The Museum of Fine Arts Boston (MFA Boston) has recalled its event named Kimono Wednesdays and issued an apology, after a several people staged protests at the exhibition, calling the experience ‘cultural appropriation’, ‘offensive’ and ‘racist’. Many joined in online, which eventually led the museum to retract this part of their ‘Looking East’ exhibition.
Visitors were encouraged to try on kimono, replicas from Monet’s ‘La Japonaise’ painting, in which his wife Camille is depicted wearing a blonde wig (to enhance her foreignness, allegedly) and a blood-red uchikake (highly formal kimono usually worn at weddings), with a ton of fans flying around here and there. The uchikake replicas were supplied by NHK, one of the sponsors. The painting was made during the Japonisme vogue, when European art circles becamed obsessed with all things Japanese. It is said that Monet was trying to poke fun at this style with his painting.
The exhibition first successfully made the rounds in Nagoya, Kyoto and Tokyo. Its move to Boston, however, was met with controversy, with protesters (mostly online) calling the event orientalist, due to its subtitle (‘Flirting with the exotic’), the general idea of ‘channelling your inner Camille’, which some say means invoking your inner colonialist, and the idea of labelling Asians as exotic and stereotyping them. After first reconsidering the event, MFA Boston has now officially pulled Kimono Wednesdays off their calendar, and instead is simply displaying the uchikake, along with seminars said to focus on the historical context of the painting as well.
Meanwhile in Japan, the incident seems to have been met with confusion, as highlighted in this video by popular YouTube couple Rachel & Jun.