For serious collectors of Japanese art and antiques, a visit to the Robert Mangold Gallery is a must. The gallery carries a wide range of work, from Jomon to contemporary, with ceramics, tea ware, painting and Japanese armor well represented.
Robert Mangold Gallery from Outside – image © Robert Mangold
Robert Mangold came to Japan over two decades ago and soon started working with a Japanese carpentry crew. While demolishing houses, he came across a lot of Japanese traditional furniture and antiques. He salvaged what he could and quickly became known as a go-to guy for Japanese antiques and furniture. Along the way, he educated himself about Japanese antiques and learned to speak and read Japanese. His interest in antiques led naturally to an interest in Japanese fine art. In order to deepen his study, he amassed thousands of books on Japanese art, mostly written in Japanese.
As a result of this serious display of “doku-gaku” (self-study), Mangold is now one of the leading foreign experts on Japanese art and antiques. He deepens this study by attending a dozen or so auctions of Japanese art and antiques every month, coming across literally thousands of pieces a month. But, he is very discerning in what he buys. Mangold says: “First and foremost, I buy things that have a story behind them, something that gives them a reason to have value. I like things that have `hagotai’, which is something you can sink your teeth into.”
Robert Mangold Gallery interior – image © Robert Mangold
Mangold has a particular interest in the Japanese paintings (Nihonga) of the 1950s. Mangold says, “This period is interesting because before WWII, Nihonga was like many Japanese arts, in which there was a strong continuity from master to disciple, but in the war a whole generation of these students were wiped out, so there was sort of a blank. So, right after the war, everybody picks up where they left off and starts painting 1934 again. But they quickly got away from that and started going in all these different directions, with thicker pigments, larger formats, and a lot more texture. So, by 1952, you see a completely different Nihonga. There’s not a particular name for it, so I just call it 50’s Japanese art. But, by the late 50’s, they started the Ningen Kokuho system that reveres tradition, so the brakes go on and everyone goes back to 1905. So you had this really short period of intense development and interest in the new, basically just lasting the decade of the 1950s.”
Of course, Mangold’s collection goes far beyond these striking paintings. He often runs thematic shows at his gallery and he’s always happy to pull out specific items or genres in response to a collector’s wishes, if given sufficient advance warning.
Robert Mangold Gallery Armor – image © Robert Mangold
Mangold deals with a lot of collectors and professionals, but he’s happy to accept visits to his gallery from serious amateurs looking for a special piece to bring home from Japan. In addition, for serious clients, Mangold is happy to make referrals to others shops and dealers. Finally, Mangold is willing to provide second-opinions and valuations for major purchases.
You would think that running his gallery and attending auctions would take up almost all of Mangold’s time, but in addition to his gallery work, he is actively involved in disaster relief in Japan. When the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami happened, Mangold organized teams of volunteers to head to the disaster area to help stricken residents dig out and rebuild their homes. Since then, Mangold and his team has sprung into action every time disaster strikes Japan, including, most recently, the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes. You can learn more about Mangold’s relief organization by visiting the IDRO Japan page on Facebook or the IDRO Japan website.
817-2 Kannonji Monzen-cho, Kamigyo-ku
by appointment only (see website and phone below)
3min walk from Kitano-Tenman-gu Shrine. To get Kitano-Tenman-gu from Kyoto Station, take bus No 50 or 101 to the Kitano-Tenman-gu-mae bus stop.
Official Website (English)
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