A conservator wearing magnifying glasses and gloves working on a screen painting.

Research project

Amorepacific Project for the Conservation of Korean Pictorial Art

Supported by

AMOREPACIFIC

Key project information

Duration

2018–2023

Contact details

Email: collectionscare@britishmuseum.org

Supported by

AMOREPACIFIC and the Korea Foundation

What can research into different international and historical conservation practices tell us about the preservation of Korean paintings? 

The British Museum houses an important collection of Korean paintings including those on folding screens, others mounted on scrolls and modern framed works which have unique qualities. Not as well known as other East Asian paintings, Korean paintings have consequently been treated largely using Japanese or Chinese restoration techniques. 

This project is ensuring that the conservation of the Korean paintings in the Museum collection is undertaken using more appropriate techniques and materials. It has developed conservation skills and material knowledge of Korean techniques through collaboration with Korean specialists, including scroll mounters and dyers. These skills have been practically applied to paintings in the collection in conjunction with other recognised international conservation techniques and approaches.

About the project

The collection of Korean paintings at the British Museum includes a wide variety of material from drawings on paper through to silk paintings on folding screens. This project seeks to conserve works that need treatment using knowledge acquired from both Korean and European conservation techniques. 

While related and similar in many respects to Japanese and Chinese art, traditional Korean painting and mounting techniques differ. They have unique styles, mounting elements and types of paper and silk, and they also use their own techniques. These are all intrinsically related to the use of screens and scrolls in Korean temples, houses and palaces. However, often it is the better-known techniques from Japanese and Chinese art that have been used to preserve Korean paintings before they came to the Museum. 

So far, the project has conducted fieldwork research to support treatment decision making and the sourcing of appropriate materials. The project conservator has worked in local Korean studios with expert scroll mounters, dyers and artisan box and metal fittings makers. Korean specialists have also come to the Museum to share their expertise and knowledge of the Korean techniques required to care for the paintings. The Museum's Department of Scientific Research has conducted further research into the natural dyes used in some silk elements of the conserved paintings.

Aims

The project aims to apply appropriate approaches to conserving Korean paintings in the Museum collection to support their interpretation and use. This has been achieved by:

  • Surveying the collection to identify paintings requiring conservation treatment.
  • Collaborating with Korean, Chinese and Japanese colleagues to determine mounting methodologies and appropriate treatments for conservation.
  • Sourcing appropriate Korean materials for use at the British Museum's Hirayama Studio.
  • Hosting knowledge exchange workshops for Korean expert specialists and the project conservator at the Hirayama Studio and international locations to support conservation.
  • Sharing findings and outcomes through events and publications, including a project symposium in 2022.
  • Organising a six-month display of fragile objects conserved as part of the project in the British Museum's Korean Gallery from July 2022.

Conclusion

This project has studied and conserved a number of Korean paintings in the British Museum collection, including handscrolls and multi-panel screens. Their conservation and remounting, which involved the Museum team and visiting Korean scroll mounters, has made it possible to display the paintings for the first time since their acquisition and will allow their safe study in the future.

Research on the material composition of the paintings involved scientific investigation, study trips and two meetings of experts at the Museum. This has allowed the use of appropriate mounting materials and techniques and has resulted in improved knowledge of historical mounting methods for Korean paintings.

Mounting materials such as hanji (traditional Korean mulberry paper); silk, hemp and ramie fabrics; and wooden panel components were sourced in South Korea. Research into historical textile dyeing and scroll box-making has included interviews with traditional makers to capture authentic Korean methods. An online symposium on the project outcomes, a display of conserved paintings in the Museum's Korean Gallery, a video, journal articles, talks and social media postings have enriched the understanding of authentic Korean scroll mounting among the public and experts alike. 

Meet the team

Meejung Kim-Marandet.

Meejung Kim-Marandet

Principal Investigator
Department of Collection Care, Conservation
British Museum

Sang-ah Kim.

Sang-ah Kim

Project curator Korean collection (from 2022)
Department of Asia
British Museum

Joanna Kosek.

Joanna Kosek

Conservation Coordinator
Department of Collection Care, Conservation
British Museum

Headshot of woman with blond shoulder length hair.

Louisa Burden

Conservation Coordinator
Department of Collection Care, Conservation
British Museum

Kyoko Kusunoki.

Kyoko Kusunoki

Co-investigator
Department of Collection Care, Conservation
British Museum

Mattias Sotiras.

Mattias Sotiras

Co-investigator
Department of Collection Care, Conservation
British Museum

Project team

Supporter

Project supporter

 

Supported by

Amorepacific.
Korea Foundation.

Outputs

The Amorepacific Project for the Conservation of Korean Pictorial Art

REPORT

Edited by Louisa Burden and Joanna Kosek

Published in 2023

A licence to conserve: cultural diversity as a practical asset in conservation

BOOK CHAPTER

Carol Weiss; Jin Xian Qiu; Meejung Kim-Marandet; Joanna Kosek; Kyoko Kusunoki; Valentina Marabini; Matthias Sotiras

Published in 2022

British Museum Amorepacific Project Symposium: conservation of Korean paintings 2018–2022

SYMPOSIUM

Video from day 1
Video from day 2

Held in 2022

Bordering on Asian paintings: dye analysis of textile borders and mount elements to complement research on Asian pictorial art

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Diego Tamburini; Joanne Dyer; Teresa Heady; Alice Derham; Meejung Kim-Marandet; Monique Pullan; Yu-Ping Luk; Imma Ramos

Heritage 4, 4344–4365. 

Published in 2021

Flying Cranes conserved

MAGAZINE ARTICLE

An extract from the British Museum Magazine that explores how this important Korean painting was restored to its former glory. 

Meejung Kim-Marandet

Published in 2020

Aux origins de la conservation des peintures coréennes: le constat d’état du Portrait du roi Taejo et sa conservation (1763–64)

JOURNAL ARTICLE

Meejung Kim-Marandet

Support/Trace 18, 61–71

Published in 2018