Buddha, Tokaido and Mr. with Pharrell Williams at Musée Guimet

One of four bas reliefs illustrating Buddha’s anterior lives, China, Shankhacharya Avadana, 6-7 th century.

Musée Guimet is one of the most fascinating museums in Paris and its collections all dedicated to Asian art are among the most complete in the world. This summer it presents three very different shows which all are attractive. “Buddha, the golden legend” as seen in Afghanistan, China, Burma, Japan… is curated by Thierry Zéphir. “On the Tokaido road”, a series of “touristic” Edo period prints and more contemporary, the top floor rotunda painted by Japanese artist Mr. in collaboration with Pharrell Williams on the theme of children. A perfect summer program!

Mr. surrounded by his installation dedicated to children and inspired by “otaku” and Murakami

The president of the museum, Sophie Makariou, has consistently chosen to show contemporary artists and the opening of the Mr. show saw a massive invasion of tv cameras, news agencies and young fans. A very unusual sight in this mostly contemplative place. But a healthy change I suppose? I don’t really see the point of this artist who transformed the charming rotunda into a thrashed playroom for spoiled kids but I am sure his galerist,  Emmanuel Perrotin could explain his talent. I personally went for the series of Japanese prints dedicated to the road of Tokaido, with its 53 stops like Kyoto, Hakone, Isé, Edo or Nakayama.

Utagawa Hiroshige, Kyôto, the Sanjô bridge (55e view), ca 1833-1834 © Fondation Jerzy Leskowicz

This series of prints are like a storyboard of the perfect trip. The details of transportation, bridges, sea views and landscapes are fabulous and they are as easy to read as a comic book. Like Hokusai, Hiroshige is an exceptional artist and he is surrounded here by other contemporary printmakers. The collection of first prints exhibited belongs to a private collector, Jerzy Leskowicz. It is shown along writer Victor Segalen’s 1863 album of “Tokaido processions” which belongs to Guimet.

From Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo), the famous and ancient Tokaido road

I have always found it very difficult to understand Buddha’s life even with the help of Gilles Béguin‘s numerous books on the theme,  but am relying on the aesthetics of the statues and paintings to apprehend it. The exhibition at Guimet gives a global idea of the different representations through the centuries as his images were collected by Emile Guimet, the founder of the museum. An Amravati sculpture from the 1 st – 3 rd century in India, Pakistanese with Gandhara art, Khmer, Thai Bronzes, Japanese and Chinese representations as well as the different postures and symbolic gestures are all here.

Kneeling monk, Myanmar, Mandalay period 19 th century, lacquered and gilt wood

On top of these three temporary exhibitions, the museum offers its permanent collections of Japanese, Chinese, Cambodian, etc. art and is a true delight to wander around.

Buddha until November 4, Tokaido and Mr until September 23, Musée Guimet, place d’Iéna.

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