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The Important Shunga Exhibition of the British Museum in 2013/2014

Stylish promo for the shunga exhibition of the British Museum 2013/2014

The exciting and amusing (look at the very end for the cat!) promo trailer published by the British Museum. The comprehensive shunga exhibition was called ‘Shunga: Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art’.  It featured rare works including some excellent scroll paintings by Chobunsai Eishi (1756-1829), shunga paintings featuring Westerners and erotic pieces by Utamaro, Hokusai, Kiyonaga, Kunisada, Keisai Eisen, Kyosai…etc.

Indispensable

In the foreword of the accompanying catalogue Asaki Masakatsu and Uragami Mitsuru wrote:

Shunga, Japanese erotic art, is a genre that has received increasing appreciation in recent years. Almost all of the master of the floating-world school of art, or ukiyo-e, created finely crafted works of this kind and the study of shunga is indispensable to the study of floating-world art as a whole. In shunga people of all classes are shown enjoying the pleasures of lovemaking.

Humour

Even though the forms created are quite often eccentric, thanks to their skill the artists are able to create the illusion of natural depictions. Sex is depicted in a lively way. with generous humour that invites our laughter. Shunga can be enjoyed by adults of all ages and both sexes, refreshing our spirits in a manner typical of the best of Japanese art.

Utagawa Kunisada and Utei Enba II (author) From the series 'Night Procession of One Hundred Demons', c.1825.

Utagawa Kunisada and Utei Enba II (author) From the series ‘Night Procession of One Hundred Demons‘, c.1825.

Taboo

In Japan after the Meiji era (1868-1912), shunga came to be regarded as vulgar and not suitable for public display. Nevertheless, in recent times there has been a growing awareness of its artistic and historical importance, and the study and appreciation of shunga worldwide has made considerable progress. There is still a strong taboo, however, surrounding the displaying of shunga in public museums in Japan and it has proven difficult to mobilize cultural institutions towards that end.

So it is to be warmly welcomed that, thanks to the efforts of Timothy Clark of the British Museum and C. Andrew Gerstle of SOAS and their colleagues, it has now been possible to stage this comprehensive shunga exhibition at the world-famous British Museum. This is surely an event of major historical significance in the study of Japanese art.”

Source: ‘Shunga, sex and pleasure in Japanese art‘ by Timothy Clark, C.Andrew Gerstle, Aki Ishigami and Akiko Yano (British Museum)

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