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Batik Mounts

Textiles are often displayed by attaching the material to a panel using hidden pins or stitching. An alternative method of display is to use flexible strip magnets.
The magnets serve as gentle clamps, pressing the artwork against a padded sheet of steel hidden inside a backing board. Pressure can be adjusted by adding more magnets or more padding layers as needed, so that the artwork can be supported but need not be altered by pins, sewing, or other attachments. Since light-sensitive dyes and fibers are displayed only for short periods of time, these reusable mounts save time and money, too. In the exhibition Batik: Spectacular Textiles of Java, lengths of fabric appear to hang freely in cases along the walls.  At the center of the gallery, flat skirt panels wrap around floating, three-dimensional forms. Curator Natasha Reichle intended the display to inform visitors how the textiles would look when in use. To achieve that goal, designer Marco Centin and conservator Denise Migdail worked together to develop dynamic mounts that still support the fine fabrics safely.  
"The fine batiks being shown were too lightweight for Velcro® fasteners, and every stitch would have been visible as a pucker. Not to mention that after the display, every stitch would have to be clipped and removed!"      Denise Migdail, textile conservator, Asian Art Museum
Conservators always prefer to use the least invasive method to mount an art object for display. Where she could, Migdail took advantage of the flat, lightweight nature of batiks to use low-profile flexible magnets for support instead of pins. These thin, bendable 'refrigerator' magnets cannot support heavy weights, but the thin, flat weave of batiks are well suited for this style of mount.

Hidden in Plain Sight
This batik sash or shoulder cloth was unusually long: 122" end to end. In order to fit the sash inside the display case, one end had to remain rolled. This configuration meant that the magnet strip would be placed on the front, where it would visible as a long, dark stripe across the top edge.  In order to camouflage the bare magnet, the sash was photographed and the design printed out exactly to scale. The correct section of the printout was attached to the magnetic strip so that when installed, the print follows the pattern on the sash exactly.  Under careful gallery lighting, the magnet is barely noticeable and the batik can be appreciated without distraction.

More Magnets in the Museum
In addition to the magnetic strip mount shown above, the museum makes frequent use of rare earth magnet mounts for display. Because magnet mounts provide stable hanging mechanisms and can be custom designed to fit the size and weight of the art work, they are often useful on lightweight costumes, works on paper, and thangkas. You can find examples of magnet mounts throughout the museum in several different designs. 

Heavy costumes often need overall support from a custom-made internal form, but magnets can still provide extra security and subtle adjustments. By securing magnets to a padded support inserted inside the shoulders of this Chinese Vest, the weight of the silk fabric could be evenly distributed without stitching. 

Rare earth magnets are strong enough that they can be embedded in mat board and cut into narrow strips with mitred corners. When assembled, the strips look like a conventional window mat. Look for examples of these mounts in the Chinese Paintings Gallery (Gallery 15, Floor 3). In the Himalayan Gallery (Gallery 12, Floor 3), thangkas may have similar magnets hidden beneath the silk.

Read More About Magnet Mounts
Daria Keynan, Julie Barten and Elizabeth Estabrook, "Installation methods for Robert Ryman's wall-mounted works, The Paper Conservator Volume 31 (2007): 7-15.Gwen Spicer, "Defying Gravity with Magnetism" AICNews (Nov. 2010) vol. 35, 6:1,3-5.American Institute for Conservation Object Specialty Group Wiki, Magnet Mounts, (2011-12).