Review of Zapf Exhibition: The Calligraphy of Hermann & Gudrun Zapf

Review of Zapf Exhibition: The Calligraphy of Hermann & Gudrun Zapf

On September 27, 2011, when the sun seemed too bright for an autumn day, Linotype type director Akira Kobayashi, type designer and calligrapher Ryuichi Tateno, and three staff members of J-LAF visited the home of Hermann and Gudrun Zapf in Darmstadt, Germany, to return their works that had been on loan to us for Zapf Exhibition held from September 13 to 25 in Tokyo. Looking back, the first visit by two J-LAF members to borrow their works was exactly eight months ago, on a cold and snowy day of January 27. We still remember vividly how warmly the Zapfs welcomed the nervous visitors into their home.
During our three-day visit in January, we spent two hours a day selecting the works to be exhibited and interviewing the couple about stories behind each piece. When we revisited their home for packing the exhibits on the day we flew back to Japan, to our surprise, the Zapfs presented us a few more works other than the ones we selected. Though we had felt reassured that the couple and our co-organizer Mr. Kobayashi had known each other well for a long time, when the Zaps let us borrow so many of their works from the vast collection that reflects the couple’s history, we were more than grateful that our genuine respect for them was communicated.


*Interviewing and packing at the Zapf residence, January 2011

After hectic days in preparation for the exhibition, the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred just eleven days before the opening. The chaos caused by the disaster affected many events in the country, and without exception, we had no choice but to postpone the exhibition.

We are sincerely thankful that even under such severe circumstances, the Zapfs continued to trust us and patiently waited for any progress. We cannot thank Mr. Kobayashi enough for having kept close contact with them so that they would not worry.

It was an emotionally challenging time, but we proceeded with our preparation with the help of many supporters. About six months later, Zapf Exhibition opened at Gallery Le Bain in Tokyo on September 13. The twelve-day exhibition attracted as much as 1,700 visitors, which was far beyond our expectations. It gave visitors who deal with or are interested in letters an opportunity to appreciate the couple’s marvelous works firsthand and provided a comprehensive view of the development from calligraphy to metal types and to digital fonts. We are also grateful that thanks to Masao Takaoka of the Kazui Press Limited, we were able to have a special screening of The Art of Hermann Zapf (produced by Hallmark Cards Inc. in 1967; owned by the Kazui Press Limited), a DVD introducing Prof. Zapf’s calligraphy.

*First three from left: Exhibition scenes
*Ritght: Visitors watching the DVD

After the exhibition closed its doors, we revisited Darmstadt for the first time in eight months. The Zapfs warmly welcomed us again with tea in their garden. In the peaceful settings, we gave them a report on the exhibition and expressed our sincere gratitude. We then moved into the house and returned their works with the couple checking the condition of each piece. We also gave them a book containing signatures and comments of the visitors. They carefully went though each page of the book and seemed delighted to read every comment that they could read.


*First three from left: Peaceful teatime in the Zapf’s garden, return of the works, and report on the exhibition, September 2011

*Right: The Zapfs going through each page of the book with signatures and comments

When the Zapfs expressed their appreciation to the visitors and everyone involved in the exhibition, we realized that we had overcome all the challenges we faced and successfully ended the exhibition. We would like to give our gratitude to Hermann and Gudrun Zapf, the visitors, and others who made this exhibition possible.


*The Zapfs giving us a warm send-off
*We have donated 277,250 yen to the Japanese Red Cross Society for earthquake relief, collecting from part of the admissions fees and sales from the exhibition and contributions from parties involved in the exhibition. This donation was also a wish made by the Zapfs. We would like to express our sincere appreciation again to the Zapfs and the exhibition visitors.