Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery is hosting an exhibition called “Beyond the Paper Screen: An Exhibition of Japanese Erotic Prints from the Uragami Collection” which will feature 60 sexual woodblock prints, or “shunga” (“spring pictures.”) The woodblock prints feature scenes such as a naked fisherman’s wife being intimate with an octopus. Also, aristocratic groupsex.
Shunga have a long tradition in Japan. It was rented out to eager customers, like videos from a sex shop (!!!). They were popular among both men and women from the 17th to early 19th century.
Due to Western influence, shunga became taboo. The taboo still remains and Uragami Mitsuru, a Japanese collector of shunga, complains about the refusal of Japanese museums and galleries to exhibit them even today.
He hopes that the international respect for shunga — not just its prurient qualities but stylistic and emotive ones — will make shunga less taboo in Japan again.
The exhibit features quite explicit works from Suzuki Harunobu, Katsukawa Shunsho, Kitagawa Utamaro and Katsushika Hokusai, but you wouldn’t know it on the exhibition website— ironically, they thumbnails are very, very cropped.
“Beyond the Paper Screen: An Exhibition of Japanese Erotic Prints from the Uragami Collection,” Through July 31, Sotheby’s, Hong Kong