Every culture has its monsters, devils and demons: people tell stories about them, depict them in images, fear them but occasionally also make fun of them. They are scary, but – and this is the good news – they are not invincible.
The exhibition presents paintings, drawings and a few masks of monsters, devils and demons from Persia, Japan, India and Switzerland.
Monsters, devils and demons have always been a favourite topic among artists, depicting human evildoers as well as divine foes with much imagination and skill. They took pleasure in capturing their deviant and ugly appearances down to the last detail, fascinated and at the same time repelled by their monstrous presence. Occasionally the artists added a touch of humour to their representations and, from time to time, even lent the nightmare figures a touch of “humanness”. Every culture had its own way of portraying them. In India, for example, demons are depicted as the main adversaries of the gods, locked in an eternal struggle. In Japan demons come to haunt all human beings, but thankfully the people have Shoki, the great vanquisher of ghosts and evil beings. In Persia it is the great hero Rostam who succeeds in overwhelming the evil Divs with his cunning. In Switzerland, devils preferably make their appearance during carnival, notably in many guises: at times brash but dumb, at others devious and malicious. The show addresses three questions: what do these monsters, devils and demons actually look like? Do we find features common to all cultures? What stories do people tell about them? Finally, the exhibition turns to the question of demon vanquishers? How does one overcome such frightening creatures?