Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Seduction at the Asian

A wall sign advertising SEDUCTION looked bizarre the other day as it framed masses of street people spread out with their dogs and hoarded trash on the sidewalks and thin lawn of Fulton Street.

The signage was for a new special exhibit at the Asian Art Museum, Seduction: Japan's Floating World, depicting the upscale prostitution world of Tokyo during the Edo period (1615-1868). The exhibit is taken from a single collection by Dr. John C. Weber below, which consists of hundreds of kimonos, paintings and woodblock prints detailing the exotic goings-on.

Curious about where Dr. Weber's money came from to purchase all these treasures, I followed a surprisingly thin trail on Google. It seems that the rich are not only different from you and me, but they know how to keep their names off the internet for the most part. The clue to the origins of his personal wealth might lie with his ex-wife, Charlotte C. Weber, one of three Campbell Soup heiresses who was #1234 in Forbes' 2014 list of The World's Billionaires.

The outrageous highlight of the exhibit is a 58-eight painted scroll from the late 1680s by Hishikawa Moronobu, detailing a long streetscape in the moated, gated Yoshiwara pleasure quarter. The annotations above and below the scroll are fascinating, pointing out what each group in each room is doing from dining to dancing to having sex under elaborate bedding. It's worth a visit to see this piece alone.

There is a late 18th century oversized kimono bed cover on display along with other exquisite textiles.

Geishas on the upper scale were the movie stars of their time, and there was a high and low artistic industry detailing their lives and luxuries.

There is no add-on charge for this special exhibit that runs through May, so if you would like to visit inexpensively, this Sunday, March 1st, is the Asian Art Museum's free admission day.


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