Manga and Contemporary Art
In recent years, Japanese comics or manga have inspired western comic artists, fashion designers, contemporary artists and millions of ordinary readers. The wide-eyed figures of manga appear on t-shirts, in video games, on CD covers and even in art museums.
The extensive Japan Pop exhibition at the Tennis Palace will be the first introduction in Finland to manga as visual culture. Japan Pop will comprise two exhibitions, one of which focuses on manga itself, its roots, and contemporary Japanese comics. The other will introduce top names in Japanese Contemporary Art, all of whom have grown up reading manga.
The manga exhibition is entitled From Hokusai to Dragon Ball and will be held on the first floor of the museum. It will display a selection of originals from the most interesting modern manga artists, and a variety of manga styles. It will include woodblock prints by Hokusai and other old masters. The exhibition and its programme of events will also introduce the fan culture that is closely associated with manga, for example, cosplay or dressing up as manga characters. The programme of events will allow visitors to try their hand at manga, hear lectures on contemporary Japanese culture, and even sing karaoke.
Popular and high culture will meet on the second floor, with Neo Pop Art from the collection of the German Thomas Olbricht. There will be works by ten artists, including the international superstars Yoshitomo Nara, Mariko Mori and Takashi Murakami.
The exhibition From Hokusai to Dragon Ball has been produced by the Östasiatiska Museet of Stockholm. The display of the Olbricht collection is part of the NRW@fi theme year (www.nrw.fi).
MANGA: FROM HOKUSAI TO DRAGON BALL
Art Museum Tennis Palace will put on an exhibition of Japanese comics or manga, which is a unique form of graphic art and also both a lifestyle and a phenomenon. The exhibition will include original works from ten Japanese manga artists and woodblock prints by old Japanese masters to illustrate the historical background of contemporary manga. There will also be an overview of works by Finnish manga artists.
In Japan, manga is both an ambitious art form and a booming industry. Manga is available at every newsstand and read by people, adults and children alike, on the underground and in cafés and parks. In fact, wherever there are people, someone will be reading manga. Manga accounts for nearly 40% of all printed publications in Japan. It covers a wide variety of subjects and serves many different purposes. For example, some manga teach cooking and others golf, economics or Japanese.
The exhibitions will start with woodblock prints by artists such as Hokusai, Kunisada and Harunobu. In fact, the word manga was coined by Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) to describe his playful black and white sketches. The exhibition will include an original manga album by Hokusai himself, and a digital version that visitors can view on screen.
There will also be original manga from ten well-known Japanese artists representing various styles: Akira Toriyama, Eiichiro Oda and Masahsi Kishimoto draw manga that is intended for boys, whereas Arina Tanemura, Megumi Mizusawa, Machiko Satonaka, Riyoko Ikeda and Keiko Takemiya make manga for girls. There will also be a few originals from Baron Yoshimoto, who is one of the best-known makers of realistic manga, and from Hikaru Yuzuki, whose manga is intended for adults. Especially relevant in Finland are Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball), Arina Tanemura (Time Stranger Kyoko), and Eiichiro Oda (One Piece) because publication of their work recently began here.
There are also artists in Finland whose styles and sometimes themes have been influenced by Japanese comics. The exhibition will include a unique compilation of Finnish manga, including work by six Finnish artists.
The exhibition does not only deal with Japanese comics, but also examines Japanese culture more broadly via manga. It will include a Japanese underground train – manga chikatetsu – where visitors can read manga in Japanese and other languages in authentic-looking surroundings. The exhibition will also include a programme of events dealing with Japanese culture, offering insight into what lies behind manga.
The Art Museum will publish a Manga ABC, a 100-page educational package on manga. Its graphic designer is Nene Tsuboi.
The exhibition From Hokusai to Dragon Ball was produced by the Östasiatiska Museet of Stockholm.
10 CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS
The Japan Pop exhibition comprises two shows: one on manga and another displaying works by ten contemporary artist from the collection of Thomas Olbricht. Most of the artists were born in the 1960s and 1970s, and grew up in a society defined by the huge popularity of manga (comics) and anime (animated films), rampant consumerism and an increasingly influential media. The artists are Jun Hasegawa, Makiko Kudo, Masahiko Kuwahara, Shintaro Miyake, Mariko Mori, Yasumasa Morimura, Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, Hiroshi Sugito and Aya Takano.
The influence of manga and anime is apparent in many ways in the works shown in the exhibition. The stylised, two-dimensional mode of comics comes naturally to many of the artists. They depict figures that are funny and cute, but also strange and aggressive, much like those of manga. While the works seem humorous and bring to mind Pop Art, a closer look reveals that they are very ironic, defiant and critical. They criticise Japanese kawaii culture, which idealises cuteness and sweetness, side-effects of the consumer society, and standardised ideals of beauty.
The artists belong to the Neo Pop genre that emerged in Japan in the 1980s. Their art appeals to the young ’screen generation’ of the virtual world of comics, animation and computer games. Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara, the brightest stars of Japanese Contemporary Art, are very popular among their young countrymen. They have become cult figures and their art and imagery are not restricted to galleries and museums. Their fans can buy merchandise from stickers to mouse-mats, t-shirts and dolls.
In the West, Japanese Contemporary Art has become much more visible than before. Thomas Olbricht, one of the most important collectors of Contemporary Art in Germany, is one of the many who have been captivated by Neo Pop. Most of the works in the exhibition are on loan from his collection. Olbricht has been a passionate collector since 1985. He says that he is interested above all in what he cannot understand himself: art that provokes and mystifies. Japanese variations of Pop Art are exactly this to Olbricht and western audiences; they are a fascinating blend of the strange and the familiar.
The exhibition will include a catalogue with an essay by Dr. Margrit Brehm. The layout of the catalogue is by Maria Appelberg. The exhibition is part of the NRW@fi theme year and it has received support from the Ministry of Culture of Nordrhein-Westfalen and the Finnish Ministry of Education.
The principal partner of the Japan Pop exhibition is Helsingin Sanomat. The exhibition architect is Tuomas Toivonen.
Guided tours: Guided tours free of charge in Finnish on Wednesdays at 18.00, on Saturdays and Sundays at 14.00, and in Swedish on the first and third Sunday of each month at 15.00. To book a private tour, please call tel. +358 9 310 87003.