as 1667, Japanese woodblock prints of Kabuki stars and Kosode pattern books were distributed and read, just as they themselves read fashion magazines and celebrity blogs today for style inspiration. Dr. Bincsik then discussed how the opening of Japan’s borders in the 19th century set off an exchange of art, ideas, techniques, manufacturing innovations, and business models between cultures that continues to this day. 

During the Q&A, one student asked why Dr. Bincsik decided to study kimonos. She replied that she is a Japanologist who studies kimonos as an art form, and this collaboration with The Costume Institute was an opportunity to approach her work from a new perspective, which “brings the kimono alive,” making it relevant to more people. As Dr. Bincsik explained while answering another student’s question, “Art is a very important inspiration for many designers.” 

In honor of its 25th Reunion in 1989, the Class of 1964 established the Margaret Scolari Barr Lecture in recognition of her contribution to arts education and in appreciation for her distinguished career at Spence. This annual lecture is dedicated to the visual arts. Past speakers have included Joan Mertens ’64, Emily F. Braun and Ira Spar. Learn more about beloved Spence teacher and honorary alumna, Ms. Scolari Barr, here.