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06/02/2019 - 08/18/2019
Washington (DC)

The Life of Animals in Japanese Art

Yayoi Kusama. Sho-chan, 2013. © Yayoi Kusama, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Shingapore/Shanghai.

Time & Location

June 2 – August 18
National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC)


Animals are abundant in Japanese art history, demonstrating the significance of both real and mythical creatures in Japanese culture. Of unprecedented scale and comprehensiveness, this exhibition brings together over 300 animal-related works of art, carefully selected from significant collections in Japan and the United States, from 5th-century haniwa to contemporary art. It examines the many roles animals have played in secular, spiritual, and religious lives in Japan through diverse media such as painting, sculpture, lacquerware, ceramics, metalwork, cloisonné enamel, woodblock prints, textiles, and photography. These depictions of animals, at times simple and humorous and at other times mysterious, communicate charming aspects of Japanese culture to people of all ages.

This exhibition is organized by The Japan Foundation, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with special support of the Tokyo National Museum, the Chiba City Museum of Art, and the Suntory Museum of Art. This exhibition is part of Japan 2019, a series of events highlighting Japanese arts and culture in the U.S. throughout 2019.

For more information, please visit the National Gallery’s website.

Related Events

Introduction to the Exhibition—The Life of Animals in Japanese Art
June 2, 2 PM
An inaugural lecture by Robert T. Singer, curator and department head, Japanese art, LACMA, and co-curator of the exhibition

The Roles and Representations of Animals in Japanese Art and Culture
June 7, 10:30 AM – 5 PM
A public symposium on the roles and representations of animals in Japanese art and culture

Both events are free and will be live-streamed here.

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