Musée du quai Branly in Paris, located on the bank of the Seine River and designed by architect Jean Nouvel, has been attracting attention from around the world since it first opened its doors in 2006, and has quickly become established as one of the city‘s cultural highlights. This exhibition draws on the museum’s treasure trove of rare and precious items collected from Asia, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas to explore the fascinating world of masks, and is the first large-scale exhibition of the musée du quai Branly collection to take place in Japan.
In putting on masks, people throughout history have come face to face with nature, allowing the invisible powers of gods and the spirits to transform them into performers, actors, storytellers. Masks belong in the liminal space between people, gifted with both physicality and the power for reflection, and the world surrounding them. In donning masks representing animals, gods or spirits, or perhaps characters in a story, and in the dancing and singing that frequently accompanies this act, the wearers become one with their masks. It is in this transformation of the wearers into hybrid entities, possessing the powers of both their selves and their masks (also therefore standing for otherness), that the doors to a yet-undiscovered realm are flung open. What the diverse masks from all across the world featured in this exhibition have in common is their breathtaking imaginative force, as made evident in the uniqueness of their shape, materials, or scale.
Laying bare the true fascination of this vital form of representation, the exhibition explores the true essence of the mask and what it means to us in today‘s world. (The exhibition comprises around 100 masks.)