Anyone who ventured into New York’s Asia Society Museum in January was greeted by the smell of fresh paint and the sounds of drills and saws as staff prepared the spring exhibition Buddhist Art of Myanmar. In stark contrast to the hustle and bustle in most of the galleries, the Arthur Ross Gallery on the second floor contained a zen-like calm as a team of art conservators quietly worked on many of the objects that would soon go on display.
Gat’s work included preventative conservation measures to ensure the items could make the journey safely, as well as repair work after the items arrived in New York to reverse the corrosion and damage caused by conditions like “bronze disease” over the centuries. Gat says one of the more interesting challenges was restoring the pieces in a way that maintained the look that came with years of intimate non-protective displays in Myanmar. “It was important to me as a conservator to not make these pieces look like they belong in the western world,” she said.
In the video above, Gat shares her insights about art conservation and describes how some of the objects that arrived from Myanmar were conserved for the exhibition and beyond.
Buddhist Art of Myanmar comprises approximately 70 spectacular works — including stone, bronze and wood sculptures; textiles; paintings; and lacquer ritual implements — from the fifth through the early 20th century. It includes objects created for temples, monasteries, and personal devotion, which are presented in their historical and ritual contexts. Most of the objects have never previously left Myanmar.
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