Hanzestedenplaats 1, Antwerp
18/10/2019 – 10/8/2020
As the official guide of the MAS I can also accompany the latest exhibition: Cool Japan. More than 80 objects from the MAS collection can be seen in the exhibition. The Japanese image culture of the past and present is highlighted. You may know more than you might think. The image at the entrance, among other things: normally this is on the Fruithoflaan in Wilrijk. For the exhibition it moved to the entrance of the MAS. Unfortunately it was too big to place inside the boulevard …
Manga & Disney
The island of Japan is not an island when it comes to visual culture. The mangaka (the makers of manga) are influenced by Disney. Just think of Bambi’s big eyes. The resemblance between Astro Boy and Betty Boop is also striking. With us there has also been Japanese influence, for example the Art Nouveau style got a lot of inspiration from the Japanese decoration and materials.
Fighters: Samoerai, ninja and Sailor Moon
When you enter the central hall of the exhibition, you will see Uki-Uki on the left. The girl with the big eyes in a pastel kimono with a background of gold connects old and new Japan. Uki-uki means ‘Kindly Floating’ and was made by Matsuura Hiroyuki. He also designed the yukata (thin garment that people wear in the bathhouse) in the intro room.
Opposite Uki-uki is a full samurai armor that is at least 150 years old. It is a piece from the MAS collection! There are various pieces around it that shed light on the theme of ‘fighters’, including a piece about tattoos. Some nice things to discover:
- there were also female samurai
- in bath houses one sometimes has to hide his tattoos behind skin-colored stickers
- a dragon is associated with water in Japan, not with fire like here
- the stories of the anime Sailor Moon are inspired by Greek mythology
Japan and Japanese design are associated with simplicity, purity and essence by many people. In this part of the exhibition you will find tea cups, mirrors and bowls that are recognizable Japanese. Find the Danish dish: Scandinavian design is very similar to Japanese design. Feel free to sit down on a bamboo ottoman and admire the fashion from Japan. Here are designs by Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yammamoto and Issey Miyake. These three Japanese were a big hit in the fashion world in the early 1980s. There are also two designs by fashion designers who have studied in Antwerp: Ann Demeulemeester and Haider Ackermann. By using certain materials and / or colors, these outfits also look Japanese.
Kawaii = sweet and cute
After the pure, simple designs of Japanese designers, you will find here a piece about the cuteness culture in Japan. Kawaii means cute, but also immunity, helplessness and cute. 40 years ago it started as a protest of women who resist growing up, working hard and the demands of Japanese society. Now it’s big business. The display case features Hello Kitty shoes, designed by an American designer and worn by Lady Gaga. Some of the outfits shown here have been specially assembled for this exhibition.
Another striking work of art is the Sexy Robot by Hajime Sorayama. It makes the transition between pleasure object and the robots and makes you think about the future of eroticism between man and machine. Next to it is Pepper, designed to keep people entertained and comforted. Pepper is Japanese, but the software was developed by the University of Antwerp. Feel free to talk to it or do a dance.
Win a trip to Japan
In the last room of the exhibition you will find an artwork by Sebastian Masuda: “Colorful Rebellion – Seventh Nightmare”. At first glance cute or kawaii, but pay attention to the revolver instead of an eye of a teddy bear and knives between the toys on the walls.
In this blog post I have only discussed a few aspects of the exhibition. I did not mention anything about the monsters, Antwerp, otaku and the pleasure object sections. If you want to know more about it, you can ask me as a guide, contact me for more information.
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