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Hopefully you had the opportunity to check out the Samurai Exhibit at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. In short, it was amazing. The craftsmanship and history on display blew me away. There were over 90 pieces of armor, swords, and other decorative items from these legendary warriors. Samurai at the Frist is another stunning exhibit in a long line of amazing exhibits at the Frist.

Samurai at the Frist

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Samurai: Way of the Warrior

Roughly translated Samurai means “those who serve”.  For over 700 years, this warrior class dominated Japan politically and influenced the art and culture heavily. From the late twelfth century until the mid-nineteenth century Shoguns governed Japan until the the emperor was returned to power in 1867. The Samurai served as the military arm of the Shogunate.  These warriors lived by a code of honor known as Bushido, or the way of the warrior that placed a great emphasis on loyalty, courage, personal improvement, and honor.

Samurai at the Frist

Samurai at the Frist

The Samurai exhibit at the Frist featured items on loan from the Stibbert Museum in Florence Italy.  Stibbert’s Japanese Collection is said to be one of best outside of Japan.  There were 9 full suits of armor displayed, along with multiple katanas (swords), twelve kabuto (helmets), Lacquer ware, and a beautiful 60 ft long scroll.


Some of my favorite pieces were the Katanas.  These amazing curved swords were not only weapons, but also symbols of social status and an expression of Bushido. These blades were made by master craftsmen and were designed to have some flexibility to prevent breaking on impact. However they remained strong enough to kill with a single blow.  These swords are absolutely stunning. Samurai at the Frist Katana

Katana Samurai at the Frist

The Katana was not the only important weapon in Samurai culture though.  Archery was also incredibly important and there were some beautiful pieces on display that demonstrated the role of archery in Japan.  From long bows (Yumi) made from bamboo to an incredible quiver and set of bamboo arrows these items were remarkable.

Samurai at the Frist Quiver


The weapons in the exhibit are nothing short of amazing, but the full suits of armor and the kabuto are not to be missed.  The suits of armor are designed primarily to protect the wearer, but are also highly decorative.  Constructed from materials such as horsehair, silk, ivory, lacquer, buffalo horn, and bearskin, these suits express the individuality of the owner and were often displayed in the home when not being worn.

Armor Samurai at the Frist

Samurai Armor at the Frist


The era of the Samurai had prolonged periods of peacetime and stability. This allowed them to devote attention to other pastimes such as poetry, art, and tea ceremonies. The Samurai exhibition at the Frist includes decorative and luxury items such as lacquered smoking boxes, an incense tray, and a gorgeous folding chair.

Samurai at the Frist Folding Chair

It is near impossible to sum up everything that this exhibit has in a blog post. The items on display were without a doubt some of the most amazing pieces I have ever seen.  I wish I could go back and spend a little more time there before the exhibit ends on January 16, 2017.

Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors

The Vistors Ragnar Kjartansson

Along with the Samurai at the Frist, there are other exhibits on display.  Upstairs was an installation called The Visitors by Icelandic Artist Ragnar Kjartansson.  This video installation has musicians performing in historic Rokeby Mansion in New York.The 64 minute production was called  “a generational masterpiece” by the Boston Globe.  Each of the musicians performs in isolation only connected to the music through headphones.  The installation shows each musician on a seperate screen and encourages the viewer to engage by moving through the space.  The music is hypnotic and mantra like.  Built upon the phrase “Once again I fall into my feminine ways”, a line from a poem by artist Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir, the musicians are led by Kjartannson as he strums his guitar in a bathtub.  This installation runs until February 12, 2017, and I think everyone should see it.

The Visitors Ragnar Kjartansson

The Frist

Samurai at the Frist was incredible, and The Visitors was moving, but The Frist Center for The Visual Arts itself is worth talking about. Originally built as the Post Office in 1933-34 during the Great Depression, this building is an architectural treasure.  The Art Deco styling sets the Frist apart as one of the most beautiful building in all of Nashville.  If you are interested in the Architecture you can go on a tour every Saturday at 4:30p (ASL Interpreter available the first Saturday of every month) and learn more about the building from the docents.

Frist Nashville Art Deco

Frist Art Deco

Have you ever been to an exhibit at the Frist?  If so what was your favorite?  I have been to a few and I’m not sure I could pick one.  If you get a chance you should visit this one for sure, but if you run out of time, there are some other great exhibits coming up.  Secrets of Buddhist Art: Tibet, Japan, and Korea starts on February 10, 2017 and runs through May 7, 2017, and I’m sure it will not disappoint. Samurai at the Frist

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