文化遺産国際協力コンソーシアム Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage JCIC-Heritage logo JCIC-Heritage

The Cooperative Program for the Conservation of Japanese Art Objects Overseas

The Cooperative Program for the Conservation of Japanese Art Objects Overseas

National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo

Worldwide

Japanese Art Objects Overseas

1991-Ongoing Conservation and Restoration
01/03/2015
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BACKGROUND

Japanese Cultural Properties that Have Gone Overseas

Role of Japanese Cultural Properties

Many Japanese cultural properties, including folding screens (Byobu), hanging scrolls (Kakejiku), lacquerware, and arms and armor, are owned by overseas organizations in the U.S. and Europe. Quite a few of these are permanently exhibited by the institutions. Such cultural properties play an important role in creating opportunities for the people in those countries to be exposed to other cultures, to learn about cultural diversity, to increase respect for different cultures, and to observe the mutual interactions of culture and art beyond the boundaries of countries.


Appropriate Restoration that is Difficult to Perform Overseas

However, it is not always the case that the exhibitors of such cultural properties possess accurate knowledge on their conservation, exhibition, and restoration. The restoration of cultural properties such as paintings and lacquerware, in particular, require familiarity with materials and techniques. Unfortunately, there are almost no overseas specialists in the restoration of Japanese cultural properties. Furthermore, it is difficult to find materials and tools for restoration overseas, and such materials and tools tend to be extremely expensive even though they are available.
Therefore, cultural properties may be kept in storage or subject to deterioration due to inappropriate handling. Some institutions that own Japanese cultural properties and will prevent such circumstances have attempted to employ Japanese specialists; however it is a challenge to select experts and procure the required funding. In addition, even when Japanese specialists are available, some properties may already be beyond restoration by traditional techniques because inappropriate methods have been applied.

On-site survey (Paintings)

On-site survey (Arts and crafts)

ACTIVITIES

Project Overview

Project History

This project started as a joint restoration of Japanese paintings with the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution in the U.S. in 1991. It was originally organized by the Japan Foundation and the NRICPT under the guidance of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Agency for Cultural Affairs. From 1993, this project was expanded to other museums and institutions such as the Art Institute of Chicago (U.S.) and the Chester Beatty Library (Ireland). In 1998, restoration for lacquerware was added to the project.


Project Processes

In order to expand this joint project, NRICPT conducted questionnaire surveys of potential candidate museums, etc. via the Japanese embassies in each country in 1994. The questionnaires included questions on the kind of Japanese cultural properties that were owned as well as on how they were stored, exhibited, and restored. This type of questionnaire was also carried out in 1999 and 2010. After considering the results, we visited each institution based on project potential to our understanding. We also responded to the institutions that had not participated in the questionnaire but had contacted us directly. Surveys were carried out by specialists in art history, restoration, materials, etc. Following this, we selected and restored articles according to the needs. When we returned these articles to their home institutions, we provided advice on storage, exhibition, and handling.


Characteristics of the Project

As mentioned above, restoration of the articles requires proper knowledge and skill. Therefore, we temporarily brought these articles to Japan.
Since this is a joint project, we also asked the institutions that owned the articles to bear a part of the costs.

Surveys and documentation of articles (High-definition photographing)

Surveys and documentation of articles (Radiolucent images)

RESULTS

Results

We have restored 364 articles from 53 institutions in 17 countries.
The greatest benefit of this project is that the restored articles can be exhibited. Some institutions decided to have a special exhibition after the restoration. Some held art exhibitions on the theme of restoration, which not only showed Japanese cultural properties, but also led to the introduction of traditional Japanese restoration techniques which are also intangible cultural properties.
We are continuing this project to increase opportunities to exhibit Japanese arts and promote cultural interactions and peaceful understanding among countries.

Restoration work for arts and crafts (Cleaning)

Special exhibition in Japan

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