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The French connection
by Muhammad Yusuf September 06, 2018
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‘Japanese Connections: The Birth of Modern Décor’, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s first exhibition for the 2018 autumn season, opens today (closes Nov. 24) with a display of 19th and 20th century paintings, prints and folding screens that highlight the artistic and cultural dialogue between Japan and France, and the important influence of the colourful ukiyo-e aesthetics on modern decorative arts.

Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, said: “Louvre Abu Dhabi’s ethos celebrates cultural connection, dialogue and exchange, and this approach is intrinsic to our curation throughout the permanent galleries and international exhibitions. “‘Japanese Connections’ will shine a light on one significant moment of exchange and inspiration; these moments open our eyes to the interconnected history of human societies, nurturing shared understanding”.

In 1853, Japan’s trade opened to the West for the first time in 220 years, giving rise to a deep fascination with Far Eastern aesthetics that lasted in Europe for fifty years. In particular, woodblock prints and paintings in the iconic ukiyo-e style influenced some of Europe’s most renowned painters.

‘Japanese Connections’ presents 41 artworks and 15 documents by 12 artists, including French artists Paul Sérusier, Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Ker-Xavier Roussel, Édouard Vuillard who made up the renowned Nabis group of artists; Marguerite Sérusier and Odilon Redon; and five Japanese ukiyo-e masters Katsushika Hokusai, Hara Zaimei, Utagawa Hiroshige, Kano Tanshin and Toshusai Sharaku.

Isabelle Cahn, General Curator of Paintings at Paris’s Musée d’Orsay and Curator of ‘Japanese Connections’, said: “By bringing this exceptional selection of works together, ‘Japanese Connections’ traces the fundamental contribution of Japanese aesthetics to the development of decorative principles of modern painting in France at the end of the 19th century.

“Presented for the first time in an exhibition, this dialogue between East and West celebrates creativity and cross-cultural inspiration between the Ukiyo-e artists and the Nabis painters through a coloured, vibrant and refined expression”.

The exhibition is divided into four sections that illustrate the influence of central ukiyo-e aesthetic principles, including representing the world in two-dimensions without using illusions of perspective; narrative compositions that show the passing of time; innovative use of folding panels for storytelling; and symbolic refinement exploring intellectual, dreamlike and spiritual ideas.

‘Japanese Connections’ also presents 10 prints and three screens from Japan in dialogue with 24 paintings and three screens from France. Japanese works include South Wind, Clear Sky from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (1831-32) and Yôrô Waterfall in Mino Province (1830-1834) by Katsushika Hokusai, the most renowned ukiyo-e master; Utagawa Hiroshige’s Tôto Sumida tsutsumi (1858); and a six-leaved screen depicting a Cherry Tree in Blossom on a Plain Gold Ground by Hara Zaimei.

Vuillard’s Public Gardens (1894), Bonnard’s folding screen Nannies Promenade, Frieze of Carriages (1897); Sérusier’s Women at the Spring (1899) and The Field of Corn and Buckwheat (1900); a series of decorative panels by Redon; and Rolling Landscape (1900), a four-leaf screen by Sérusier, are among the French pieces.

The works have been assembled from the collections of Louvre Abu Dhabi, Musée d’Orsay, Musée national des Arts asiatiques - Guimet and Musée des Arts Décoratifs (MAD).

The exhibition is being accompanied by public programming celebrating the arts and culture of Japan, including curatorial talks and a ‘Big in Japan’ festival on Oct. 26 and 27, which will feature DJs, spoken word poetry, screenings of Studio Ghibli anime films and Japanese cooking classes.

The Manga Lab, a creative and experimental space for teenagers and young adults offers a variety of entertaining experiences to explore contemporary Japanese culture, including virtual reality, retro arcade gaming, a graffiti and expression wall, a chill-out reading area, and a series of master classes and workshops on Manga and graphic art.

Louvre Abu Dhabi is a universal museum on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, which exhibits art and artefacts from ancient times to the present day. Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the museum contains 12 chapters in the galleries, special exhibition spaces, a Children’s Museum, auditorium, restaurants, retail and a research centre.

To date, Louvre Abu Dhabi has acquired more than 600 artworks, exhibited alongside 300 works on loan from 13 leading French institutions.

Located in an old railway station opened in 1900 before being refurbished for its current purpose, the Musée d’Orsay has been renowned worldwide since its opening in 1986.

It shows the diversity of artistic creation in the western world between 1848 and 1914. It brings together all artistic fields: sculpture, painting, decorative art, art objects, architecture, drawing and photography. The museum’s collections include masterpieces by Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Courbet, Rodin and Carpeaux. It has been recognised for its expertise in the history of art in the second half of the 19th century.

As one of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s museum partners, the Musée d’Orsay has lent artworks that are displayed in the museum’s galleries along with the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s permanent collection.

The Musée national des arts asiatiques or Musée Guimet or Guimet Museum is an art museum located in Paris. It has one of the largest collections abroad of Asian art.

Founded by Emile Etienne Guimet, an industrialist, it first opened at Lyon in 1879 but was later transferred to Paris, opening 1889.

Devoted to travel, Guimet was in 1876 commissioned by the minister of public instruction to study the religions of the Far East, and the museum contains many of the fruits of this expedition, including a collection of Chinese and Japanese porcelain and many objects relating not merely to the religions of the East but also to those of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.

One of its wings, the Pantheon Bouddhique, displays religious artworks. Some of the museum’s artifacts were collected from Southeast Asia by French authorities during the colonial period.

Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts) is a museum of the decorative arts and design, located in Paris.

It hosts exhibitions of fashion, advertising and graphic arts and displays furniture, interior design, altarpieces, religious paintings, objets d’arts, tapestries, wallpaper, ceramics and glassware, plus toys from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Created in 2007 following the intergovernmental agreement between Abu Dhabi and France, Agence France-Muséums (AFM) has been for 10 years a key link between France and the UAE in the development of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

AFM provides assistance and expertise to the United Arab Emirates in the following areas: identifying scientific and cultural programmes, assistance in project management for architecture including museography, signage and multimedia projects, coordinating loans from French collections, organisation of temporary exhibitions, guidance for creating a permanent collection, and supporting the museum’s policy on visitors.

AFM also trains the museum’s professionals.

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