Mori Arts Gallery Center
Closes in 17 days

To anyone who thinks they know about art, there is nothing as cringe-worthy as a contemporary sepia photo. They scream “Fake, Fake, Fake!” Throw in a few elephants, orangutans and some near-naked African women and children and you have a show that any city hipster would rightfully avoid. It’s calendar material; Herb Ritts meets National Geographic; “tasteful” stuff for your mother. Any excuse to skip the show is valid.

To judge without experiencing, however, is to stereotype. “Animal Totems,” now showing at Mori Arts Gallery Center, Roppongi Hills’ for-rent galleries, is a taster for Colbert’s Nomadic Museum, which opened in Odaiba on March 11. Interested in the “shared language and poetic sensibilities of all animals” — including ourselves — Colbert communicates his fascination through large photographic prints and short films.

Moments such as a boy peacefully reading to an elephant are displayed in darkened rooms with warm atmospheric lighting. In all the works — which seem both fake and real — time is slowed down to a dreamlike state where trust is implicit and communication occurs without words. It’s all the stuff cynics can be rightfully cynical about, but if you find yourself irritated by the show’s contrived manner, perhaps its doing its job. Just like an evil movie character who continues to bug you after the film, to annoy is to actually affect. Some may inevitably rush though Colbert’s show, but for those who are able to slow down and remove their critical hats, he just may be able to seduce you.

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