Making centuries of cultural transfer between Asia and Europe traceable through a line-up of exemplary exhibits from the MAK
collection is the goal that informs the reinstallation of the MAK Permanent Collection Asia. Since 2007, the exhibition room
has been used for temporary shows about individual aspects of the comprehensive collection. Opening on 26 October 2012, the
new presentation again provides a survey of the total range of the MAKs fascinating Asian collection, whichcomprised
of holdings of 25,000 objects from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Iran, and Turkey dating from the Neolithic period up to the
present dayranks as one of the most comprehensive collections of Asian art in Europe.
Chinese porcelain, Japanese lacquerwork, Japanese colored woodblock prints (ukiyo-e) and Japanese dyeing stencils (katagami)
make up the core of the MAK Asia Collection, whichlike all comparable collectionsin itself constitutes an instance
of Orientalism: after all, the objects assembled here were all collected by Europeans and thus are representative of distinctly
European tastes. Divided into forty small chapters, the reinstallation invites visitors on a time travel through Asian art
history, which puts the masterpieces on exhibit in an art-and-cultural-history perspective. Archaeological objects
from China and Vietnam, particularly grave figures from the Han (206220 AD) and Tang periods (618907 AD), which
already evidence contacts with Iranian art, mark the beginning of the reinstalled exhibition. Religious objects, sculptures,
but also paintings indicate a paradigmatic transformation that went along with Buddhism, which emerged in the Tang period
and eventually eclipsed the funeral cult. The richness of variations of Chinese and Japanese ceramics developed in an interaction
with Western cultures and is demonstrated by examples from various epochs. Precious tea bowls and delicate ceramics document
the arts-and crafts production of the early Song Dynasty (9601279). From the time of the Mongolian rule in the Yuian
Dynasty (1271-1368), porcelain with cobalt-blue painting was much sought after by rulers courts throughout Asia, not
least as a consequence of close contacts with the Islamic world. Like the early blue-and-white porcelains lacquer works oft
that period show the Islamic horror vacui decoration.
It was only on the time of the Ming Dynasty (13681644) that the trade radius for Asian articles was extended to Europe.
Royal and later also bourgeoisie households provided themselves with goods and wares from East Asia; Chinese porcelain became
the utility tableware of a refined lifestyle. One unique example of this cultural blending that occurred from the 16th century
is a tabletop from the library of Ambras Castle, Tyrol, which presumably was made by Chinese artisans in the South-Indian
port city of Cochin (today: Kochi, Kerala) in a mixed Sino-European style on an order from Portuguese traders. Increasing
demand for exported luxury products and East-Asian fashion influences on Europe informed the term chinoiserie.
However, this well-known phenomenon in fact meant a reciprocal exchange: for European culture also was received with enthusiasm
in China; Western artists and scientists were again and again invited to stay and work at the Imperial court in Beijing. Traditional
Chinese art of the 18th century is documented in the exhibition by a unique vase, cut in Chinese style from a single block
of jade (nephrite), whereas a silver and enamel globe is the central exhibit that stands for European influenced pieces.
Japanese craftsmanship was unsurpassed mainly in the areas of swordsmithery, lacquerwork and color woodblock prints. The reinstallation
particularly highlights the period from the 16th to the 20th century; Imari and Kakiemon porcelain wares produced in the 17th
and 18th centuries were of great significance for the young European porcelain manufactories in Meißen and Vienna. Kakiemon
decorations were much in demand at European aristocratic courts and soon were imitated on European-made porcelain.
However, Japanese arts and crafts gained particular significance for the development of European art in the second half of
the 19th. At the Vienna Worlds Fair of 1873, Japan presented itself in grand style. Due to their high quality and complete
documentation, the objects purchased after the end of the exposition or, for a major part, donated to the museum by the Japanese
government are considered as reference items worldwide. A decorative plate by Kawamoto Masukichi I (18311907) showing
Mount Fuji and a fanshaped wall decoration by Ikeda Taishin (18291903) illustrate the traditional artisanship practiced
in Japanese manufactories and their collaboration with the best artists of the country.
The concluding objects of the Permanent Collection Asia testify European interest in East Asian Art. Around the turn of the
century, European and Japanese artists were pretty similar in their attitudes, as is evidenced by the juxtaposition of a Japanese
bronze vasepurchased at the 1902 Glasgow International Exhibitionand a ceramic piece by Alexandre Bigot (18621927),
bought from the Salon de lArt Nouveau in Paris. With his Salon de lArt Nouveau, the art
dealer Siegfried Bing (18381905) was not only a promulgator of Japanese arts and crafts, but also initiated many exhibitions
and publications and inspired and encouraged artists all over Europe to study, and learn from, Asian art.
CuratorJohannes Wieninger, Curator, MAK Asia Collection
The MAK Asia Collection consists of around 25,000 objects from China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam dating from between the Neolithic
period and the present; these represent a wide range of artistic and artisan output from Asia and simultaneously provide insight
into the centuries-long reciprocal relationship between Asia and Europe. Like other collections of its kind, the MAK Asia
Collection is itself a work of Orientalism: all of the objects collected here were selected by Europeans and thus represent