Two Cats Keep Trying to Get Into a Japanese Art Museum … and Keep Getting Turned Away: Meet the Thwarted Felines, Ken-chan and Go-chan

Paging director Hayao Miyazaki.

A compelling subject for a feature length animation is hanging around the sliding glass doors of Hiroshima Prefecture’s Onomichi City Museum of Art.

In June of 2016, a black tomcat started showing up at the museum on the regular, for reasons unknown.




Those open to the sort of narrative whimsy at which Miyazaki excels might choose to believe that the beast was drawn by a cat-themed exhibit of work by noted wildlife photographer and filmmaker Mitsuaki Iwago, a portion of which would have been visible to him through the modern building’s large glass windows.

Whatever his reasons, the cat, Ken-chan, whose owners run a nearby restaurant, was refused entry by a white-gloved security guard and other staffers, whose efforts to send him on his way started blowing up the Internet shortly after his first appearance.

Eventually, Ken-chan started bringing back-up in the form of a well-mannered orange tomcat the museum staff dubbed Go-chan.

Their visits have proved to be a boon for both the small museum and the city they call home.

The New York Public Library has its lions.

Boston’s Public Garden has its ducks.

Onomichi and its small art museum have Ken-chan and Go-chan, whose Internet fame is quickly outpacing the supply of commemorative tote bags, below.

Tender hearted fans bombard the museum’s Twitter account with requests to grant the feline pair entry, but the museum brass is wisely prioritizing dramatic tension over consummation.

Meanwhile, officials in Zelenogradsk, a Russian resort town boasting both a cat museum and giant cat street monument have invited Ken-chan, Go-chan, and museum staff to be their guests in March, for a cat-centric holiday celebration.

For now, Ken-chan and Go-chan are sticking close to home, alternately entertaining and disappointing visitors who show up, camera in hand, hoping to catch them in the act.

Armchair travelers can enjoy a cat’s eye view tour of Onomichi, thanks to Google Street View-style 360-degree camera technology.

And photographer Iwago shares some pro advice for anyone seeking to capture feline subjects:

…male cats are easier to photograph. Male cats seem to have more latitude and leisure in their lives. Because females do things such as raise the kittens, they concentrate more on what goes on around them. Because males are out on patrol, it is more likely that you will encounter them. Because they have the free time, they’ll let you hang out and photograph them.

Depending on the cat, there are a number of ways to get a cat’s attention. For example, when it’s starting to get dark out, you need to use a lower shutter speed. However, this means that the cat will be blurry if it moves. To avoid this, in such situations, I say to the cat, ‘Stop, hold your breath!’ At that instant, when the cat is frozen, I snap the picture. When you speak out to a cat, they get the message. That said, you can also get shots of good cat body language by letting them roam freely. They don’t need to be looking at the camera.

Even a cellphone camera is enough. However, if you don’t have a telephoto lens, you’re going to have to get close to the cat you’re photographing. Due to this, it might be good to use a single-lens reflex (SLR) camera if you are photographing outside. However, if you are photographing the cat you live at home with, a big camera may prove intimidating. To avoid this problem, it is necessary to regularly put your camera in a place that the cat can see. It is good to start snapping pictures only after your cat has gotten over its fear of cameras. If you use a flash to photograph cats indoors, their hair will look spiky and lose its softness. Therefore, I recommend avoiding a flash. I also recommend not using a tripod, considering the line of sight will become too high. When I am photographing cats, I kneel down so that I am at the same eye line as they are. It’s as if I’m crawling forward into battle.

Follow the Onomichi City Museum of Art on Twitter to keep up with Ken-chan and Go-chan.

via The Guardian/Hyperallergic

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC this December for the 10th anniversary production of Greg Kotis’ apocalyptic holiday tale, The Truth About Santa, and the next monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

A Space of Their Own, a New Online Database, Will Feature Works by 600+ Overlooked Female Artists from the 15th-19th Centuries

Many of the works we found—well, nobody knew they were there. Nobody knew anything about the artists. … They weren’t important, but rather beholden to their fathers, mothers, and husbands. They had no voice.   

- Jane Fortune, Founder of Advancing Women Artists (AWA)

The paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures the late Jane Fortune refers to above were discovered in museum storage spaces throughout Florence.

Many of their female creators were acclaimed during their lifetimes. By the time Fortune set about restoring their work—and visibility —to the public view, they were virtually unknown, even to museum staff.

Saint Catherine with Lily by Plautilla Nelli

That may change as early as the fall of 2019, when A Space of Their Own, an illustrated online database of over 600 female artists working in the US and Europe between the 15th and 19th centuries, launches.

In preparation for their reintroduction, many of the works appearing on A Space of Their Own have undergone extensive restoration, courtesy of Jane Fortune's nonprofit Advancing Women Artists.

David and Bathsheba by Artemisia Gentileschi

Interestingly, women make up the majority of art restorers in Florence. This professional dominance can be traced back to the mid-60s, when a catastrophic flood laid waste to millions of the city’s art treasures. “It was the first time women began wearing trousers in Florence,” Linda Falcone, AWA’s current director told artnet. “Women’s liberation in Florence is deeply linked to the art restoration effort.”

Many of the artists in the database were self-taught, barred from seeking formal training or studying anatomy on account of their gender. They could not hope to make a living from their talents when women were forbidden from issuing invoices. And then, of course, there are the demands of marriage and motherhood.

Small wonder they have been so underrepresented in museums and art history books.

Self-portrait by Leonetta Pieraccini Cecchi

Peruse a menu of paintings in need of restoration sponsorship and learn more about the artists on AWA’s website. Sign up for the newsletter for updates in advance of A Space of Their Own's grand opening.

via Hyperallergic

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, November 12 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Disgusting Food Museum Curates 80 of the World’s Most Repulsive Dishes: Maggot-Infested Cheese, Putrid Shark & More

Often we get to know each other by talking which foods we like. Perhaps even more often, we get to know each other by talking about which foods we hate. Entertaining disagreements tend to arise from such discussions, usually around traditionally divisive comestibles like anchovies, cilantro, brussel sprouts, or the Japanese dish of fermented soybeans known as natto. But however many of us prefer to avoid them, these foods all look more or less conventional compared to the dishes curated by the Disgusting Food Museum, which the Washington Post's Maura Judkis describes as "the world’s first exhibition devoted to foods that some would call revolting."

"The exhibit has 80 of the world’s most disgusting foods," says the museum's official site. Adventurous visitors will appreciate the opportunity to smell and taste some of these notorious foods. Do you dare smell the world’s stinkiest cheese? Or taste sweets made with metal cleansing chemicals?" Judkis notes that "the museum’s name and its contents are pretty controversial — one culture’s disgusting is another culture’s delicacy.




That goes for escamoles, the tree-ant larvae eaten in Mexico, or shirako, the cod sperm eaten in Japan, or bird’s nest soup, a Chinese dish of nests made from bird saliva." It all goes to emphasize the Disgusting Food Museum's stated premises: "Disgust is one of the six fundamental human emotions. While the emotion is universal, the foods that we find disgusting are not. What is delicious to one person can be revolting to another."

With interest in food seemingly at an all-time high — and not just food, but traditional food from all around the world — the cultural studies wing of academia has begun to get serious mileage out of that proposition. But the Disgusting Food Museum has taken on a less intellectual and much more visceral mission, placing before its visitors durian fruit, banned from many a public space across Asia for its sheer stinkiness; casu marzu, which the museum's site describes as "maggot-infested cheese from Sardinia"; and hákarl, which Judkis describes as "a putrid shark meat dish from Iceland that the late Anthony Bourdain said was one of the worst things he had ever tasted."

You can learn more about these and the Disgusting Food Museum's other offerings from the Associated Press video at the top of the post, as well as at Smithsonian and the New York Times. If you'd like to see, smell, and even taste some of its exhibits for yourself, you'll have to make the trek out to Malmö, Sweden. The project comes from the mind of Samuel West, a Swede best known for creating the Museum of Failure (previously featured here on Open Culture), whose half-American parentage has made him familiar with several items of U.S. cuisine that gross out non-Americans, from Spam to Jell-O pasta salad (shades of James Lileks' midcentury midwest-focused Gallery of Regrettable Food) to Rocky Mountain oysters. Despite being American myself, I've never known anyone who likes that last, a dish made of bull testicles, or at least no one has ever admitted to me that they like it. But if someone did, I'd certainly feel as if I'd learned something about them.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Art Institute of Chicago Puts 44,000+ Works of Art Online: View Them in High Resolution

After the fire that totally destroyed Brazil’s Museu Nacional in Rio, many people lamented that the museum had not digitally backed up its collection and pointed to the event as a tragic example of why such digitization is so necessary. Just a couple decades ago, storing and displaying this much information was impossible, so it may seem like a strange demand to make. And in any case, two-dimensional images stored on servers—or even 3D printed copies—cannot replace or substitute for original, priceless artifacts or works of art.

But museums around the world that have digitized most--or all--of their collections don’t claim to have replicated or replaced the experience of an in-person visit, or to have rendered physical media obsolete.




Digital collections provide access to millions of people who cannot, or will not, ever travel to the major cities in which fine art resides, and they give millions of scholars, teachers, and students resources once available only to a select few.

We can’t all take the day off like Ferris Bueller and stand in front of Georges Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. But thanks to the Art Institute of Chicago, we can all view and download the 1884 pointillist painting in high resolution, zoom in closely like the troubled Cameron to specific details, share the digital image under a Creative Commons Zero license, and similarly interact with an oil sketch for the final painting and several conté crayon studies.

And if that weren’t enough, the museum also includes a bibliography, exhibition history, notes on provenance, audio and video histories and descriptions, and educational resources like teacher manuals, lesson plans, and exams. This goes for many of the 44,312—with more to come—digital images online, including such famous works of art as Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 The Bedroom, Grant Wood’s 1930 American Gothic, Pablo Picasso’s 1903-4 blue period painting The Old Guitarist, Edward Hopper’s 1942 Nighthawks, Mary Cassatt’s 1893 The Child’s Bath, and so many more that it boggles the mind.

Browse Impressionism, Pop Art, works from the African Diaspora, Cityscapes, Fashion, Mythological Works, and other genres and categories. Search artists, dates, styles, media, departments, places, and more.

A personal visit to the Art Institute is an awe-inspiring, and somewhat overwhelming experience, if you can get the day to go. You can visit the website, with full unrestricted access, and gather information, study, marvel, and casually browse, at any time of day—every day if you like. No, it’s not the same, but as a learning experience, in some ways, it's even better. And if, by some awful chance, anything should happen to this art, we won’t have to rely on user-submitted photos to reconstruct the cultural memory.

The launch of this collection comes as part of the museum’s website redesign, and it is an extensive, and expensive, endeavor. The Art Institute, which charges for entry, can afford to make its collections free online. Some other museums charge image fees to support their online work. Ideally, as art historian Bendor Grosvenor writes at Art History News, museums should offer free and open access to both physical and online collections, and some institutions, like Sweden’s Nationalmuseum, have shown that this is possible.

And, as Grosvenor shows, the success of open access online collections has yielded another benefit, for both viewers and museums alike. The more people are exposed to art online, the more likely they are to visit museums in person. Chicago awaits you. Until then, virtually immerse yourself in the Art Institute’s many thousands of treasures here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Wikipedia Leads Effort to Create a Digital Archive of 20 Million Artifacts Lost in the Brazilian Museum Fire

The staggering loss of a possible 20 million artifacts in the fire that consumed Brazil’s Museu Nacional in Rio boggles the mind—dinosaur fossils, the oldest human remains found in the country, and, as Emily Dreyfuss reports at Wired, “audio recordings and documents of indigenous languages. Many of those languages, already extinct, may now be lost forever.” Former Brazilian environment minister called the destruction of Latin America's biggest natural history museum "a lobotomy of the Brazilian memory."

The incalculable loss of culture and history seems all the more tragic given that it might have been slowed or stopped but for government cuts that left the museum with crumbling infrastructure and without a sprinkler system or even water for the hydrants outside (firefighters had to get water from a nearby lake). But assigning blame, while necessary to prevent future catastrophes, will not restore the museum’s treasures or the many years of research its staff lost when their offices went up in flames.




Sadly, as Dreyfuss points out, like many museums around the world, the Museu Nacional had not begun to back up its collection digitally. But it may not be entirely too late for that, in some small part at least. In an announcement last week, Wikipedia called for a post facto crowdsourced backup in the form of user-submitted photos.

“We’re asking people everywhere to join our global community,” wrote executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, Katherine Maher, “and help the world recover from this collective tragedy.” Maher describes the fire as a “devastating loss of 200 years of history,” but of course, it’s much more than that. The museum contained not only prehistoric artifacts, but also Egyptian sarcophagi and mummies, Greek vases, and many other ancient treasures. You can get a sense of the scope of its collections at the museum’s website and browse the visitor-submitted photos at Wikimedia.

“Thousands of images have already been uploaded,” reports Brazil’s O Globo. Few of them contain any identifying information, and it will fall to scholars or knowledgeable Wikipedia editors to provide it. Other institutions around the world are also responding. GeekWire notes that “National Geographic, UNESCO and the French government have offered support for restoring the museum and reconstituting its collection.” It may rise from the ashes, but most of the museum’s former contents will only exist through the photographic documentation of its many thousands of visitors.

If you were one of those visitors, you can submit your photos to Wikimedia Commons (see the instructions above, or at the tweet here). Students from the Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro are also “heading up their own crowdsourcing effort,” GeekWire notes. “They’re even soliciting selfies from past visits.” Here's hoping this tragedy spurs governments to provide the needed funding for museums in the future, and pushes museums that are not doing so to make digital archiving a priority.

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Free: Download 70,000+ High-Resolution Images of Chinese Art from Taipei’s National Palace Museum

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Free: Download 70,000+ High-Resolution Images of Chinese Art from Taipei’s National Palace Museum

During China's Ming and Qing dynasties, which together spanned the years 1386 to 1912, few in the Middle Kingdom, let alone elsewhere, could hope for even a glimpse of the finest Chinese artworks of their time. But recently one museum has made a trove of art and artifacts from those dynasties and others digitally accessible to the world, and a museum outside mainland China at that. "According to popular news website The Paper," writes the BBC's Kerry Allen, "Taipei's National Palace Museum has placed 70,000 high-quality electronic images in a free-to-download archive so that online users can enjoy its exhibitions" — and without the hassles of "glass barrier and lighting restrictions."

First established as the Palace Museum in 1925, after the expulsion of China's last emperor Puyi, the National Palace Museum began its collection with valuables belonging to the former Imperial family. Now, writes Hyperallergic's Claire Voon, it boasts "one of the largest troves of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts, from paintings to rare books to all sorts of objects made of jade, bronze, ceramic, and more."




The digitization and uploading project, called National Palace Museum Open Data, offers an English version site, "although that is currently a rather limited and incomplete resource. The Chinese version features two portals to more efficiently comb through the museum’s relics. One is specifically for painting and calligraphy works; the other, for everything else."

Still, the National Palace Museum has been improving its English portal, which allows searches not just by category of object but by dynasty, a list that now reaches far beyond the Ming and Qing, all the way back to the Shang Dynasty of 1600 BC to 1046 BC. But even as the English version catches up to the Chinese one — as of this writing, it contains more than 4700 items — it will surely take some time before National Palace Museum Open Data catches up with the complete holdings of the National Palace Museum, with its permanent collection of about 700,000 Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks spanning eight millennia. As with Chinese history itself, a formidable subject of study if ever there was one, it has to be taken one piece at a time.

via Hyperallergic

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

New York Public Library Card Now Gives You Free Access to 33 NYC Museums

If you're one of the 8.5 million people living in New York City, take note of this: When you sign up for a library card from the New York Public Library, you can get access to 30,000 free movies (including many from the Criterion Collection) and also some 300,000 Free eBooks. But that's not all. A new initiative lets members of the New York Public Library (plus the Brooklyn and Queens libraries) to sign up for a Culture Pass and thereby gain free entrance to 33 museums across NYC. The list of participating museums includes some big ones--the Met, Morgan, Whitney, Frick and Guggenheim. Also the MoMA, Brooklyn Museum, and Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and more. Find a complete list below.

The Culture Pass website has more information about this new program. The website is also where you will need to actually make reservations to visit the museums. According to Hyperallergic, "Each cardholder is eligible for one pass per cultural institution annually and allowed to reserve two impending visits at any given time."

New Yorkers, you can sign up for library cards via these links: New York Public Library, Brooklyn Library, and Queens Library.

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Participating Museums

  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  • Brooklyn Children's Museum
  • Brooklyn Historical Society
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • Children's Museum of Manhattan
  • Children's Museum of the Arts
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
  • The Drawing Center
  • The Frick Collection
  • Historic Richmond Town
  • International Center of Photography
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  • Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
  • The Jewish Museum
  • Louis Armstrong House
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The Morgan Library & Museum
  • Museum of Modern Art, MoMA PS1
  • Museum of Chinese in America
  • Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
  • Museum of the City of New York
  • New York Transit Museum
  • Noguchi Museum
  • Queens Historical Society
  • Queens Museum
  • Rubin Museum of Art
  • SculptureCenter
  • Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
  • Society of Illustrators
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  • Sugar Hill Children's Museum
  • Wave Hill
  • Whitney Museum of American Art

via Hyperallergic

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