Conservation of Conflict-Damaged Paintings at the Afghan National Gallery

The project assessed the condition of 150 conflict-damaged paintings and works on paper in the collection of the Afghan National Gallery, and evaluated capacity building needs in collections management and collections care. A team of UK conservators developed a conservation facility in Kabul where over 50 paintings and works on paper were restored. A two week programme of training for National Gallery staff was provided in collections management, collections care and practical conservation.

The Afghan National Gallery (Negaristan Melli) is located in the centre of Kabul in an historic manor house, previously the British Embassy building, which became the new National Gallery in 1983. The gallery is home to the national paintings collection, and at its peak it housed 800 paintings, including 580 by Afghan artists. The collection comprises of oil paintings and works on paper media predominately dating from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century.

Over 25 years of conflict in Afghanistan has caused extensive damage to its cultural heritage collections, and the national paintings collection is no exception. Much of the collection has been stored in poor conditions for long periods, and a number were also intentionally damaged or had their imagery over-painted to hide subjects deemed as idolatrous or polytheistic during the pre-2001 Taliban era.

In this project, the Foundation for Culture & Civil Society together with international paintings conservation experts, initially performed a condition assessment of 150 paintings from the Afghan National Art Gallery. Training needs for Gallery staff at the museum were also assessed in order to understand the future training needs of the gallery and to support future restoration of the collection.

In 2019, the project team returned to set up Conservation studios in Kabul and fully restored 30 of the most damaged paintings and works on paper. The team also delivered a two week intensive training course for Gallery staff on elementary Collections Management and Collections Care, Preventive Conservation and basic practical Conservation techniques.

Project Details

Location: Kabul, Afghanistan, Southern Asia, Asia Organiser(s): Foundation for Culture and Civil Society Project partner(s): Sayed & Nadia Consultancy: Northumbria University, UK; Afghan National Gallery: International Fine Arts Conservation Studios, UK. Funder(s): British Council Cultural Protection Fund in partnership with DCMS Funding received: 192,000 GBP Commencement Date: 09/2018 Project Status: Completed
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