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Kwok On Collection

The Kwok On Collection results from the 1971 donation by Mr. Kwok On of a set of Cantonese puppets, musical instruments, books and assorted objects in favour of Jacques Pimpaneau. This donation became the original core collection of an association/museum founded in Paris, the Kwok On Museum, by Jacques Pimpaneau who then immediately set about expanding the collection. The collection covers a geographic area extending from Turkey right across to Japan and in 1999, the year it was donated to the Fundação Oriente, totalled over 10,000 pieces.
The collection was originally restricted to the field of cultural ethnology and broadly focused on the range of theatrical forms to be found in Asia. Subsequently, the scope was broadened to take in all genres that convey myths and cultural features common to the major Asian civilisations. Hence, it also includes every aspect relating to the performance arts: costumes, masks, musical instruments, props, shadow and puppet theatres given that in Asia they perform just as any actor based theatre and occasionally of a greater religious significance. Other highlights are the paintings and engravings illustrating myths and narratives as well as scenery traditions: anthropomorphic or symbolical representations of gods with statues, depictions, altars and accessories for religious worshippers. This collection is in no way limited to that which is commonly known as popular art particularly as the contrast between the noble or refined arts is far from as clearly defined as might generally be considered. The objective here is to present the culture shared by all members of a society given that a specific culture is also defined by the stories that it tells itself. Hence, it becomes possible to exhibit a painting by a professional modern artist alongside traditional popular depictions of the same divinity.
However, the collection includes neither the fine arts nor archaeological finds nor even material cultural exhibits (basketwork or other objects from daily life) and may correspondingly also be defined as a collection of the visual dimension to the traditional Asian oral and written literatures.
Today, the collection total stands at over 12,000 pieces. Among the most interesting pieces are all the styles of Asian shadow and puppet theatre with the special highlight of a collection of Bunraku heads and Indian shadows, unique in the West, various popular Chinese religious altars and an impressive set of masks. For the first time in Europe, in 2006, an exhibition of Asian masks was held in the Daoulas Abbey (France) that sought to demonstrate they were as worthy of attention as those from Africa or Oceania.
The spirit of this collection is above all educational. It is complemented by a library that includes books, magazines, sound and visual recordings. No object was ever acquired for reason of being old or rare but rather because it fell within the context of representing a particular narrative history. The objective was thus different to those typical of museums. It may be best summarised as seeking to contribute towards what is known as continuous education with a view to bridging the gap between specialist knowledge and that of the public at large. It is thus the purpose to provide to students and researchers, as well as the merely curious, a simultaneously engaging and educational perspective on Asia.