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© 2018 ArtZone

Red light district

Kansetsusai Tsukimaro’s Five Beauties is one of 70 pieces that make up Enchanted Worlds: Hokusai, Hiroshige and the Art of Edo Japan, a new exhibition at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.


Kansetsusai Tsukimaro, Five Beauties, circa 1825. Private Collection.

Largely sourced from private collections, this exhibition features silk paintings, scrolls, screens, and woodblock prints all depicting scenes from Edo, or the ‘Floating World,’ now modern-day Tokyo. The Edo period (1603-1868) is known for an art style called ukiyo-e, which emerged during the 250 years of Japan’s self-imposed isolation from the world.


Edo had one licensed red-light district: a walled twenty acre compound known as Yoshiwara. Teahouses, shops, and brothels populated Yoshiwara – but what happened in Yoshiwara certainly didn’t stay in Yoshiwara. Stories of the workers and wealthy patrons of the extravagant red light district were widely circulated through theater, song, and pictures. Work from the Edo period’s most popular artists, including Katsushika Hokusai, Andō Hiroshige, Kitagawa Utamaro and Keisai Eisen, appear alongside digital works from contemporary artists including renowned international art collective Teamlab. This partnership highlights the Edo period’s lasting impact on modern Japanese artists.


Enchanted Worlds: Hokusai, Hiroshige and the Art of Edo Japan (until 1 June) is curated by Japanese scholar, Rossella Menegazzo (Università degli Studi di Milano Statale), in collaboration with Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki curators.