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Press release:

Restored 19th-century Japanese masterpiece now on display

As of 23 September, the Keiga folding screen is on display at Museum Volkenkunde and through a digital app

The moment has come: after a restoration process that took nearly three years, Museum Volkenkunde is ready to unveil the large folding screen (c. 1836) by Japanese painter Kawahara Keiga. In conjunction with this event, Museum Volkenkunde is launching the Deshima Experience: an innovative digital application. This free app allows everyone to enjoy numerous stories about the folding screen and the Japan collection on their smartphone, tablet, or laptop, either before, during or after their visit. Furthermore, the augmented reality options allow visitors to virtually place the life-size screen in their own living rooms, wherever they are in the world.

Collaboration with Japanese experts

In 2018, Museum Volkenkunde acquired a unique folding screen painted by Japanese painter Kawahara Keiga (1786-c.1860). This masterpiece had been discovered shortly before but was in a deplorable condition. The folding screen shows the view across the bay of Nagasaki, with the Dutch Deshima trading post in the foreground. Museum Volkenkunde started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the restoration. Now, three years later, and with the help of many Japanese experts, the restoration has been completed. The folding screen is the centrepiece of the museum’s Keiga collection, which runs to 2,000 items and is the largest in the world. As far as we know, this is the only folding screen Keiga ever made. It depicts the extraordinary historical relationship between Japan and the Netherlands in a spectacular fashion.

Launching the digital Deshima Experience

At the presentation of the folding screen, the museum is taking another important step. Along with the completed restoration, Museum Volkenkunde is launching the Deshima Experience. An innovative web app, which allows users to experience every aspect of the folding screen. This is the start of an entirely new way of sharing stories and information in various forms with audiences worldwide. The application combines all storytelling techniques into one application. The 3D models and augmented reality are combined with video, animation, photos, and text. This will allow users across the world to interact with the folding screen wherever they are: at home or in the classroom. And, of course, in front of the actual folding screen at the museum, where they can scan the details with their phones to activate the stories. By introducing high-quality 3D models to digital storytelling in this fashion, the National Museum of World Cultures, of which Museum Volkenkunde is a part, has become a pioneer in the museum world.

About Kawahara Keiga

Because of the minute details shown in his work, Kawahara Keiga has often been called ‘a photographer without a camera’. In his extensive body of work, he has captured the Japanese nature and culture in all their splendour, often at the behest of researchers such as Dr Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866). Keiga had been granted the exceptional privilege of entering Deshima freely, which enabled him to draw the encounters between the Japanese and the Dutch. His contacts also introduced him to European painting techniques such as drawing in perspective, which he masterfully applied in the screen.

Contributors

Kawahara Keiga’s folding screen is the largest acquisition made by the National Museum of World Cultures in recent decades. The purchase was made with support from Vereniging Rembrandt, the Mondriaan Fund, the VSB Fund, the Vriendenloterij, and the Friends of Museum Volkenkunde. The restoration was made possible by many private donors, the Tefaf Museum Restoration Fund and the Foreign Ministry’s Shared Cultural Heritage Programme. Finally, Ailion Foundation supported the development of the digital application.

 

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note to the editors, not for publication:
For additional information and interview requests, please don’t hesitate to contact Coromandel Brombacher by phone: +31 6 53 15 28 35, or email: pers@volkenkunde.nl

Press photos

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19th century folding screen by Kawahara Keiga in restored condition. PHOTO RENE GERRITSEN
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Folding screen by Kawahara Keiga with a view of Deshima for restoration in 2018. PHOTO RESTORIENT
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Folding screen by Kawahara Keiga with a view of Deshima after restoration in 2021. PHOTO RENE GERRITSEN.
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Folding screen by Kawahara Keiga before restoration. PHOTO RESTORIENT