It being Museum Wednesday – a new thing in our family – we tossed a coin to decide between the Museum of Magic and the current Kabuki Japanese Theatre Costumes exhibition at the Fondation Pierre Berge Foundation-YSL. The latter won out, magic will have to wait.
I was worried that it would prove to be a brief visit – my son is six and has the accompanying attention span for his age – but it turned out fairly well. Along with the extensive display of the intricately-designed and richly embroidered silk kimonos, were videos being shown in English and French commentary, showing the history of Kabuki in Japan. This was what cinched it for the young man, who was not all that interested in the costumes – he sat through the entire video show- and walked out enthralling us with the facts such as “only boys can do Kabuki”.
If you have an interest in Japanese culture and history this is worth taking in. Some of the costumes on display date as far back as the 1930s yet are still beautiful, and even contemporary in design. It’s a visual delight. My daughter bemoaned the act that we could not photograph any of it, asking out loud every so often “what’s the point of displaying all these gorgeous outfits and not letting us take pictures?”. There are also some Ukiyo-e prints on display, on loan from the Guimet Museum ; as I said, it is a visual feast.
We finished off the tour with a visit the gift shop on the first floor; where we walked away with our very own Kabuki costumes, in the form of small cards which are now on full display in our study.
What is Kabuki? A traditional Japanese form of popular theatre, which is 400 years old. It is performed by men only – even the female roles. The costumes play a major role in Kabuki, with technical staff often forming a greater part of the production than the actors themselves.
Kabuki is now a UNESCO- protected culture under “Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.
More pictures of my Kabuki collection here.
Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent
5 rue Marceau