Monsters, Spirits and Other Unrests in Japanese Prints

curated by Paola Scrolavezza & Eddy Wetheim
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Scorri a destra e sinistra
per vedere tutte le immagini


“Yōkai. Monsters, Spirits and Other Unrests in Japanese Prints” proposes to the Italian public the fantastic world of monsters in the Japanese tradition, through marvellous works from the 18th and 19th centuries, including antique prints still unpublished, rare books, masks, and weapons and armour on loan from the Stibbert Museum in Florence.

The word yōkai is composed of two characters, 妖 (yō) and 怪 (kai): the first suggests charm, enchantment; the second means appearance, mystery. The creatures that fall into this category are practically innumerable. After all, Japan is the land of eight thousand gods, because every natural element – tree, rock, stream of water – but also every object born of human genius or labour can contain a spark of the divine.

Japanese culture, therefore, is imbued with a form of spirituality already predisposed to the proliferation of creatures that arise from the intersection of fantasy, religion and everyday life.

The entire exhibition is therefore constructed by giving voice to the places, spaces, feelings and sensations that the yōkai embody, in order to get to the heart of the creation of an imagery deeply rooted in Japanese culture and through it explore its most intimate folds, in which sensations, anxieties, fears and desires are hidden, real and material.

The exhibition opens with an immersive room that makes the public relive the experience of the traditional samurai test of courage of the Hundred Candles Ritual.

Inspired by this evocative tradition, the choice has been made to lead visitors through a narrative-structured itinerary that presents the various legends of the Japanese tradition in the different exhibition rooms in an enjoyable yet strictly scientific manner.

The exhibition is completed with a selection of contemporary illustrations, posters and playbills created for today’s anime, from Son Goku, the iconic protagonist of the Dragon Ball animated series, inspired by the Monkey from the famous Chinese classic Journey to the West, to GeGeGe no Kitarō, to Pom Poko and the worldwide hit Demon Slayer. The masterpieces of Miyazaki Hayao, Toriyama Akira and other great authors show how the aesthetics of the grotesque and monstrous, which has pervaded Japanese culture since its origins, is still an undisputed protagonist in visual art today, thanks to the incredible vitality of its iconopoeic potential, which allows it to be reincarnated in ever new images and stories.

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  • in Firenze (Museo degli Innocenti) – from June 13 to November 3, 2024
  • in Bologna (Palazzo Pallavicini) – from April 7 to July 23, 2023
  • in Monza (Villa Reale Belvedere) – from April 30 to August 21, 2022


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