The Muban Educational Trust was created on the 12 May 2009 as a successor to the Muban Foundation formed in June 1997 by Christer von der Burg and the late Verena Bolinder-Müller.
The Trust is a small, non-profit making body based in Putney, in south-west London. The purpose of the Trust is to continue the preservation, conservation, research and development of the extensive collection of Chinese woodcut prints assembled by Christer von der Burg and Verena Bolinder-Müller during the late 1990s. The Trust does not own the collection.
The catalyst for the creation of the Muban Foundation was the British Museum’s exhibition ‘The Images of the Western Lake: the revival of the colour print in contemporary China’ (10 November 1995-21 April 1996). This exhibition displayed the museum’s newly acquired prints by artists associated with the China National Academy of Fine Arts (Zhongguo Meishu Xueyuan 中国美术学院) in Hangzhou and was curated by Anne Farrer, then Assistant Keeper in the Department of Oriental Antiquities.
The impact of seeing this exhibition led Christer and Verena, friends for many years and sharing a love of Chinese woodblock prints to establish the Foundation with the aim of collecting Chinese woodblock prints, woodblock printed books and other printed material. They were both concerned for the gradual decline in woodblock printmaking in contemporary China and intended the Foundation to be a focus for the study and appreciation of Chinese printmaking by comparing contemporary Chinese practice with that of other cultures.
A generous gift from Verena in 1996 enabled the Foundation to begin the collection of Chinese prints, now unique in the breadth of its holdings, that would be a basis for exhibitions, publications and scholarly research. Christer von der Burg had collected books and prints since childhood and a small number of these formed the nucleus of the Muban Foundation’s collection.
In its early days, the Foundation worked within an overall plan to acquire the most significant work from the best contemporary artists. Von der Burg and Bolinder-Müller drew up lists of artists with the help of friends and colleagues and the first of many buying trips to China took place in October 1997 and resulted in the purchase of around 250 prints. The purchase of prints directly from the artists was considered the cornerstone of the Foundation’s collecting policy. Von der Burg and Verena Bolinder-Müller made subsequent trips in the spring and autumn of each year which involved visits to all the major academies and art schools in China.
The Muban Foundation collection was formed within three main categories: 1. Illustrated and printed books, including those using moveable type (Five Dynasties – late Qing dynasty, 10th-19th centuries) 2. Sheet prints from the 17th. century to the 1930s, comprising religious prints, prints from 18th. century Suzhou and later popular prints. 3. Artist’s prints (1930s to the present), artist’s prints from the 1930s onwards form the largest of the three categories within the Muban Foundation collection, including more than 4,500 woodblock prints collected from living and recently deceased artists.
The Muban Foundation Library: The Foundation has acquired books on almost every aspect of Chinese prints and printmaking which serves as reference material for on-going research into the subject.
The Muban Foundation Portfolio: The Foundation’s most ambitious project was the commissioning in 1997 of a portfolio of woodcut prints by 60 contemporary Chinese artists. The initial impetus was to devise a project to bring contemporary Chinese woodblock prints to the attention of other printmakers, collectors, dealers and museums outside China. Included in the portfolio are works by artists of the stature of Guang Jun, Yu Qihui, Wu Jide, Gan Zhenglun and Zheng Shuang, with younger artists including Xu Bing, Chen Qi, Chen Haiyan, Hao Ping and He Weimin. 90 copies have been assembled into portfolios for retail sale. The portfolio includes an accompanying publication A History of Chinese Woodblock Prints (Dangdai zhongguo muban yishu当代中国木版艺术) In 2009, the remaining unsold sets were donated to the Trust so that subsequent sales would provide funding for the maintenance and development of the collection.