Dr. Don Wood Receives Japan’s Highest Cultural Honor

/ Press Release - Staff Updates

The Birmingham Museum of Art is proud to announce that Dr. Donald Wood, the Virginia and William M. Spencer III Curator of Asian Art, was conferred one of Japan’s most prestigious awards, The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays. In a ceremony that will take place on the evening of December 15 at the Museum, Consul General Takashi Shinozuka of Japan in Atlanta shall present Wood with a badge symbolizing Japan’s highest honor in the world of culture.

Originating in 1875, the Order of the Rising Sun was the first national decoration awarded by the Japanese Government. The award is given to those who have made distinguished contributions to the promotion of Japanese culture. Dr. Wood is being recognized for his role in deepening the appreciation of Japanese art in the United States. The rays of light depicted on the badge symbolize energy as powerful as that of the rising sun, with Japan known as the “Land of the Rising Sun.”

“Don has spent his entire career as a devoted steward of the arts of Asia. Through his discerning knowledge and incredible dedication to the Birmingham Museum of Art, Don has developed its exquisite collection of Asian art as the finest in the Southeast,” says Dr. Graham C. Boettcher, R. Hugh Daniel Director of the Birmingham Museum of Art. “For decades, he has promoted cultural exchange between Japan and the United States through Japanese art, and this esteemed award is indicative of his passion and commitment to that pursuit. On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the staff of the Birmingham Museum of Art, I offer heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Wood.”

Dr. Donald Wood’s relationship with Japan began 45 years ago as an exchange student at Kansai University of Foreign Studies in Hirakata City. He began his tenure at the BMA in 1987, was appointed The Virginia and William M. Spencer III Curator of Asian Art in 2000, and served as Chief Curator from 1996 to 2008.

Over the course of three decades at the Birmingham Museum of Art, Wood curated such acclaimed exhibitions as The First Emperor: Treasures from Ancient China and Kamisaka Sekka: Rimpa Master – Pioneer of Modern Design, and All the Colors of the Rainbow: Uzbekistan Ikats from the Collection of Peggy Slappey, and the current exhibition Afterlife: Asian Art from the Weldon Collection. He has published extensively, served as an advisor to collections and collectors, and has traveled in and out of Asia for the past 35 years. Additionally, Wood has worked closely with the Museum’s Asian Art Society and more recently with the Indian Cultural Society to promote the arts of all Asian nations and to increase their profiles within the state of Alabama. His expertise in Asian art has put him in high demand as a consultant and guest speaker.

Prior to his work at Birmingham, Dr. Wood was Curator of Asian Art at the New Orleans Museum of Art, worked at the National Palace Museum (Taipei, Taiwan) and at the Spencer Museum, University of Kansas. He also taught at Kansai University of Foreign Studies, Kinran Junior College, both in Osaka, Japan, Tulane University, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Wood lived in Taiwan for one year, Japan for seven during the course of his studies, and has traveled extensively throughout Asia.

Wood received his Doctorate with Honors, his Master of Philosophy and master’s degrees from the University of Kansas, and his bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University. In addition, he studied at the University of Toronto, Middlebury College, Kansai University of Foreign Studies (Osaka, Japan), Kyoto University (Kyoto, Japan) and Schiller College (Kleiningersheim, Germany).

Wood’s areas of interest include Buddhist art, Asian ceramics, Japanese prints, Indian and Southeast Asian sculpture and Korean art. Dr. Donald Wood retires on December 29 after more than 30 years of service as curator of Asian Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art.