The current exhibition titled “Faszination Japan- Monet- Van Gogh -Klimt” (Fascination Japan) (October 10, 2018 – January 20, 2019) is covering the phenomenon of the surge of interest in Europe directed toward all things Japanese from the late 19th century to the avant-garde.
The 1873 Vienna World Fair offered the general public its first glimpse into Japanese art and culture and led to an extensive fetishization of and demand for luxury goods deemed “exotic” such as furniture, clothing, items for everyday use and decoration s. Equally enchanted by this contact with the “Far East ,” European artists like Klimt, Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, Manet or Kandinsky – none of which had ever been to Japan themselves – were inspired by the artefacts pouring into Europe. Ukiyo-e , Japanese woodblock prints and paintings, particularly ushered in the use of new stylistic tools and new perspectives, which resulted in an enormous impact on the art world and the rise of Modernism.
The exhibition shows how Japanese artists’ vocabulary of forms influenced Western pa inting and the aesthetics of Modernism at the turn of the century. Accompanying over a hundred exhibits of print graphics, paintings, furniture and other objects, a contemporary counter-perspective is given by Austrian artists Margot Pilz, Eva Schlegel and Stephanie Pflaum, who reflect on the motive of the “tea house. “
In light of globalism, the following question arises: how are exhibits, at the time of their creation already indicative of the rapidly rising interconnectivity that the 20th century has brought, approached today? Back then, the longing for the “exotic” was addressed reciprocated by the import of cultural artefacts and ideas. Concurrently, the merging of Asian artistic traditions with the production of European artists meant that the borders between the “self” and the “other” were blurred – a conflict that remains unresolved to this day.
Where do Asian tourists visiting Viennese museums fit in this picture? Is there a similar phenomenon at work as when the Japanese come to Vienna to follow the footsteps of Sissi, Mozart an d others? In what way did European artists incorporate elements of Japanese art into their own work? How is the Austrian Japonism received in Austria and Japan of today?
All these questions will be examined by Lisa Braitner in interviews with curator Evelyn Benesch and intern Komari Tanaka.
Article: Lisa Braitner