None Whatsoever: Zen Paintings from the Gitter-Yelen Collection

March 8, 2024
June 6, 2024
333 East 47th Street New York, NY 10017
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Often playful, sometimes comical, and always profound, Zen paintings represent one of the world’s most fascinating religious and artistic traditions. None Whatsoever: Zen Paintings from the Gitter-Yelen Collection explores the origins of Zen Buddhism through over four centuries of ink paintings and calligraphies by painter-monks, who expressed Zen Buddhist teachings through their art, including the celebrated Buddhist master Hakuin Ekaku (1685–1768). The exhibition advances Japan Society Gallery’s history of presenting important Buddhist artworks and concepts, including from the 2007 exhibition, Awakenings: Zen Figure Painting in Medieval Japan, and the 2010 exhibition, The Sound of One Hand: Paintings and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakuin. Visitors will also be invited to engage with Zen Buddhist practices through wide-ranging public programming, from in-gallery meditation sessions to calligraphy workshops and tea ceremony demonstrations.

The exhibition takes its title from a legendary encounter between a Buddhist monk and a Chinese emperor. According to 8th-century Chinese sources, itinerant monk Bodhidharma, patriarch of Zen Buddhism, visited the court of Emperor Wu Liang. When the emperor asked how much goodwill his generous deeds had earned in the eyes of the Buddha, the monk’s curt reply, “None Whatsoever,” shocked the ruler. This exchange—seemingly casual and dismissive, yet also uncompromising, profound, and revolutionary—has come to embody the relationship in Zen Buddhism between student and teacher.

None Whatsoever originated at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and was co-organized by Bradley M. Bailey, The Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Curator of Asian Art, and Yukio Lippit, The Jeffrey T. Chambers and Andrea Okamura Professor of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University. The Japan Society presentation is organized by Tiffany Lambert, Curator, Japan Society.

Download the None Whatsoever Exhibition Guide (PDF).


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