First try in the world!
“Cloned Cultural Properties” has been confirmed to be held in Tokyo University of the Arts

The world has a great number of historic cultural properties, such as paintings, sculptures, and wall paintings. However, these treasures have been deteriorating over a long period of time, raising the question as to how society will preserve them.

– Clone –

An all-new project has recently started, whose goal is to preserve these cultural properties for our posterity, by harnessing the current cloning technology. This time, we will be covering the press conference of “Cloned Cultural Properties”, which marks the first of its kind in the world.


■What are cloned cultural properties?

Some time ago on July 14th, Tokyo University of the Arts hosted the press conference for “SOSin-DENSin Clone Cultural Property: Revitalization of Lost Time”. The actual exhibition is scheduled to be held from September 23rd (Sat) to October 26th (Thurs) at The University Art Museum in Tokyo University of the Arts.


Press conference room

But what exactly are “cloned cultural properties”? According to professor Miyasako (Graduate School of Tokyo University of the Arts) who was present at the press conference, the cloning process is entirely unlike any previous conventional copying procedures, because it involves extensive analysis and research of the materials, shapes, and techniques that had been used in making the original work, 3D-printing where applicable, reproduction work for fine details by art students, and further collaboration between digital and analog techniques to fully capture the DNA of the artwork, which also involves its cultural background. For example, works like wall paintings and sculptures that appear to have faded over the years are faithfully restored with various academic references and records. As such, it can be said that the restored work transcends its original in some ways. By the way, this “cloning” technology was patented by Tokyo University of the Arts, in order to prevent cheap counterfeit clones from being produced by others.


from left, Junji Ito (specially-appointed professor of Tokyo University of the Arts) / Masaaki Miyasako (Graduate School professor) / Kousaku Maeda (visiting professor) / Akira Senju (specially-appointed professor)

■A complete reproduction of the Silk Road!

 Additionally, The Grand Exhibition on the Silk Road “SOSin-DENSin Clone Cultural Property: Revitalization of Lost Time”, is the first exhibition in the world to display only clones of various ancient artifacts from the Silk Road, such as Buddhist sculptures and wall paintings. According to professor Miyasako, Western culture and Eastern culture repeatedly fused through the Silk Road, before reaching Japan. In turn, the Japanese received, imitated, altered, and even transcended it, to create a unique culture of “Japonism”. The exhibition features a copy of Horyuji Temple’s Shakasanzon Statue, also known as the symbol of Japonism, whose original is prohibited to be taken out of the premises and is no longer available to the public. The clone also features the lost spiral hair, the white Urna hair, as well as the Buddhist angels (Hiten) that are said to have existed in the aura. The exhibition will also feature 12 recovered sides of Horyuji Temple’s Kondo wall painting, which were lost during a fire.

Shakasanzon Statue being cloned

Moreover, among the reproduced / restored are the wall paintings in the 57th Mogao Cave in Dunhuang, China, also known as the “Venus of the East”, as well as the Kizil wall paintings in the Sailor’s cavern in Xinjiang Uyghur territory, which are considered to be the most beautiful among all Kizil paintings. Another work that has been restored is the painting of the “Soaring god of the sun” that was present on the ceiling of the Buddhas in Bamiyan in Afghanistan, which was destroyed in 2001.



Parts of a clone

■The significance of cloned cultural properties

According to professor Miyasako, clones of cultural properties still face several problems, including critics who claim their status of being mere clones, possible copyright claims, fake copies, and more.

However, the purpose of “cloned cultural properties” is to solve the old dilemma of “preservation and exhibition”. The best way to preserve a piece of cultural property is no doubt to protect it from the public. Yet, this would also mean that the public will be unaware of its true worth, thus losing its original purpose. Although protection of cultural properties is often linked to economic activities, the technology of “cloned cultural property” complements “preservation (academic) and exhibition (economy)”. As a new means to satisfy institutional needs, while making the historic pieces available to the public’s touch, cloning has been attracting considerable attention from the international community.

Wall painting being cloned


Workshop for cloning

■Facing the exhibition hall


“Cloned cultural properties” show a wide range of possibilities and a bright future. Scheduled to held in September, the exhibition has been gathering considerable public attention.

<Event summary>

The Grand Exhibition on the Silk Road
“SOSin-DENSin Clone Cultural Property: Revitalization of Lost Time ”

・Event period: September 23rd (Sat) to October 26th (Thurs) 2017

・Venue: The University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts

・Special website

(Article by : Kenichi Nakamura)

Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment.
This article was written by a member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests observed in their daily lives.


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