The University of Michigan Museum of Art has reopened its Robert B. Jacobs Asian Art Conservation Laboratory under the direction of conservator Qian He. The lab provides conservation services and mounting or remounting of East Asian paintings and Asian and Western works on paper for institutions and individuals worldwide, in addition to caring for UMMA’s comprehensive collections of Asian art.
Qian He is a fourth-generation art conservator, trained in orthodox Chinese Su-style craftsmanship. He has worked as a conservator of Chinese painting and as an instructor at the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage in Beijing. He also managed the Department of Chinese Painting at the Beijing Googut Auction Company and was responsible for the preservation of more than 50,000 objects. There, he was an appraiser of Chinese painting and calligraphy.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Beijing City University, studying the conservation of cultural relics and appreciation. His training includes serving as a visiting scholar and researcher at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler, with additional experience at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
“UMMA’s conservation laboratory uses traditional technologies as a core part of the treatment, supplemented by scientific analysis and modern conservation equipment,” He said. He’s goal is not necessarily to make the work look new, but rather to protect its viability well into the future using treatments that are traditional, reversible and archivally sound.
Visitors to UMMA are able see the Conservation Laboratory through a floor-to-ceiling glass wall and may observe the conservation work while it is conducted in a secure, environmentally controlled laboratory space. In the future, a part of He’s work will include educating audiences—academic, institutional and museum visitors—about the importance of conservation work. There will also be an internship program for future conservators to learn and study the craft. “UMMA has the inherent advantages of an important research university supporting our efforts, professional and experienced technical staff, and a legacy of success in conservation, all in an educational environment,” He said.
UMMA’s lab was founded in 1987 with a grant from the Starr Foundation.