X-rated Japanese erotica sets throats clearing at UK shows

Mon Oct 21, 2013 7:25pm EDT
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By Paul Casciato

LONDON (Reuters) - Giant genitalia in action and ribald humor take center stage at a British Museum show of erotic art from feudal Japan that runs until next January.

The museum's "Shunga: Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art" is one of three shows on across Britain dedicated to traditional Japanese erotica, pleasure and Kabuki theatre from 1600 to 1900.

The exhibitions at London's British Museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and Edinburgh's National Museum of Scotland include works by some of Japan's most famous artists from the period, including Utamaro, Hiroshige and Kunisada.

The British Museum and the Fitzwilliam have opened recommended adult-only displays of Japanese shunga - erotic "Spring pictures" - exploring sex, love and humor in Japan through some 200 works including paintings, scrolls, sets of prints and illustrated books with texts.

"It's up to people to make what they want of it, but when they become aware of the beauty and humor and humanity of it they're quickly won over," British Museum curator Tim Clark told Reuters on Monday.

In Edinburgh, the National Museum of Scotland has turned its eye on Kabuki, the popular form of all-male Japanese theatre combining drama, music, dancing and acrobatics, with 61 prints.

In conjunction with the London museum's much bigger exhibition, Cambridge University's Fitzwilliam has opened: "The Night of Longing: Love and desire in Japanese prints."

Fitzwilliam curator Craig Hartley told Reuters how the prints of courtesans, geishas, famous love stories and theatre show the art form's celebrated place in exploring love, desire and pleasure in Japan's otherwise rigidly controlled society during the feudal Edo and imperial restoration Meiji periods.   Continued...