Life of Cats: Selections from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection

Friday, March 13 – Sunday, June 7, 2015

Since arriving in Japan aboard Japanese ships transporting sacred Buddhist scriptures from China in the mid-sixth century, cats have proceeded to purr and paw their way into the heart of Japanese life, folklore, and art. Life of Cats: Selections from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection illustrates the depth of this mutual attraction by mining the wealth of bravura depictions of cats to be found in ukiyo-e woodblock prints of the Edo Period (1615-1868).

Ninety ukiyo-e prints in the exhibition are on loan from the esteemed Hiraki Ukiyo-e Foundation whose holdings are revered in Japan. Select prints, paintings, sculptures, and other works borrowed from U.S. collections complement these prints, making the exhibition over 120 artworks. With cross-cultural and multi-generational appeal, Life of Cats takes viewers on a wild ride through Japan’s love affair with our feline friends.

Roughly 50 items will be replaced with new works halfway through Life of Cats—Rotation 1 will be on view from March 13 until April 26; Rotation 2 will be on view from April 29 until June 7. The exhibition will be closed on April 27th & 28th for the reinstallation.

$12; students & seniors $10, Japan Society members & children under 16 free. Admission is free to all on Friday nights, 6-9 pm.

Gallery Hours:
Tues.-Thurs. 11 am-6 pm; Fri. 11 am-9 pm; Sat. & Sun. 11 am-5 pm, closed Mondays, major holidays, and Tuesday, April 28th.

Docent-led Tours:

Starting Fri., March 13, through Sun., June 7, 2015, docent-led walk-in tours will be conducted Tues.-Sun. at 2:30 pm and Fri. evenings at 7 pm. Japanese language tours will be conducted Friday nights at 6 pm. Tours are free with admission and are approximately one hour in duration.

Gallery Lessons:
Pre-K-12th grade school groups can schedule object-centered, one-hour Gallery lessons Tuesday–Friday by appointment.  For more information about arranging group tours, please call (212) 715-1223. Two weeks advance request recommended.

Life of Cats
is divided into five sections: Cats and People, Cats as People, Cats versus People, Cats Transformed and Cats and Play. View selected pieces from the exhibition below!

Exhibition-Related Programming

Cats as People

Cats Transformed

Cats Versus People

Cats and People

Cats and Play


An 80-page, full-color illustrated catalogue will be available for purchase at Japan Society and online. Japan Society will donate 5% of total catalogue sales to the ASPCA.

Audio Tour

Japan Society Officer of Gallery Operations Cory Campbell takes listeners on a guided tour of Life of Cats: Selections from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection. Using highlights from each section, this audio tour provides more context for the works on display.

Click here to get started!

Video tour

See highlights from Life of Cats in this video tour, led by Japan Society Officer of Gallery Operations Cory Campbell.

Life of Cats: Animated

Watch ukiyo-e prints from Life of Cats come to life below!

See more on our Japan Society YouTube channel!
Image: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839–1892), Looking Tiresome: The Appearance of a Virgin of the Kansei Era from the series Thirty-two Aspects of Customs and Manners (detail), 1888. Color woodblock print; 14 x 9 ½ inches. Courtesy of Ronin Gallery, New York.

This exhibition is generously supported by Chris A. Wachenheim, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas), Sebastian and Miki Izzard, and the J.C.C. Fund of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York.
Transportation assistance is provided by Japan Airlines.

Exhibitions at Japan Society are made possible in part by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund, Director’s Circle members, and Friends of the Gallery.
Arts & Culture Lecture Programs are made possible by funding from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund.
Additional support is provided by Chris A. Wachenheim, and the Sandy Heck Lecture Fund.

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