Behind the Screen: A MoMA Conservators Sabbatical in Japan
Roger Griffith

My lecture will focus on a six month sabbatical where I lived in Tokyo, Japan from January – June 2017. I was invited as a visiting lecturer at a number of universities where I delivered a series of lectures, workshops and debates.  In the time between these exchanges I explored issues in the conservation of modern and contemporary art hoping to better understand the complex and largely secretive inner workings of the conservation field in Japan, in both museum and private sectors. I will discuss the challenges inherent in such a venture: Japan has commonly been known as an isolationist or closed society to foreigners, referred to by its inhabitants as“Sakoku” (鎖国), or “closed country.” But with time (and many shared cups of tea) I made inroads into the conservation community and was exposed to some of their conservation activities including: preventive conservation, examination, documentation, research, treatment, and education. In this talk I will share some of my reflections about these findings and what they revealed to me about conservation in Japan, and by way of contrast, conservation in the West.