Exhibiting Manga in the UK

Photo credit to Debra Shipley.

Manga-style image taken at the British Museum Manga exhibition.

In 2019, the British Museum held the CITI Manga (マンガ) Exhibition – the largest manga exhibition ever held outside of Japan (1). The exhibition was divided into sections exploring different aspects of manga such as ‘Manga and society’ and ‘A manga for everyone’ (2). The exhibition also had a manga bookstore experience which gave visitors the opportunity to read some manga and was so popular that it inspired the museum to repeat the concept with the library of exile installation by Edmund de Waal (3). At the end of the exhibition the visitors were treated with a camera that converted their own portrait into a manga-style image.

When planning the exhibition, numerous different requirements had to be balanced. The curators wanted to create an exhibition that was representative of manga and showcased its variety, whilst simultaneously making it accessible to all demographics and adhering to British Museum regulations. In order to satisfy all parties compromises had to be made,  for example, due to the British Museum’s imposed word limit and the written style of labels the content included was extremely selective. Another challenge facing the curators was obtaining copyrights to display the manga, which was a highly time consuming process, but eventually they achieved the unusual feat of obtaining copyrights for manga works across many different publishers (as publishers are intensely competitive with each other in Japan) making for a unique experience. The manga exhibition managed to satisfy differing expectations of those involved to create a display which conveyed the diversity of manga in an accessible manner. The exhibition catalogue, Manga (マンガ) edited by Nicole Rousmaniere and Matsuba Ryoko, provided a deeper dive into the history of manga and its impact on society with manga extracts, essays and interviews which highlight the magnitude of the manga creation process and the number of people involved (artists, editors, managing directors, translators and more). 

The 2019 Manga (マンガ) exhibition communicated the diversity of the art form, so it would be exciting to use a future exhibition to study a particular genre in more depth. For example, to create an exhibition on Shōjo (少女) manga, or Girl’s manga, that investigates how changing societal attitudes towards women influenced the genre’s development over time as well as the impact that Shōjo manga had on society would be fascinating.

As manga is deeply imbedded in modern Japanese culture, it would be exciting to utilise the medium and its particular appeal to younger generations to educate the British public more generally about Japan (like the British Museum did in 2009 with Hoshino Yukinobu’s Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure manga). The upcoming exhibition ‘Stonehenge and Jomon Japan’ at the Stonehenge World Heritage Visitor Centre, for example, might provide the perfect opportunity to utilise manga to engage the public with the history of Stonehenge, Japanese stone circles and wider Jomon culture and archaeology.

Footnotes:

  1. “An introduction to Manga,” British Museum, accessed December 11, 2020, https://blog.britishmuseum.org/an-introduction-to-manga/
  2. which highlighted the wide variety of genres.
  3. I have been able to visit this installation by de Waal. Knowing his expertise in ceramics and having seen his work in the Sainsbury Centre, I was very surprised at the form and content of this installation. I wasn’t at the time aware of its connection with the Manga exhibition, and I simply came upon the installation as I wandered around the British Museum. It immediately made me stop and think. The installation takes the form of a small room lined with around 2000 books all written by exiled authors. The title “Library of Exile” provided a pointer to the aim of the work – a greater understanding of language and the enrichment offered by a multiplicity of voices from other countries.
Photograph of Edmund de Waal’s ‘from the collection of a private man’, at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich

References:

Rousmaniere, Nicole. “Manga at the British Museum: Why Manga”. Online Seminar at University of East Anglia as part of MA. December 9, 2020.

Nicole Rousmaniere, ‘Introduction’, short interviews of Chiba Tetsuya, Hoshino Yukinobu and Nakamura Hikaru and NCR essay ‘A manga for everyone’ in Manga, edited by Nicole Rousmaniere and Matsuba Ryoko, London: Thames and Hudson/ British Museum, 2019, pp. 9-32.

“An introduction to Manga,” British Museum, accessed December 11, 2020, https://blog.britishmuseum.org/an-introduction-to-manga/

“Online Jomon Matsuri: An invitation to participate,” The Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, accessed December 11, 2020, https://www.sainsbury-institute.org/info/online-jomon-matsuri-an-invitation-to-participate

6 Replies to “Exhibiting Manga in the UK

  1. Hi Zoe-san, Thank you for your thorough blog on the Manga exhibition at the British Museum. Manga is everyday in Japan. Is there any British manga culture, or once Japanese manga books and anmes are so globally shared that there is no need of it?

    1. Hi Natsue,
      Thank you for your positive comment about my blog. I think that whilst manga is, as you say, “everyday in Japan”, it remains a niche interest in Britain. Nevertheless, I think that aspects of manga have had an influence on a variety of other cultures and enterprises. For instance, its influence can been seen in the West on some film making, product design and artworks.

  2. Hi Zoe, do you think manga is a viable artform internationally? I would say that it isn’t quite fully accepted worldwide yet, at least not the level of western media, but its popularity is growing more and more everyday.

    1. Hi Tom,
      That’s a big question which you pose! I can’t comment on manga’s global reach (I don’t know about it in relation to, for example, South America and Africa). I would say that it is a “viable art form”, anywhere in the world as there is no reason why its style can’t be taken up by anyone as a method of artistic expression. However, that doesn’t mean that it has been accepted internationally. Nevertheless, I think the influence of manga has permeated many strands of expression (such as film making and computer games creation) which do have an international presence, and so in this sense, manga could be said to have gained a global acceptance.

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