Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Louvre in Fukushima

The Louvre's traveling exhibition (including the three graces painting by Francois Boucher, above) to three towns in Japan, including to Fukushima city some 60 kilometres from the power station destroyed by the quake and tsunami last year, is a welcome move to those of us living in Japan. On the other hand, some in the art world have raised one question in particular about the exhibition: how safe is the art work from contamination by radioactivity?

It's the same question which experts have a somewhat hard time answering clearly, although usually coming up with "safe" but being unclear exactly what "contamination" – or "decontamination" – finally means or involves. Although, as often as not, it's a question for people, here it applies to artworks. What, if anything, would happen to an artwork which actually was contaminated, or whether a low level of contamination would not affect the piece but might mean it was risky to handle, is also unclear. I would fall on the side of little risk and would welcome the exhibition, but I'm not an "expert". (And would I, hand on heart, feel the same if the Mona Lisa was coming?)

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