Racy Japanese art show at British Museum to face ‘parental guidance’ rule


The British Museum will introduce a cinema-style age rule later this year when it hosts an exhibition of Japanese art featuring graphic sexual content, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The images set to go on show in London in October showcase the Japanese erotic art form “shunga,” but some are so explicit that children under the age of 16 will only be allowed to enter if accompanied by an adult.

The spokeswoman said one image by the artist Hokusai shows a woman in a tryst with two octopuses.

“We are applying parental guidance advice to the exhibition that all children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult and that they should be aware the material is of a sexually explicit nature,” she said.

In a preview of the show, the museum showed off one of the tamer paintings, “Courtesans of the Tamaya House” by Utagawa Toyoharu, dating from the 1770s or early 1780s.

“This is a finishing school for tarts. You can see all the skills that a successful tart has to know,” the museum’s director, Neil MacGregor, said of the painting.

The British Museum is Britain’s most popular visitor attraction and is currently experiencing high demand for its show “Life and Death in Pompeii,” which has attracted 1.7 million visitors since April.

  • Steve van Dresser

    Too bad this erotic Ukiyoe can’t be shown in Japan.

    • Hanten

      I agree. With some age restrictions and a few warnings before you enter, I think it’d be great for lots of people in Japan to see shunga.
      I have seen some here in Tokyo in a similiar situation. It wasn’t as racy as the interspecies mingling described above.