Online Workshop: East Asian “orphaned” objects in Slovenia: How to determine provenance (ACN – Europe online workshop)

Date of event:   18/04/2023 − 18/04/2023

Title: East Asian “orphaned” objects in Slovenia: How to determine provenance
Format: Online (via Zoom)
Time: 12:00 PM
Date: Tuesday, 18 April 2023
Organized by: Asia Collections Network (ACN) – Europe

The workshop discusses why objects from East Asia are orphaned and how provenance can be researched when only sparse documents are preserved.

The complex socio-political circumstances often led to the loss of the history of individual art objects and other collectibles. Bereft of their context, they ended up in museum collections, often condemned to a dormant life in storage. Such objects were often placed in other collections or considered lost, while long-term storage in museum depots without proper documentation and treatment often led to their damage. These so-called orphaned objects – a term borrowed from a similar phenomenon in archaeology and art history – are usually unrelated to known collections and have no reconstructible provenance. As such, they present a unique challenge that not only raises questions about their own unknown history and biography, but also challenges methodological approaches to dealing with singularity and the missing information, and more.

The position of East Asian objects in Slovenia is even more problematic, as curators usually lacked specific knowledge about the societies and cultures that produced them, which in turn led to neglect in determining not only their provenance, but also their material and physical characteristics that would define the original place of production. Moreover, it is often the case that collections, especially those on the periphery of former political powers, also fall victim to overarching methodological nationalism, i.e., the methodological fallacy of studying phenomena primarily within borders and with reference to currently existing nation-states.

Therefore, in this workshop we will discuss what circumstances led to the “orphaning” of East Asian objects in Slovenia and through what processes they lost their identity (e.g. the sale of objects owned by aristocrats, the confiscation policy of the Nazi and Communist regimes, the souvenir character of the objects). Through two case studies, we will also discuss what methodological approaches should be used to determine the provenance of orphaned East Asian objects when most records have been lost.

A workshop presented by:

  • Nataša Vampelj Suhadolnik is Professor at the Department of Asian Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.
  • Helena Motoh is Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Philosophical Studies of the Science and Research Centre Koper and an Assistant Professor at the Department for Asian Studies of the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana.
  • Davor Mlinarič is curator of the Asian and South American Collection at the Celje Regional Museum. He holds a master’s degree in art (history).

For registration see the website here.

Image: Japanese chest armor dō 胴, Edo period, Japan, Asian and South American Collection, Celje Regional Museum.