About the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology

The Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology, created on the initiative of Andrzej Wajda and opened in 1994 as the Manggha Centre of Japanese Art and Technology, was a branch of the National Museum in Kraków for ten years, and at the same time the venue of the proactive activities of Andrzej Wajda and Krystyna Zachwatowicz’s Kyoto–Krakow Foundation. On 11 July 2002, the Manggha Museum was visited by the Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, a great honour for us and a sign of recognition for our institution’s efforts. In 2005, the Decision of the Minister of Culture granted the Manggha autonomy, changing its status to that of a state cultural institution, and since 2007 it has operated as a museum. In accordance with the Founders’ idea, a special place was created in Kraków as ‘a home for the collection of Japanese art’ amassed mostly by Feliks ‘Manggha’ Jasieński, who donated it to the National Museum in 1920. (The Collection of Far Eastern Art of the National Museum in Kraków was definitively deposited with the Manggha Museum in 2009).

Ever since its inception, the Manggha Museum has combined the functions of a museum and an active cultural centre, disseminating knowledge about Japan and the Far East. In practice, this combination led to the crystallization of a new type of cultural institution, overlapping, in terms of form and effects, with the understanding of the role of a contemporary museum: that of a dynamic institution, introducing new forms of activity, going far beyond accumulating, processing and displaying collections. The modern friendly building, designed by Arata Isozaki, a celebrated Japanese architect, accommodates a museum of a new type, which introduces novel methods and forms of operation. Its main task is to propagate art in as interdisciplinary an approach as possible. Relying on our extensive experience and contacts, we focus primarily on the visual arts, but also on the music, theatre, film, literature, philosophy and religion of Japan and the Far East. So far, we have held over 100 exhibitions of traditional and contemporary Japanese art: prints, paintings, photographs, installations, as well as state-of-the-art Japanese technologies. Invariably great interest is shown in ukiyo-e woodblock prints from the collection of Feliks ‘Manggha’ Jasieński; examples of such exhibitions include Mount Fuji. Hokusai and Hiroshige, Utamaro. A Different View, or The Treasury of Loyal Retainers.

At the Manggha Museum, we study and show the mutual cultural relations between Poland and Japan, the East and the West. In this context, one must not omit to mention our long-term exhibition and research project focusing on Polish Japanism, highlighting the various manifestations of the influence that Japanese art had on the work of major Polish artists, such as Leon Wyczółkowski, Julian Fałat or Anna Bilińska. We consistently popularise knowledge about Japan, both in our own spaces and through activities at other cultural centres and venues around Poland. We reach various audiences by offering a wide array of events and activities, both at the popular and at the specialist, scholarly levels. We conduct comprehensive educational activities based on our own original programme.

Almost every day our museum is visited by groups of pupils and students, to view our current exhibitions, but also to take part in additional activities prepared specifically for them. We hold educational exhibits targeting the youngest age group as well, such as Japan: Tatami under Your Feet or Expedition to the World of Samurai, and also family meetings accompanying other exhibitions. Occasions that invariably attract large numbers of visitors are events held on a regular basis, often relating to traditional Japanese festivals. This category includes the monthly readings of Japanese fairytales or the celebrations of the Japanese Children’s Day, Kodomo no hi, organised every year.

Japanese Children’s Day: on the terrace (Photo by Andrzej Janikowski)

All these are perfectly complemented by performances, demonstrations and workshops for viewers and participants of all ages, which offer opportunities to become acquainted with many different aspects of the Japanese culture in a very friendly and instructive way. The tea ceremony, bonsai, suiseki, or ikebana are just some of those aspects which can be experienced directly at Manggha. Since the foundation of our institution, we have had opportunities to view various forms of Japanese theatre and listen to Japanese music, both traditional and modern. Akira Matsui, Master Tsuruga Wakasanojō XI (Japan’s Living National Treasure), or Atsushi Takenouchi are only some of the notable artists who have given performances at our museum.

An important role in the Manggha Museum’s programme is played by scholarly activity, also of international significance. Lectures and conferences held at our venue have been delivered and attended by a great number of prominent artists and scholars from all over the world, not the least from Japan. It is also noteworthy that the meetings of our Academy of Japanese Cinema, which always include a film showing, enjoy unwavering interest.

Academy of Japanese Cinema (Photo by Andrzej Janikowski)

The Manggha Museum is a very active publisher. Our publications aim primarily to provide reliable and well-researched information on a wide array of subjects and disciplines, their common denominator being our museum, its spaces, as well as the events and exhibitions held here.

Furthermore, the museum is home to Andrzej Wajda’s Archive and the Japanese Language School affiliated with the Japan Foundation.

The Europe–Far East Gallery, currently under construction, is to become an integral part of the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology, with a mission of propagating the broadly defined art, culture and technology of Far Eastern countries.

Performance of the Silk Road Choir (Photo by Andrzej Janikowski)

Our institution’s unique character, its primary focus on the art and culture of Japan and the Far East, determines its reach: local (Kraków and Malopolska), nationwide (the only institution of such specialisation in Poland), and finally international, in the broad meaning of the term. Our interdisciplinary activity is manifested in many various ways. In 2011, the Manggha Museum and the Gazeta Wyborcza daily conducted a campaign called ‘Tsuru’ (Crane), aiming to provide both material and symbolic support to Japan afflicted by an earthquake of unprecedented magnitude and related tsunami. We sent thousands of origami cranes to Japan, as an expression of solidarity, compassion and admiration for its people.

The activity of the Manggha Museum stems from the spirit of the great Polish art collector and connoisseur, Feliks Jasieński, the patron after whom our institution is named. It is also intended to follow his profound, and still current, understanding of the social role of art, which serves the general public, as a means of formative education, and is easily accessible and widely known rather than hidden in storage. As an institution founded by Andrzej Wajda, the Manggha Museum also puts into practice its great Founder’s vision: that of a place where Poland meets Japan, and the rich Japanese tradition is presented next to the most recent achievements of technology and engineering; a vision of a place open and friendly to all visitors.