None Whatsoever: Zen Paintings from the Gitter-Yelen Collection February 19–May 14, 2023

Included with general admission. Get tickets here.

“We’re ready to Zen out.” —Texas Monthly

Often playful, sometimes comical, and always profound, Zen paintings represent one of the world’s most fascinating religious and artistic traditions. None Whatsoever features masterworks of Zen Buddhist Japanese paintings from the renowned Gitter-Yelen Collection spanning more than four centuries. Selections from the MFAH collection of modern and contemporary art complement the presentation.

New Orleans–based collectors Kurt Gitter and Alice Yelen Gitter have been deeply engaged in the collecting, understanding, and appreciation of the art of Japan for decades. Many of the works from the Gitter-Yelen Collection were recently acquired by the MFAH.

None Whatsoever explores the origins of Zen Buddhism in Japanese painting through ink paintings and calligraphies by painter-monks, such as 18th-century Buddhist master Hakuin Ekaku, who expressed Zen Buddhist teachings through their art. A related selection of modern and contemporary art influenced by Zen Buddhism features work by Franz Kline, Takahiro Kondo, Robert Motherwell, Ad Reinhardt, and Hiroshi Sugimoto, among others.

The exhibition takes its title from a legendary encounter between a Buddhist monk and a Chinese emperor. According to 8th-century Chinese sources, itinerant monk Bodhidharma, patriarch of Zen Buddhism, visited the court of Emperor Wu Liang. When the emperor asked how much goodwill his generous deeds had earned in the eyes of the Buddha, the monk’s curt reply, “None Whatsoever,” shocked the ruler. This exchange—seemingly casual and dismissive, yet also uncompromising, profound, and revolutionary—has come to embody the relationship in Zen Buddhism between student and teacher.

Online Catalogue
Learn more about the collectors and the works of art in The Gitter-Yelen Collection.

Shop the Show
See exhibition-related items at the MFA Shop online.

Listen to the curated playlist inspired by the masterworks in None Whatsoever.

Group Visits
Visiting with a group of 10 or more? For information, see Group Visits and Tours. Group reservations not available for opening and closing weeks.

None Whatsoever: Zen Paintings from the Gitter-Yelen Collection / February 19–May 14, 2023

This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Generous support is provided by:
Luther King Capital Management
E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation
Anne and Albert Chao
Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas)
Eddie and Chinhui Allen
Mr. and Mrs. Russell M. Frankel
Kathy and Glen Gondo
Milton D. Rosenau, Jr. and Dr. Ellen R. Gritz
Miwa Sakashita and Dr. John R. Stroehlein
Nanako and Dale


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