"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 MuseumConservators 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 SightThis 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 MuseumIn 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.