A London dealer’s collection of Japanese art will be exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts

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Among the paintings in the RA exhibition is this color woodcut Famous from India: elephants playing 1863 by Kawanabe Kyōsai. Photo: Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University

The exhibition Kyosai: The Israel Goldman Collection runs from March 19 to June 19 at the Royal Academy of Arts and will largely focus on the art of sekiga‘spontaneous paintings’, produced during ‘calligraphy and painting evenings’ (shogakai).

According to the RA, these images were often fueled by prodigious amounts of sake and reveal a comic twist reflecting the artist’s take on society.

The artist was overlooked for many years and this exhibition is the first solo exhibition of Kyosai’s work in the UK since 1993.


Scroll of Demons

Among the paintings in the RA exhibition is this hanging scroll of Shōki and two demons 1882 by Kawanabe Kyōsai. Photo: Ken Adlard.

The exhibition will include approximately 80 works, many of which have never been exhibited or published, from the collection of Goldman, a dealer in Japanese prints, paintings and illustrated books.

Goldman has been collecting since the early 1980s when he bought his “first sleeper” for which he paid the “princely sum of £55 at a Phillips sale in London”.

He said: “I had just started selling and was pretty poor, but I couldn’t bear to part with the painting and it has been a core part of my collection ever since.”

He admitted that when he started collecting he tried to avoid competing with his clients by focusing on a single artist who was underrated at the time.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication written by Dr. Sadamura Koto as well as a book on Kyōsai’s animal images, Kyohsai animal circus.


Crows scroll painting

Among the paintings in the RA exhibition is this silk hanging scroll Two crows with ‘Crow Gourd’ (karasu–uri), c.1884-9 by Kawanabe Kyōsai. Photo: Ken Adlard

Works owned by Goldman have been the subject of many exhibitions over the years.

He sold a group of 103 ready-made drawings by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) to the British Museum in 2020. As reported in ATG (News summary, Nos 2458 and 2459), Goldman had acquired the drawings at their Piasa auction in 2019. He sold them to the museum for £270,000 with support from the Art Fund. This collection was exhibited last year.

He was also a major funder of the museum’s Kyosai exhibition, held in 1993, as well as an exhibition in Tokyo in 2002 and 2017.

Goldman – also guest curator at the last Japanese thematic exhibition at RA, Kuniyoshi in 2009 – said RA president Rebecca Salter saw the 2017 expo in Japan and they started discussing the opportunities.

He added, “I have always maintained good contact but seeing this exhibit encouraged Rebecca to ask if I would consider having a Kyosai exhibit in London” and the idea for the exhibit was formed.

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