Press release

Exhibition at The Met Explores Themes of Anxiety and Hope in Japanese Art


Exhibition Dates: April 8, 2023 – July 14, 2024

Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, Arts of Japan, Galleries 223-232

Opening at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on April 8, 2023, Anxiety and Hope in Japanese Art focuses on the human stories behind art and art making. Drawn from The Met’s renowned collection of Japanese art, this exhibition explores the twin themes of anxiety and hope through more than 250 works—from ancient religious sculpture and ritual objects to modern woodblock prints and photographs—presented across four display rotations.

The exhibition is made possible by The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation Fund.

Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met, remarked: “Anxiety and Hope explores the complicated role of these two underlying themes in Japanese art, from ancient times to the present day. The stunning array of works tell diverse stories of the human experience, and allow us to appreciate the powerful ways that art can both express—or inspire—these universally compelling emotions.” 

Organized chronologically and thematically in six sections, the exhibition begins with powerful religious images from early Japan. Each of the sacred objects speaks in its own way to concerns about death, dying, and the afterlife or was created in response to uncertainties like war and natural disaster.

Continuing sections observe medieval Buddhist images of paradises, hells, and the inhabitants of those realms; depictions of war and pilgrimage; Zen responses to life and death; and the role of hopeful and protective images in everyday life. In the final section, the exhibition’s underlying themes are explored through a rotating selection of modern woodblock prints, garments, and photographs. 

Featured artworks in the exhibition include two of the rarest early illustrated handscrolls (emaki) in The Met collection. “Universal Gateway of the Bodhisattva Perceiver of the World’s Sounds” is the earliest known illustrated version of the 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, while the five scrolls of the “Illustrated Legends of the Kitano Tenjin Shrine” narrate the origins of the vengeful deity Tenjin. A masterpiece of early-modern Japanese screen painting, Rebellions of the Hōgen and Heiji Eras is a powerfully vivid description of warfare and suffering. A selection of artworks from local New York collections as well as recently acquired works, including the hanging scroll Bodhidharma in Red Robes by Kano Masanobu, will be shown in New York for the first time. 

Anxiety and Hope in Japanese Art is organized by Aaron Rio, Associate Curator of Japanese Art at The Met.  

The exhibition will be featured on The Met website as well as on social media.


March 28, 2023

Contact: Stella Kim

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