Washington, DC’s National Gallery of Art has announced that it will be releasing an exhibit titled The Life of Animals in Japanese Art from June 2 to August 18, 2019. The almost 315 piece exhibition — nearly 180 from Japan — will be showed in an 18,000 square foot gallery in the East Building Concourse. These works come from 66 Japanese and 30 American public and private collections, organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, the Japan Foundation, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
Many of the pieces from Japan rarely or never leave the country, and seven are labeled Important Cultural Property by Japan. The exhibit is meant to showcase the vast cultural impact that animals have on Japanese society through 16 centuries worth of art. This will be the first exhibit dedicated to the topic and will feature an array of sculptures, paintings, lacquerworks, ceramics, metalwork, textiles, and woodblock prints. The pieces will be organized into themes to show the historical impact of animals through various lenses, including Ancient Japan; The Japanese Zodiac; Religion; Myth and Folklore; The World of the Samurai; The Study of Nature; The Natural World: Creatures on Land, in the Air, and in Rivers and Seas; and The World of Leisure.
Earl A. Powell III, director of the National Gallery of Art stated. "It is a privilege to work with the Japan Foundation to share these Japanese masterpieces with American audiences, and we are grateful to the Foundation for making this incredible group of loans possible.” The Japan Foundation promotes Japanese culture though the arts, language, and education. The organization hosts various cultural events worldwide with the intent to cultivate positive relationships between Japan and the rest of the world. The Life of Animals in Japanese Art is one of the Foundation’s largest projects, and aims to expose American audiences to Japanese art. Other Japanese art exhibits in the United States have emerged in recent years such as in the Minneapolis Institute of Art in 2015 and the Detroit Institute of Arts in 2017. The National Gallery of Art’s collaboration with the Japan Foundation shows the push for more Asian art in American galleries.
Celine Mahne is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a third-year undergraduate student at the George Washington University studying International Affairs, concentrating in Security Policy and minoring in Korean.