In the midst of its blockbuster summer show, "Lords of the Samurai," the Asian Art Museum has just been attacked by a parody website entitled "Asians Art Museum" which takes the institution to task for "Orientalism" and an ahistorical exploitation of the samurai warrior myth. They call this summer's show "Lord, It's a Samurai" and have extensive notes on the more unpleasant side of Japan's warrior culture. (For an interesting interview with the website's anonymous creator, click here.)
To the museum's immense credit, they were the ones who directed people to the parody site from their own blog, in a post entitled "Invitation to a Discussion," which has a few really intelligent comments, including one from a museum employee who writes:
"whatever our individual gripes and issues, i have nothing but love for the power of art and artists to expand people’s minds. much respect to the artists behind the parody website."
The exhibition is essentially the major treasures of the generations-spanning aristocratic Hosokawa Family, which have never traveled outside of Japan. A couple of weeks ago, the museum rotated in additional objects from the Hosakawa collection, so that about two-thirds of the exhibit is brand new if you've already seen part one.
The disconnect for the parody website creators came on account of a beautiful and successful marketing campaign, where the exhibit is being sold as a celebration of the Samurai, which has brought in huge crowds of people fascinated by the myths of that warrior culture.
At Thursday's monthly MATCHA party at the museum last night, there were activities related to traditional Japanese swordsmanship, including lessons in the lobby...
...and there is no denying it's a hugely fascinating subject for lots of people.
I don't happen to be one of them, finding the 300-year-old Noh drama costumes more my cup of tea, but denying that people adore the representation of militarism in all of its ornamental splendor is not particularly realistic.