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The Life of Animals in Japanese Art
On view June 2 to August 18, 2019

What to Expect to See

The Entrance

At the entrance to this exhibit you are introduced to the past and the present of animals in Japanese Art by the digital media instillation created by teamLab. On the wall across from the digital medial instillation are twelve large banners of the zodiac animals with figures from Japanese and Chinese myth and history from around 1840 by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. This exhibit spans a large amount of time, and some of the items are rotated out for new items.

How they have Arranged this Exhibit

Ancient Japan The Zodiac Religion Myth and Folklore World of the Samurai Exotic Creatures and the Study of Nature The Natural World The World of Leisure

Concepts Why Animals Are Present in Japanese Art

Shinto – the spirits, deities, or forces that inhabit all things in nature. Animals serve as messengers linking humans to the divine. Therefore, the religious sects used animals in art to explain religious concepts. Zen – nature of existence through spontaneous insight instead of logic. Animals are subjects that illustrate symbols of this process. Myth and Folklore – Rehashing old tales and morality stories by using animals is always more fun to listen too. Rats having weddings. And, there is a fox in the moon. Exotic Creatures – in 1543 Portuguese sailors were the first Europeans to visit Japan. They brought exotic animals from African, India, and the Americas. Being gum struck at the sight of these exotic animals, artists had new materials to generate a vast array of different types of exotic animal art, which became high fashion. The trade in exotic animals enhanced the desire of understanding natural history. This led to a naturalistic approach to the portrayal of animals and their environments. Leisure time – animals behaving like a person doing mischief and naughty behavior. This was begun in the Edo Period with an act of censor. Images of contemporary figures were banned. Consequently, a work around for artists was to use the comical animal.


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