The British Museum has just announced a major exhibition for the summer of 2019 and it’s all about Manga. Opening on May 23, the exhibition is set to be the biggest manga exhibition ever held outside of Japan.
The exhibition promises to map the timeline of the multi-billion dollar industry tracing all the way back to its roots in paintings, drawings and theatre design and how it made its way to anime, gaming and cosplay. Curated by Nicole Rousmaniere, a research director at the museum and Handa curator of Japanese Art, the exhibition will include original drawings, games, books and paintings to show the full range of medium and how it informs current culture.
As part of the exhibition, visitors will be invited to put on cosplay costumes and visit a recreated version of the oldest surviving manga bookstore in Tokyo.
“We’ve been able to work with publishers and artists to show pieces that have never been brought together before,” said Rousmaniere about the exhibition.
Manga’s unique graphic style has generated huge international appeal. Popular comic series like Dragon Ball, originally launched by Toriyama Akira, have sold hundreds of millions of copies and been translated to over 20 languages.
Manga has also been instrumental for dealing with difficult social topics in Japan like the devastating tragedies of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the more recent Fukushima disasters. A subdivision of the genre also features homoerotic relationships and sexual fantasies that have allowed people to engage with the topics directly.
A big highlight of the show however will be the “Shintomiza Kabuki theatre curtain”, a 17-meter curtain used between acts and covered with ghosts, demons and intricate anime scenes that define Kabuki theatre.
Hailed by curators as “one of Japan’s most compelling artistic treasures”, it was made in 1880 by Kawanabe Kyosai, a manga book writer, who allegedly completed the piece in one evening, while inebriated. On loan from the Waseda University Theatre Museum in Tokyo, this will be the last time the curtain travels abroad.
“The Citi Exhibition: Manga” will run from May 23 to August 26, 2019 in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery at the British Museum.