A bespoke frame is made to display Japanese wooden panels from Kew’s Economic Botany collection
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Flora Japonica exhibition installation

Catch up with our progress in the galleries as we change exhibitions from Brazil: a powerhouse of plants to Flora Japonica.
Zoe Wolstenholme


Last week marked the end of our exhibition Brazil: A powerhouse of plants - Margaret Mee, pioneering artist and her legacy. The paintings of Brazilian bromeliads, epiphytes and cacti have now been taken down and the gallery walls have been freshly painted back to perfect white in anticipation of the arrival of works for the upcoming exhibition Flora Japonica.

Vinyl lettering is removed from the gallery walls

Preparing the gallery for a new exhibition

In preparation for the new art works arriving at the gallery, we have been working to take down, pack and return the previous paintings safely. We have removed all vinyl lettering and signage from the walls and had the gallery redecorated, completed at the end of our first week. The new Japanese works, which showcase Japanese flora in perfect detail, have now arrived and are stacked in the corresponding galleries, ready to be arranged and hung on the walls. They include paintings by both contemporary and historic Japanese botanical artists, woodblock prints, and wooden panels, made from the wood of the trees that they depict. These come from various collections including The Shirley Sherwood Collection and those of the Makino Botanic Gardens in Japan.

A bespoke frame is made to display Japanese wooden panels from Kew’s Economic Botany Collection

Bespoke frames made for Japanese wooden panels

Many of the items being shown in the exhibition have been framed on-site. Kew has commissioned bespoke frames for the Japanese wooden panels to ensure they are both displayed true to their original design and protected from damage during the exhibition. This frame will also enable more of the wooden panels to be shown at a later date. Another of the wooden panels from Kew’s Economic Botany Collection will be displayed alongside the original sketch that has come from the Koishikawa Botanical Garden, University of Tokyo’s collection in Japan, bringing the two aspects of this one work by the same artist side by side.

Camellia japonica on backing paper before conservation work

Conservation work to protect illustrations

One of our Kew conservators, Eleanor Hasler, has been working to frame and prepare many other art works including both contemporary Japanese botanical illustrations and works from Kew’s collection. Some of the Kew collection pieces have been removed from backing papers, which at times were acidic, with the adhesive removed from the illustrations. Many have also been cleaned and stabilised ready for showing in the exhibition. Indeed, the exhibition has provided the impetus for this important conservation work to be carried out on these items. Finally, Eleanor has mounted and framed the works. The mounts are, where possible, positioned flush to the line of the illustration so as to show the work as it was intended to be viewed by the artist.

Paintings arrive from Japan

Never seen outside Japan before

Many of the works that have arrived from Japan have never been seen outside of the country, and Flora Japonica, opening in one week’s time, will provide the rare opportunity to view these works. These include illustrations by Chikusai Kato and Dr Tomitaro Makino.

Preview of work never seen outside of Japan by Chikusai Kato

Don’t miss your chance to view this exhibition! Flora Japonica opens on 17 September 2016.

More about Flora Japonica exhibition

The exhibition is supported by the JEC Fund, Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and the Japanese Embassy.

- Zoe Wolstenholme -

(Gallery Assistant)