The Collection. Photography, calligraphy, lacquer

08.02.2019 - 22.04.2019

Exhibition script and design: Anna Król Cooperation: Monika Pawłowska, Joanna Haba
The second exhibition in the series The Collection showcases another three key groups of objects owned by the Manggha Museum: photography, calligraphy, and lacquerware.


The photography collection comprises documentary and reportage photographs by Ze’ev Aleksandrowicz and artistic photographs by Horoh Kikai. Ze’ev Wilhelm Aleksandrowicz (1905 Kraków, Poland – 1992 Tel Aviv, Israel), an amateur photographer, was born into a Jewish family of entrepreneurs active in the paper industry (R. Aleksandrowicz & Sons). In 1934, he made a trip around the world, spending the time between 29 November and 23 December in Japan, where he took over two thousand photographs on black-and-white 135 film, using a Leica. The Manggha Museum has received 140 of them.

Aleksandrowicz’s Japanese photographs are an interesting document of an encounter of East and West, an interaction of dissimilar cultures, different peoples. Images of landscapes, historic architecture, incidental people – rich and poor alike – encountered at a theatre, at a railway station, on their way to the temple, children and students – all these are pictorial records of a world that no longer exists, photographic ukiyoe.
Hiroh Kikai (1945 Sagae, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan) is one of major Japanese artist photographers. For over forty years, he has been taking photographs of people encountered in Tokyo’s Asakusa. Shot against a plain backdrop, enclosed in the noble dimension of a square frame, images of Japanese people emerge – odd, eccentric, separate from the crowd of millions arriving to visit the temple. The artist always photographs them in the same way: he positions the person against the background provided by the red wall of the temple, asking them to tell him who they are and what they do, as the basis for the subsequent annotation of the photo. He spends the same amount of time witch each of them – 10 minutes. The transience of the moment is confronted with palpable reality. Another meeting of the model and the artist is impossible.


The term calligraphy (shodō 書道) means literally ‘the way of writing’ in Japanese. It was traditionally considered a skill indispensable for any educated person. The preparation of the ink and other materials is an immanent element of calligraphy, intended to still the mind and facilitate concentration. Elegant calligraphy kits were usually stored in special cases, suzuribako, often beautifully decorated.

Traditionally perceived as one of the fine arts, calligraphy is exhibited both in Japan and abroad, and scrolls by well-known artists are included in many prestigious collections.

Japanese lacquer

Japanese lacquer (urushi 漆) is made from the sap of the Toxicodendron vernicifluum tree (Japanese sumac, lacquer tree), which grows along the southeast coast of Asia. It is used in arts and crafts, and in the production of tableware, furniture, and other utensils of everyday use, collectively referred to as lacquerware. The finished products are sturdy and resistant to water, alcohol, fats and high temperatures. In addition to its protective function, lacquer can be used for decoration. The Manggha Museum holds a number of objects produced by Japanese artistic crafts in this technique, as well as examples of its use in modern art.



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