Dr Lena Fritsch is the Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford. Recent exhibitions and publications include Tokyo: Art & Photography (2021), A.R. Penck: I Think in Pictures (2019) and Ibrahim El Salahi: A Sudanese Artist in Oxford (2018). One of her main research areas is Japanese art and photography, with monographs including Ravens & Red Lipstick: Japanese Photography since 1945 (Thames & Hudson/Seigensha, 2018). Before joining the Ashmolean she was a curator at Tate Modern, co-curating Giacometti (2017) and Agnes Martin (2015). Before coming to the UK, she worked at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum of Contemporary Art, Berlin. Fritsch holds a PhD in Art History from Bonn University, Germany, and also studied at Keio University, Tokyo.
Doll Festival, 1966 by Japanese artist Shinohara Ushio (b.1932) is an eye-catching screen prints triptych. I love how the work combines traditional Japanese motifs with neon colours. There are five silhouettes: kabuki actors, a parade leader, a male figure with a Western hat and a high-ranking courtesan (oiran). The title of the work is deliberately provocative as the ‘doll festival’ refers to a traditional annual girls’ celebration in March, in which a set of dolls is laid out on a platform or stand. The dolls represent the empress and courtly women, rather than courtesans and actors. Shinohara created numerous works that featured oiran in a Pop style, but most of them did not survive.
Through Pop Art, artists in 1960s Tokyo connected with other parts of the world. Doll Festival entered the Ashmolean Museum’s collections as early as in 1969 – the same year that Shinohara visited New York. Unlike most of his peers, however, Shinohara relocated and has remained in the US ever since. For the first time in over thirty years, we are currently displaying Doll Festival at the Ashmolean: it is featured prominently in our Tokyo: Art & Photography exhibition.
Bovey Lee (b.1969), Little Crimes II, 2008, paper cut, 48.5 x 48 cm.
Presented by Anselmo Reyes, in memory of Mary Tregear, Ashmolean EA2011.43.
Cai Quo Qiang (b.1957), Legend. Shooting the Suns, 1994, gunpowder and mixed media on paper, 68.5 x 53 cm
Bequeathed by Michael Sullivan, 2013, Ashmolean EA2015.37
Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010), Birds in a Tree, 1989-95, ink on paper, 69.2 x 101.5 cm
Presented in honour of the 70th birthdays of Jose Mauricio and Angelita Trinidad Reyes 1995, Ashmolean EA1995.252
Miyagawa Kōzan I (1842-1916), Small porcelain vase with a peach bloom-type glaze, late 19th century, 5.3 cm x 6.9 cm
Presented by Sir Herbert Ingram, Ashmolean EA1956.1853