Aging of synthetic bonding agents on murals

Funded through the KUR – Programme for the Conservation of Moveable Cultural Assets

One hundred years ago, German scientists discovered Buddhist murals dating from the 5th to 12th centuries AD along the northern Silk Road in the Chinese province of Xinjiang (Uiguria) and brought them back to Berlin. These cave murals, now in the collection of the Museum of Asian Art, are some of the most important artworks of Central Asia from this period in Western collections today.
In the 1970s and 1980s synthetic materials were widely used to preserve murals, yet the aging process of these agents and their reversibility were never sufficiently considered. The KUR project addressed these problems and investigated the aging process of acrylates and polyvinyl acetates. The results may potentially benefit countless artworks in countries around the world, as European and American curators of historic buildings and landmarks have used these modern bonding agents for Western art, as well.
The project already supported the conservation efforts of the “Sword Bearer Cave”. Conservators removed the bonding agents from the heavily greying and deteriorating painted surface and replaced them with new reversible bonding agents. The aim was to increase the stability and colour intensity of the mural in order to recreate the original impact of the painting. When the work is finally completed, the Museum of Asian Art will present these precious fragments in their entirety again in an exhibition at the Humboldt Forum on the Berliner Schlossplatz in 2015.

Project administrator:
Museum of Asian Art, Berlin State Museums, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz

Cooperative partners:
Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
University of Beijing, China
Rathgen Research Laboratory, Berlin State Museums, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz


Toralf Gabsch

Museum für Asiatische Kunst

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz

Takustraße 40

14195 Berlin

Tel.: +49 (0)30 8301371 (external link, opens in a new window)