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Virtually enchanting

Updated: Oct 7, 2020

Just two weeks after its opening, Auckland Art Gallery was required to close the major exhibition Enchanted Worlds: Hokusai, Hiroshige and the Art of Edo Japan. Now it's available as an interactive virtual tour, Annie Keig reports.

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 - virtual exhibition

The exhibition was open for two weeks before Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki closed its doors due to the global pandemic. Director Kirsten Paisley says, 'It was difficult to close the gallery, knowing that we were locking away exhibitions and spaces that are integral to our role in connecting audiences with art and ideas. Enchanted Worlds was an exhibition that would have existed in the Gallery for a brief time, but now anyone can access it anytime.'

Users are able to choose between three different tour experiences: a family tour with fun facts and art-making activities; a curator’s highlight tour that covers insights and stories on Edo-period poetry, music, theatre, fashion and visual arts; or an in-depth exhibition experience with extended artwork labels.

Enchanted Worlds: Hokusai, Hiroshige and the Art of Edo Japan is curated by Japanese scholar, Rossella Menegazzo (Università degli Studi di Milano Statale), in collaboration with Auckland Art Gallery curators. View the digital exhibition here.


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