Conservation in Action: Demons and Demon Quellers, Meet the Conservators

Conservation and Collections Management

Jing Gao

Jing Gao standing in front of painting laid down on table

Jing Gao (高竸) is the lead conservator for this project. He was born in Beijing, China, where he studied and worked at the Palace Museum from 1973 until 1985. There he learned Chinese paintings conservation and mounting techniques from master mounters and craftsmen. Mr. Gao conserved and remounted old and new paintings for the Palace Museum in a studio that was formerly home to the Imperial Court ladies, inside the walls of the Forbidden City. Treated paintings were often shown in public exhibitions just outside the emperor’s old living quarters. In 1988, Mr. Gao began working for the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art (UMMA). At the time, Mr. Gao was the first and only conservator for Chinese paintings working in the United States for a museum or institution collecting Asian art. UMMA received generous grants from various organizations, such as the NEA, IMS, and the Starr Foundation, so that Mr. Gao could train American conservators in traditional Chinese methods. In 1990, one of Mr. Gao’s students was Jacki Elgar, who is now Pamela and Peter Voss Head of Asian Conservation at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Mr. Gao joined the MFA in 1995, as the Cornelius Van der Starr Conservator of Chinese Paintings, then a newly created position within the Asian Conservation Studio.

Hsin-Chen Tsai

Hsin-Chen Tsai holding brush, sitting in front of painting

Hsin-Chen Tsai (蔡欣辰) was born in Taiwan and is the other MFA conservator working on this project. In 2008, she received her M.A. in Conservation from Taiwan’s Tainan National University’s Graduate Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Relics, with a specialization in Asian paintings conservation. A former graduate intern at the MFA, Ms. Tsai began working in the MFA Asian Conservation Studio after graduation under Jing Gao, first as Andrew W. Mellow Fellow for Advanced Training, then as Sherman Fairchild Fellow. In 2012, she became Assistant Conservator, and in 2013, with generous support from the Mellon Foundation, she was promoted to Associate Conservator for Chinese paintings at the MFA.

Zhichao Lyu

Zhichao Lyu working with a brush on a Chinese scroll

Zhichao Lyu (呂智超) is in his third year as the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow in Chinese painting conservation in the East Asian Painting Conservation Studio at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. He is training under senior conservator, Ms. Xiangmei Gu, to refine his abilities in traditional Chinese mounting practice and learn innovative techniques in modern conservation. In 2013, he graduated with a B.A. from Fudan University’s Shanghai Institute of Visual Art, majoring in Chinese painting conservation. Mr. Lyu interned with Dr. Camille Schmitt, who runs a private East Asian painting conservation studio in France.

Jane Tan Ying Hui

Jane Tan Ying Hui standing in Conservation in Action gallery

Jane Tan Ying Hui (陳穎惠) began her career in western paper conservation in 2014 at the Heritage Conservation Centre in Singapore. As an assistant paper conservator, she is responsible for the care and preservation of a wide variety of works on paper and archival materials through interventive and preventive conservation methods. She graduated with a B.S. in chemistry from the National University of Singapore, and has received on-the-job training and attended conservation workshops conducted by overseas professionals. Ms. Hui has a strong interest in Chinese paintings conservation and is a visiting intern at the MFA training under Jing Gao with plans to specialize in this area.