KANAZAWA, ISHIKAWA PREF. - Ishikawa Prefecture is inviting visitors to view a studio where cultural assets are restored in a bid to draw public attention to the skill of art repair, the first such attempt by a local government in Japan.
Ishikawa is known for traditional urushi lacquerware known as Wajima-nuri and is currently the only local government that manages such a facility, although the national museums in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, and Fukuoka have their own.
In 1997, the prefectural government established the Conservation and Restoration Studio of Cultural Properties as part of the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art in the city of Kanazawa to conserve cultural assets from across Hokuriku.
The studio started the viewing project in April this year when it was renovated and moved to a new location.
Visitors are allowed to observe conservators anytime while the studio is open. Viewed through a window, they work in a room with fixed temperature and humidity.
At the refurbished studio, a room specializing in lacquer artwork was newly built, whereas the floor space of a room in which documents and work using Japanese paper are mainly restored has been expanded to 150 sq. meters, twice as large as that of the previous facility.
“We want people to come by anytime and recognize the work here,” said Kiyoe Takashima, 61-year-old deputy director of the studio. As many as 100 people are currently visiting every day.
The studio has worked on cultural properties owned by the prefectural government and assets outside Ishikawa such as the ceiling painting of the lecture hall of Zuiryuji temple in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture and letters and wall paintings owned by the Fukui City History Museum in Fukui. The Zuiryuji ceiling is a designated national treasure.
It also restores contemporary artworks. Takashima says contemporary artworks are as valuable as historical assets and should be handed down to future generations. Since paints and adhesives containing chemical materials are used in some modern artworks, conservators are learning new techniques to deal with them.
The studio has also helped train new conservators, Takashima said.
“The work may not be a glamorous job, but it is craftsmanship that must be preserved,” he said. “It would be great if open viewing encourages people to develop an interest in conservation and restoration.”
The studio is open most days from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.