None Whatsoever: Zen Paintings from the Gitter-Yelen Collection

Often playful, sometimes comical, and always profound, Zen paintings represent one of the world’s most fascinating religious and artistic traditions. None Whatsoever: Zen Paintings from the Gitter-Yelen Collection explores the origins of Zen Buddhism through over four centuries of ink paintings and calligraphies by painter-monks, who expressed Zen Buddhist teachings through their art, including the celebrated Buddhist master Hakuin Ekaku (1685–1768). The exhibition advances Japan Society Gallery’s history of presenting important Buddhist artworks and concepts, including from the 2007 exhibition, Awakenings: Zen Figure Painting in Medieval Japan, and the 2010 exhibition, The Sound of One Hand: Paintings and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakuin. Visitors will also be invited to engage with Zen Buddhist practices through wide-ranging public programming, from in-gallery meditation sessions to calligraphy workshops and tea ceremony demonstrations.

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.

None Whatsoever originated at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and was co-organized by Bradley M. Bailey, The Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Curator of Asian Art, and Yukio Lippit, The Jeffrey T. Chambers and Andrea Okamura Professor of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University. The Japan Society presentation is organized by Tiffany Lambert, Curator, Japan Society.

Download the None Whatsoever Exhibition Guide (PDF).



Admission Information

Admission Information

Wednesday–Sunday 12–7 pm
Free First Fridays, 7-9 pm
Wednesday—Friday, 11–12 pm: Members Exclusive
Closed on major holidays

$12 nonmembers
$10 students and seniors

Admission is always free for members, patrons with disabilities and an accompanying Personal Care Assistant. There is an additional $1.00 service charge for all non-member ticket types purchased.

Exhibition 3D Tour

Past Events

Top Image: Itō Jakuchū, Giant Daruma, late 18th century, Hanging scroll; ink on paper, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Gitter-Yelen Collection, gift of Dr. Kurt Gitter and Alice Yelen Gitter in honor of Gary Tinterow, 2021.204; Sengai Gibon (1750–1837) Hotei Waking from a Nap, late 18th or early 19th century, Hanging scroll; ink on paper. Overall: 11 5/8 × 19 1/16 in. (29.5 × 48.4 cm) Mount: 43 5/8 × 19 15/16 in. (110.7 × 50.6 cm), Roller: 21 7/8 × 1 1/8 in. (55.5 × 2.8 cm), The Gitter-Yelen Collection: Kurt A. Gitter, M.D. and Alice Yelen Gitter.

None Whatsoever: Zen Paintings from the Gitter-Yelen Collection is supported, in part, by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.

Japan Society programs are made possible by leadership support from Booth Ferris Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. Exhibitions and Arts & Culture Lecture Programs are made possible, in part, by Sompo Holdings, Inc.; the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund; the Mary Griggs Burke Endowment Fund established by the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation; The Masako Mera and Koichi Mera, PhD Fund for Education and the Arts; Peggy and Dick Danziger; and Friends of the Gallery. Support for Arts & Culture Lecture Programs is provided, in part, by the Sandy Heck Lecture Fund. Transportation assistance is provided by Japan Airlines, the official Japanese airline sponsor for Japan Society gallery exhibitions.