Exhibition: ZENGA – Japanese Zen Paintings from the Kaeru-An Collection (National Gallery Prague)

Date of event:   27/05/2022 − 02/10/2022

Title: ZENGA – Japanese Zen Paintings from the Kaeru-An Collection
Duration: 27 May 2022 to 2 October 2022
Location: National Gallery Prague, Prague, Czech Republic

The exhibition ZENGA – Japanese Zen Paintings from the Kaeru-An Collection is the first time the National Gallery Prague is showing a part of the exceptional collection of Zen painting and calligraphy that it received as a gift from the Dutch collector Felix Hess in 2019. Over the course of almost twenty years Hess’s collection grew to contain nearly 570 artworks, mainly scrolls but also some small ceramics and a pair of screens. Hess donated several items to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and 526 of the artworks went to the National Gallery Prague. This comprehensive presentation of the Zen Buddhist approach to ink painting and calligraphy is unique in the non-Japanese context (at least within Europe). More than a tenth of the donated artworks will be shown in two rotations in Salm Palace. Their exceptional nature has been confirmed by, amongst other things, the fact that this year the Czech Minister of Culture Martin Baxa awarded the ministry’s Artis Bohemiae Amicis medal to Felix Hess for his extraordinary gift.

There is no doubt that Zenga – literally “Zen paintings” ⁠–⁠ which include both paintings and calligraphy, are impressive in a special way because of the effective use of brush and ink. Zen aesthetics present beauty through simplicity, asymmetry and the black-and-white nature of the ink brushstrokes, which are in harmony with the principle of beauty in imperfection and everydayness (wabi). The unpretentious architectural design of the exhibition, working in symbiosis with the sound elements, including the tones of a shakuhachi flute and the sound of frogs croaking, also highlights these principles, as does the nook with Japanese tatami mats, where exhibition visitors can meditate.

For more information, please visit the website here.