10 June until 11 September 2016
Hokusai x Manga
Japanese Pop Culture since 1680

In an extensive exhibition, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) retraced the manifold links between historical and contemporary popular culture in Japan. The MKG has in its possession an internationally acclaimed collection of Japanese colour woodblock prints and woodcut books by the most important ukiyo-e artists, such as Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861) and Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849). The exhibition covered the spectrum from these superb woodblock prints and historical printmaking products of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to the visual mass media of modern Japan: manga comics, anime and computer games, as well as the active fan scenes and appropriation practices – for example, cosplay (short for “costume play”) – that accompany them. In addition to presenting the various independent stylistic elements that distinguish these media, Hokusai x Manga: Japanese Pop Culture since 1680 explored the timeless features that they have in common. Contemporary pop culture, for example, is characterized by a pronounced pluralization of themes, motifs and genres, while also drawing on traditional Japanese narrative material, such as that of renowned samurai heroes or the world of ghosts and monsters (yōkai), and reinterpreting it in ever-new ways. Parallels are also found in the visual and stylistic repertoire, the linking of text and image, and the various forms of serialization. The production methods and distribution structures are also comparable. The exhibition featured more than two hundred historical woodblock prints and illustrated woodcut books, printing blocks, sketches, and pen-and-ink drawings, as well as over sixty Japanese Manga books, high-quality reproductions and original Manga drawings, plus excerpts and animation cels from Anime films, video games, cosplay costumes and merchandising articles from the world of Manga and Anime.

The exhibition was made possible by funding from the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the Justus Brinckmann Gesellschaft and has been produced in cooperation with the Carlsen Verlag. The exhibition catalogue was funded by the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung.

Ill.: Utagawa Kuniyoshi, The Hero Yokogawa, Kanpei Munenori, 1852, colour woodcut, MKG, Hamburg; Keiji Nakazawa, Barefoot Gen (Hadashi no Gen), vol. 1, p. 77 (detail), © Carlsen Verlag 2004