The Conservation of a Korean Buddhist Painting

Hammer Building, Level 2
September 1, 2010–September 1, 2011
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One of the most important roles of an art museum is to preserve works of art. From September 2010 to August 2011 visitors can observe the conservation of a large eighteenth-century Korean Buddhist painting, Buddha Seokamoni (Shakyamuni) Preaching to the Assembly on Vulture Peak. Work on this delicate painting on silk is taking place in public view, in the newly-installed Korean Art galleries at LACMA. The museum acquired the painting in such fragile condition that it has never been on display. LACMA has commissioned Professor Chi Sun Park, Head Conservator, East Asian Paintings, at Jung-Jae Conservation Center in Seoul, Korea, to collaborate with LACMA’s Conservation Center on the preservation of this rare masterpiece. 

The scroll depicts Seokgamoni (Shakyamuni), the historical Buddha and founder of Buddhism, seated on a lotus pedestal, preaching to a large assembly. The inscription and iconography identify the scene as the assembly at Mount Grdhrakuta—also known as Vulture Peak—a well-known scene from the life of the Buddha described in the Lotus Sutra. A rare large scale painting, it would originally have been the central image of the main hall, or Daewungjeon, of a Korean Buddhist temple. Although heavily damaged, the painting is particularly valuable as the earliest known painting from Gangwon province to survive the devastation of the Korean War. The depiction of this subject in such a large scale format is uniquely Korean and distinctive of Korean Buddhist art.

The complicated treatment will include surface cleaning, stabilization of actively flaking paint, removal and replacement of deteriorated lining materials, and the reintegration of the torn and damaged sections of the painting. 

Restoration of this work was made possible by CJ CGV America Holdings, Inc. Additional support was provided by The Friends of Heritage Preservation.

Image: A team of conservation experts restores Buddha Shakyamuni Preaching to the Assembly on Vulture Peak in public view.

Conservation in Action

An extraordinary project is now underway in the Korean Art galleries: a team of conservators is restoring a large eighteenth-century Korean Buddhist painting, in public view.

Professor Chi Sun Park, who teaches in the Department of Conservation of Cultural Properties at Yong-In University in Seoul, is supervising the work with help from our Conservation Center. Professor Park says that initially she had concerns about working in a public area. Now that the team is installed at LACMA, she appreciates the interest and respect demonstrated by visitors who come to watch her and her team go about their painstaking process.