This fall, the Asian Art Museum brings two very different, equally unmissable exhibitions to San Francisco: the premiere of monstrous new works from beloved pop mix-master Takashi Murakami (some created exclusively for the museum) and the international debut of Six Persimmons, a storied, centuries-old ink painting once considered the ultimate expression of Zen Buddhism which is leaving Japan for the first — and perhaps only — time ever.
Takashi Murakami: Unfamiliar People — Swelling of Monsterized Human Ego
Sept 15, 2023 – Feb 12, 2024
Takashi Murakami’s first solo exhibition in San Francisco delivers his signature combination of fun, spectacle, and playful social commentary by way of more than 40 vibrantly colored, larger-than-life paintings and sculptures, including the premiere of new works created for this exhibition. Takashi Murakami: Unfamiliar People — Swelling of Monsterized Human Ego uses monsters as a lens to examine human behavior in the wake of a complicated past, a chaotic present, and a virtually limitless digital future.
Several of the new works created for this exhibition find Murakami responding to the global pandemic and a shift toward virtual interactions. Paintings of distorted figures reflect the swelling egos of individuals promoting themselves relentlessly on social media, while works recording the artist’s creation of NFTs, including avatars, look with optimism toward a digitally liberated future. Other recent paintings showcase the artist’s connoisseurship of traditional ceramics, drawing aquatic motifs from the Asian Art Museum’s own celebrated collection of Ming-dynasty wares and offering a poignant nod to the passage of time.
The Heart of Zen
Nov 17 – Dec 31, 2023
The Heart of Zen offers visitors an encounter with two artworks so precious, so celebrated, and yet so rarely seen that most of the world has only ever experienced them in reproductions.
Captivating in their simplicity, the ink paintings Six Persimmons and Chestnuts have been exhibited publicly only a handful of times in the modern era. Painted in China in the 13th-century and attributed to the monk Muqi, they have been treasured for centuries at Daitokuji Ryokoin Zen temple in Kyoto, where they remain out of sight for all but a few monks (and select, special visitors). The 20th century saw these exquisite still lives gain global renown and become artistic bywords for Zen practice — yet they have never left Japan before and might never do so again.
In tune with the seasonality of the fall fruits they depict, and to safeguard these delicate masterpieces from light overexposure, Six Persimmons will be on view for only three weeks before being taken down and replaced by Chestnuts for a further three weeks, Nov. 17 – Nov. 10, and Dec. 8 – 31, respectively (there will be one weekend when both paintings are on display together, Friday, Dec. 8 – Sunday, Dec. 10). They come to the Asian Art Museum in an effort by the Daitokuji Ryokoin abbot and monks to nurture compassion and foster empathy for those in San Francisco who suffer from addiction, illness, and lack of housing.
“You might never see these paintings again,” says Jay Xu, the Barbara Bass Bakar Director and CEO of the Asian Art Museum. “Whether Six Persimmons and Chestnuts, or Murakami’s endearingly grotesque creations, the short window we have to experience these artworks echoes the fleetingness of our time on Earth when we are able to make a positive impact on those around us. By contemplating these humble yet powerful ink paintings, or by understanding how Murakami boldly remixes tradition to reflect the complexity of today, these exhibitions are what we do best at the Asian Art Museum: offer a once-in-a-lifetime chance to connect the past to the present.”
About the Asian Art Museum
Located in the heart of San Francisco, the museum is home to one of the world’s finest collections of Asian art, with more than 20,000 awe-inspiring artworks ranging from ancient jades and ceramics to contemporary video installations. Dynamic special exhibitions, cultural celebrations and public programs for all ages provide rich art experiences that unlock the past and spark questions about the future.
Images: Unfamiliar People, 2020–2022, by Takashi Murakami (Japanese, b. 1962). Acrylic on canvas mounted on aluminum frame. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin. © 2020–2022 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved; Persimmons, attributed to Muqi (Chinese, active 13th century), hanging scroll; ink on paper. Collection of Daitokuji Ryokoin Temple. Important Cultural Property. ©Asian Art Museum.