Manggha Museum Collection

The Manggha Museum’s own collection – seemingly rather small (when viewed from the perspective of large museums) – has been created and continues to expand thanks to the determination and personal commitment of its founders, Andrzej Wajda and Krystyna Zachwatowicz-Wajda. The collection is a presentation of the Manggha Museum as a phenomenon, a new and dynamic 21st-century museum institution providing a space for intercultural dialogue, openness and experimentation.

The core of the collection is the body of artworks and artefacts accumulated by the Kyoto–Kraków Foundation, established by Andrzej Wajda and Krystyna Zachwatowicz-Wajda. It was donated to the museum in 2006 and 2007. Incorporated with a view to raising funds for the construction of the Manggha Centre, since 1994 the Foundation has been receiving gifts in the form of works of art, from artists and organizations with whom it cooperates to hold exhibitions and organize cultural events. In 2007, by a decision of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, the Manggha Centre was granted museum status. The new institution assumed all the functions of its predecessor, but accumulating works of art and artistic craft products – both Oriental and Occidental – became one of the major objectives declared in its charter.

The consistently augmented collection comprises mostly contemporary art – Japanese, Korean and Polish paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, drawings and watercolours, prints, and artists’ books – as well as objects of decorative art: ceramics, katagami (dyeing stencils), kimono, and masks and costumes. It is steadily enhanced by gifts from artists, collectors and other friends of the Manggha Museum, and also by purchases. A considerable portion of these have been shown in exhibitions held at the Manggha Museum and published in corresponding catalogues. The other items, in fact the majority of them – though a visual illustration of the mutual permeation of the cultures of East and West – remain unknown to a wider public. Manggha is the only museum in Poland which collects paintings inspired by Japanese art, as exemplified by works representing Polish Japanism.

Contemporary art is represented by a large selection of prints and posters. Without a doubt, some of the most valuable works are those by the prominent Japanese artist Toshihiro Hamano, winner of the International Print Triennial Grand Prix, and the Polish printmaker and designer Ryszard Otręba. An interesting gift from the International Print Triennial Society in Krakow comprises mostly works by young Japanese artists, recent debutants. Important elements of the collection include contemporary posters: Polish ones designed for Japanese films (e.g. by Wojciech Fangor, Jan Lenica, or Waldemar Świerzy) and Japanese ones, by such celebrated designers as Kenya Hara and Kōichi Satō. The artists’ books by Alina Kalczyńska-Scheiwiller are akin to the Japanese tradition of illustrated books (ehon) while the comic book by Kuba Wojnarowski – dedicated to Feliks Jasieński – engages in an inspiring game with contemporary manga.

Twentieth- and twenty first-century painting is present in the museum’s collection in various forms: Eastern as calligraphy and scrolls, and Western as oil on canvas.

The Manggha Museum has collected and exhibited photographs since the beginning of its existence. The collection includes two sets of documentary/journalistic photography from trips to Japan taken in 1934: by the Polish Jewish traveller Ze’ev Aleksandrowicz and the German art historian and ethnographer Franz Stoedtner. Contemporary photography is represented, inter alia, by the ‘urban chronicles’ in the form of portraits of people encountered in Asakusa by Hiroh Kikai and experimental images of nature by Tomek Niewiadomski.

The museum’s collection includes a large number of works involving the use of mixed media – photography, traditional painting, printmaking and sculpture – deliberately erasing the boundaries between genres, as exemplified by art objects by Aliska Lahusen, an installation by Aiko Miyawaki, or ‘photographs’ by Thomas May.

The identity and originality of the Manggha Museum’s collection is determined by the paintings, sketchbooks, drawings, gouaches and watercolours made by Andrzej Wajda at various stages in his life: during his student years at Krakow’s Academy of Fine Arts, at the time of his friendship with Andrzej Wróblewski and the activity of the Self-Education Group, at the Film School in Lodz, sketches made for his films and stage productions, portraits of friends and acquaintances, and drawings from his trips to Japan. As Wajda himself writes:

This is not an interpretation but rather a desire to capture what I have seen, in the belief that such a pictorial note will always remain in the draughtsman’s memory, to be retrieved whenever required.

The Manggha Museum’s own collection of old Japanese art is not large but quite interesting, including woodblock prints dating to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and picture books by Hokusai and Utamaro.

A separate set of exhibits illustrative of Japanese culture comprises objects relating to theatre, such as masks by Sōei Ōgura, a bunraku doll, and kimono.

Many of its contemporary decorative art objects were hand-crafted in Japan to centuries-old traditions, for example the hakuji ceramics by Manji Inoue and the katagami (dyeing stencils) from the Ise area (hence the name, Ise-katagami), received as a gift from their maker, Ishimi Ōsugi. Along with these, the Manggha Museum was also given various textiles, including kimono and obi sashes.

A portion of the decorative arts collection is closely connected with the Museum’s various activities and those of the affiliated Chadō Urasenke branch.

Last but not least, it is important to note that the Manggha Museum holds a collection of Far Eastern art on deposit from the National Museum in Krakow. This is composed for the most part of the Feliks ‘Manggha’ Jasieński Collection and also smaller assemblies compiled by Edward Goldstein, Leon Kostka, and the former Industrial Museum in Krakow. It was precisely with this collection in mind – the largest in Poland and one of the largest in East and Central Europe – that Andrzej Wajda and Krystyna Zachwatowicz-Wajda built our museum.

The Manggha Museum thus holds two mutually complementary collections: a historical one, complete and closed, and a contemporary one, still open, surprising, unobvious, and changing, which aptly illustrates the Buddhist adage: Senri no michi mo ippo kara – ‘Even the longest journey starts with the first step.’ The Manggha Museum Collection from A to Z is exactly that – the start of this journey.

Anna Król