The Japanese word オブジェ means something like “avant-garde sculpture”, it does not apply to things like classical sculptures or 18th century busts. Most modern art sculptures are called オブジェ by Japanese people. I am not totally sure オブジェ is always art, as a decorative interior dead tree with no further processing can also be an オブジェ.

I can't find an equivalent word in English, is there any?

Google Images might give you a better idea of what it is used for.
Strangely, the word actually comes from the French “objet”.

  • 4
    en.wiktionary.org/wiki/objet_d'art ? Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 10:10
  • @ShreevatsaR +1 I think you are very close. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 10:15
  • What is the English transcription of the Japanese? (that might be a reasonable loan word)
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 15:55
  • @ShreevatsaR: please add as a formal answer. I think that's the closest in English.
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 15:57
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    Objet d'art essentially just means work of art, though; it's not specific to sculpture in any way. Just based on the pictures in the linked Google image search, I'd be inclined to say abstract sculpture.
    – user13141
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 16:24

5 Answers 5


(Posting comment as answer on request.)

The term objet d'art is sometimes used to describe works of art, and is used especially for modern sculptures and other "objects", as you want. It comes from French, and since the Japanese word you're asking about also comes from the French word objet, this may be appropriate.

See Wiktionary, Merriam-Webster ("The house is decorated with objets d'art from around the world"), About.com's Art History Glossary, Dictionary.com, or, especially, the Google Image Searches for オブジェ versus objet d'art.

  • Pretty close! One thing troubles me: Google Images is not an absolute reference, but for オブジェ mostly modern art shows up, whereas for objet d'art mostly antique shows up. Commented Nov 29, 2011 at 11:32
  • @Nicolas: what is the transcription of that Japanese word into English letters? Does the Japanese term necessarily exclude non-modern art objects?
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 29, 2011 at 13:39
  • 2
    @Nicolas: maybe there is no word/phrase in English that captures exactly the Japanese idea, but objet d'art certainly includes it.
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 29, 2011 at 13:41

I'm not sure if this is too specific, but installation may be the equivalent English language word.


I would just use the French word objet. (In English, that would have a slight mocking tone, which I regard as a plus.)

  • +1 Indeed, オブジェ is often a bit mocking. For instance, if I put an out-of-its-usual-context, bizarre tool at the middle of my desk, my colleagues would call it オブジェ as a joke. Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 2:05
  • Well, there you are. Google pronounces オブジェ as "obajet"; if that's close, maybe the Japanese borrowed the word, sneering connotation and all, from English. Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 8:23

If asked for a term to describe the results in the linked Google image search, I'd be inclined to say abstract sculpture.

Installations refer to a variety of art exhibits that are installed in a gallery space or elsewhere; they aren't specific to sculpture.

Similarly, objet d'art essentially just means work of art; an elaborately made book, spoon or car could be an objet d'art but would not, I think, fall under the category OP is trying to describe.


The first line of that Wikipedia page is translated by Google Translate as:

Object ( French : Objet) are things, objects, such as the meaning of being, in the English language falls object.

Object is a good word for something such as a sculpture or anything else inanimate, but would also include sculptures of people and (normally) animate objects.

I can't think of a work for sculptures that specifically excludes people and animate objects.

Edit: The Google Images link in the question shows plenty of sculptures of people and living things, so I would use the word sculpture.

  • They are indeed objects. Now I was just wondering if someone knew a more specific word. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 9:59
  • Well spot! Indeed, representation of humans in modern art is also オブジェ, I updated my question. Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 10:16
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    Object is a bit too general. It can refer to any physical manifestation, artistic or otherwise.
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 28, 2011 at 15:56

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