Wednesday 16 December 2009
Your brief obituary of Ikuo Hirayama (12 December) made no mention of his philanthropic role in the UK,
writes Andrew Oddy, retired Keeper of Conservation, British Museum.
Among other interests, about 15 years ago he generously gave the British Museum the not insubstantial sum required to convert what had been originally built as a Victorian savings bank into a state-of-the-art studio for the conservation of oriental art on paper and silk. With a floor of tatami matting and low-level work benches imported from Japan, the Hirayama Studio is by far the best traditional Japanese-style studio outside Japan and, with its generous floor space and clever combination of daylight and artificial light, it is undoubtedly better than many of those in that country.
He subsequently sponsored a Japanese master scroll mounter to work in the studio for four years and pass on his expertise to English colleagues. This generosity broke new ground by making available a substantial sum for a behind-the-scenes facility which, although it bears the Hirayama name, is almost never seen by the public at large.
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