Art, sex, and institutions: defining, collecting, and displaying Shunga

Boyd, Louise Anne (2016) Art, sex, and institutions: defining, collecting, and displaying Shunga. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In Edo-Japan (c.1603 – 1868) shunga, sexually explicit prints, paintings and
illustrated books, were widely produced and disseminated. However, from the
1850s onwards, shunga was suppressed by the government and it has largely
been omitted from art history, excluded from exhibitions and censored in
publications. Although changes have taken place, cultural institutions continue to be cautious about what they collect and exhibit, with shunga largely remaining a prohibited subject in Japan. Since the 1970s there has been a gradual increase in the acceptance of shunga outside Japan, as evidenced in the growing number of exhibitions and publications. The initial impetus behind this thesis was: Why and how did shunga become increasingly acceptable in Europe and North America in the twentieth century, whilst conversely becoming unacceptable in post-Edo Japan?

I discuss how and why attitudes to shunga in the UK and Japan have changed
from the Edo period to the present day, and consider how definitions can affect this. My research examines how shunga has been dealt with in relation to private and institutional collecting and exhibitions. In order to gauge modern responses, the 2013 Shunga: Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art exhibition at the British Museum is used as an in-depth study – utilising mixed methods and an interdisciplinary approach to analyse curatorial and legal decisions, as well as visitor feedback. To-date there are no official or standardised guidelines for the acquisition, cataloguing, or display of sexually explicit artefacts. It is intended that institutions will benefit from my analysis of the changing perceptions of shunga and of previous shunga collections and exhibitions when dealing with shunga or other sexually explicit items in the future.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Japanese art, shunga, sex art, ukiyo-e, art, museum studies, history of art, exhibitions, collecting, collections, display, erotic art, institutional censorship.
Subjects: A General Works > AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
College of Arts > School of Humanities > Information Studies
Funder's Name: James McNeill Whistler, Beatrix Whistler Scholarship
Supervisor's Name: Stuart, Dr. Susan and Hancock, Mrs Liz
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Louise Boyd
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7546
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2016 08:47
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2016 07:59

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