Symposium: East Asian Painting Conservation – Perspectives on Education, Research, and Practice

Date of event:   29/06/2021 − 01/07/2021

Title: East Asian Painting Conservation: Perspectives on Education, Research, and Practice
Format: Online event (Register here)
Duration: 29 June to 1 July 2021
Time: 8–10 a.m. (Washington, DC), 2–4 p.m. (Paris), 8–10 p.m. (Beijing)
Organized by: National Museum of Asian Art, Washington D.C., US

East Asian painting conservation and mounting have a long history of traditional practices rooted in the cultures of China, Korea, and Japan. Since the late twentieth century, however, internationalization and the influences of modern technology and scientific research have rapidly advanced the field. This symposium will explore the three themes—“Education and Training,” “Conservation and Research,” and “Materials and Methods”—that are central to these current developments. Six speakers will share perspectives as conservators, scientists, curators, and educators to broaden our understanding of East Asian painting conservation and related disciplines. By presenting diverse viewpoints, we hope to enrich the ongoing discussion of shifting educational models, the integration of traditional practice and modern innovation, the impact of cross-cultural influences, and the growing importance of interdisciplinary cooperation.

This symposium is organized by the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Day 1: Tuesday, June 29—Education and Training
For centuries, apprenticeship training was the predominant system for conveying the experiential knowledge, intuitive practices, and oral traditions of East Asian painting conservation and mounting to the next generation. This system is increasingly superseded by Western academic models, prioritizing research and innovation over the historical focus on manual skills. Professor Valérie Lee will present an overview of her hybrid training and education in Asia and the West, culminating in her present role as a conservation educator at the National Heritage Institute (INP) in Paris, France. Professor Kentaro Ohbayashi will examine changes to the traditional conservation studio apprenticeship system and the expanding role of academic degree programs in Japan.

Day 2: Wednesday, June 30—Conservation and Research
Scientific research is essential to discovering and understanding the materials, methods, and subsequent degradation processes of cultural heritage objects. This growing body of knowledge that research provides is increasingly influential on the philosophy and practice of contemporary conservation. Dr. Yong Lei, deputy director of conservation at the Palace Museum in Beijing, will discuss how scientific research has transformed painting conservation at one of the largest and most well-equipped conservation and scientific research facilities in the world. Conservation scientist Jennifer Giaccai will discuss her ongoing research into soot, a pigment used for art since prehistory that is crucial to painting and calligraphy in East Asia.

Day 3: Thursday, July 1—Materials and Methods
The study of East Asian painting materials and how they were used by artists and artisans over centuries is fundamental to training in East Asian painting conservation. This knowledge of materiality is also increasingly important for art historical research, with growing influence on curatorial practice, connoisseurship, and authenticity studies. Professor Yazhou Shen will explain the methods and materials used for reproducing paintings in China to better understand the age-old practice of making copies. Dr. Sooa Im McCormick will present a collaborative curatorial and conservation research project to investigate the use of Korean paper in Chinese literati paintings at the Cleveland Museum of Art.