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News Philadelphia Museum of Art opens renovated Chinese galleries

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​Curator Hiromi Kinoshita prepares for Sunday's grand reopening of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Chinese galleries after a $2 million renovation. (Image: Tom Gralish)

WUDPAC alumna Peggy Olley is part of the team responsible for galleries that showcase the museum’s stellar 7,000-object collection. From an article by Stephan Salisbury for the Inquirer:


Peggy Olley, a conservator with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, usually plies her trade behind the scenes in the conservation lab of the Perelman Building. But for the last few months, she’s been working in plain sight in the Chinese galleries, perched in front of an 18th-century lacquered cupboard, seven feet high and resplendent from top to bottom with a multihued deep-red design of sinuous dragons, chrysanthemums, and birds. The wardrobe, though beautiful, is also notable for the losses of paint it has suffered over the centuries, losses now more visible to the visitor than at any other time in memory. The Chinese galleries, showcase for the museum’s stellar 7,000-object collection, have been closed for 10 months, undergoing a $2 million renovation, including a completely new LED lighting system. But thanks to museum conservators, the visible wear to the cupboard — or dasijiangui, as it is known to Chinese art scholars — will be largely hidden when the galleries reopen Sunday.

​Curator Hiromi Kinoshita in the Reception Hall from the Palace of Duke Zhao (Zhaogongfu), now equipped with new lighting that reveals details in the thirty-foot ceiling supported by red-lacquered columns. (Image: Tom Gralish)

Olley uses tweezers to attach small pieces of color-coordinated tissue to the cupboard, masking damage in a way that can be completely removed if necessary. “As part of the renovation, they brought more light in here, which is great,” said Olley. “You can appreciate the object more and see the dragon designs. There’s more light in here than it’s had in the past, so you can also see more of the damage. We’re working on these losses [of paint layers] and probably over the next couple of years, we’ll do a more technical study.” Olley is one of a large team of conservators who have been working on every part of the Chinese collection — costumes and robes, prints and drawings, photographs, paintings, ceramics, limestone panels. . . .

The whole swath of the museum’s holdings, from ancient tomb panels dating back four millennia to the contemporary work of renowned artists such as Ai Weiwei, will demonstrate the sweep of Chinese culture down to the present. Artworks will also rotate so more of the collection becomes familiar and knowable. The renovation of these galleries, strategically located between the Japanese Tea House and the Indian Pillared Temple on the museum’s second floor overlooking the East Terrace, is the most recent in a series of refurbishments running parallel to the museum’s major interior renovation, the massive Frank Gehry-designed "Core Project." As the core project construction progresses toward a 2020 completion – it involves, among many other things, demolition of the central auditorium – the museum has undertaken a set of satellite renovations, transforming and sharpening many areas untouched by the larger, splashier construction. . . .


To read the full article and learn more about the renovation project, visit the Inquirer's website here.

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WUDPAC alumna Peggy Olley is part of the team responsible for galleries that showcase the museum’s stellar 7,000-object collection.

WUDPAC alumna Peggy Olley is part of the team responsible for galleries that showcase the museum’s stellar 7,000-object collection.

2/2/2019
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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489
  • art-conservation@udel.edu