Posts Tagged 'conservation'

Grime, Dust, and Drips…oh my! A short update from the Steichen Conservation team

If you’ve walked through the Barrel Gallery recently, you might have seen some conservators crawling around. Whether on the floor or on the ladder, the monumental size of Steichen’s mural series, In Exaltation of Flowers, has required some minor acrobatics. The team recently finished the cleaning phase of the treatment process – an essential step to protect the paintings from further degradation and ensure they can be enjoyed to the full extent that their beauty merits.

Cleaning huge paintings with tiny sponges.

You may recall from the short history of the murals that was recently posted that the canvases have been rolled up for over a century. During that time they encountered water damage, dust, dirt, grime, and other indignities that can be found in a storage room. This left the paintings with a significant amount of dust and dirt on their surfaces, which dulled the colors and deadened the sheen of the paint. To remove this disfiguring accumulation, we used special non-abrasive sponges to gently dry clean the surface and reveal the surprisingly fresh surface the paintings still exhibit. In areas of drips from water damage, tiny hand-rolled cotton swabs and a gentle chelating solution were employed.

The aftermath.

After cleaning, the paintings were brighter, more even, and much closer to the appearance Steichen intended them to have. The next phase of treatment includes loss compensation, framing, and preventive measures like backing boards. We’ll describe these processes next week.

Before and after cleaning

 

New Conservator in our House

Recently we welcomed Elena Torok to the DMA’s Conservation Team! She joins us in the new role of Assistant Conservator of Objects. With over 24,000 objects in our encyclopedic collection,  an active acquisition program, busy exhibition calendar, and  increasing analytical/research needs, this additional staff member will assist with the growing demands on conservation.

She will work closely with the Collections and Exhibition Teams – and looks forward to sharing her holistic and scientific knowledge of materials with the larger team – creating a care plan for the collections.  She will dive immediately into the treatments of several objects for upcoming rotations.

Below, Elena answers a few brief questions for Uncrated to introduce her to you.  Welcome Elena!

Before joining us at the DMA, where did you work?
Before joining the DMA, I worked for just over four years as a conservator at the Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG) in New Haven, CT. Most recently, I worked on YUAG’s large-scale storage move of 35,000 objects to the new Margaret and Angus Wurtele Collection Studies Center, a brand new visible study and storage center at Yale’s West Campus. I also assisted with the treatment and scientific analysis of a range of different types of objects (including decorative arts, modern and contemporary sculpture, and archaeological materials).

Prior to my time at YUAG, I earned my M.S. from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation in 2013 with concentrations in Objects Conservation and Preventive Conservation. During and before my graduate studies, I also completed internships at The British Museum (London, England), the American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY), the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, PA), and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (Williamsburg, VA).

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?
In college, I actually majored in Neuroscience! I thought for a very long time that I wanted to be a scientist or a medical doctor. But as soon as I learned that the field of conservation existed (which combines many different types of science with art and art history in very exciting ways), I completely changed paths.

What skill set are you most proud to bring to the DMA?
I have really enjoyed the work I’ve done in preventive conservation (or the prevention or delay of deterioration of cultural heritage). I look forward to continuing this work at the DMA. Recently, I have participated in research related to Oddy testing (used for selecting materials for an object’s storage or display that have the most ideal ageing properties), anoxic treatment methods for pest management, and environmental pollutant monitoring.

What is your favorite thing about being a conservator?
I love that my job allows me to interact with collections in ways that often shed new light on an object’s history or an artist’s work, which continually enables me to keep learning. I feel lucky to be part of a field that also serves to share this information and connect the public with cultural heritage and works of art. I am so thrilled to work at the DMA and I very much look forward to working with and learning from the staff and the collections!

Fran Baas is the Associate Conservator at the DMA

Preserving Pollock: A Conversation about Art Conservation

Jim Coddington at work on Jackson Pollock’s One: Number 31, 1950 in the Conservation Studio at MoMA

Jim Coddington at work on Jackson Pollock’s One: Number 31, 1950 in the Conservation Studio at MoMA

I’ll be talking with Jim Coddington, the Chief Conservator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, this Friday evening, November 20, at 9:00 p.m. about his extensive experience with the work of Jackson Pollock. We’ll be discussing the materials and techniques Pollock used in his paintings, the ways in which those materials have aged and changed over the years, and how conservators approach the preservation challenges that Pollock’s works present.

For a preview of some of the topics that we’ll touch upon, you can have a look at the “Jackson Pollock Conservation Project” blog posts that Jim has been making over the past few years.

MoMA has generously lent Echo: Number 25, 1951 to the Dallas Museum of Art for the Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots exhibition, opening Friday, November 20:

Echo Number 25 1951

Jackson Pollock, Echo: Number 25, 1951, 1951, enamel on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest and the Mr. and Mrs. David Rockefeller Fund, © 2015 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Jim carried out technical studies and conservation treatment on Echo, and we will be discussing some of the details of that work during our Late Night conversation. Here is a photo of the reverse of Echo during its treatment, with the stretcher removed, which reveals darkening of the canvas where it had been in direct contact with the wood stretcher support:

Conservation Blog Post

In addition to a behind-the-scenes look at the conservation treatments that Jim has undertaken, we’ll also examine Pollock’s working methods. Jim and his colleagues at MoMA have done pioneering analytical studies of Pollock’s materials and techniques, lending new insight into our understanding of this extraordinary artist’s work. Join us this Friday at the DMA!

Pollock in Studio

Source: MoMA.org

Mark Leonard is the Chief Conservator at the DMA.

Conservation Timeline

Silver Vitrine (for the 1908 Kunstschau), 1908, Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops), Vienna, Austria, 1903-1932, maker; Carl Otto Czeschka, Austrian, 1878-1960, designer; Josef Berger, Austrian, 1874/75-?, goldsmith; Josef Hoszfeld, Austrian, 1869-1918, Adolf Erbrich, Austrian, 1874-?, Alfred Mayer, Austrian, 1873-?, silversmiths; Josef Weber, dates unknown, cabinetmaker; Wabak, Albrech, Plasinsky, Cerhan (unidentified craftsmen), silver, moonstone, opal, lapis, lazuli, mother-of-pearl, baroque pearls, onyx, marble, ivory, enamel, glass, and Macassar ebony veneers (replaced), image courtesy of Richard Nagy Ltd, London, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

The Wittgenstein Vitrine (from the 1908 Vienna Kunstschau), 1908, Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops), Vienna, Austria, 1903-1932, maker; Carl Otto Czeschka, Austrian, 1878-1960, designer; Josef Berger, Austrian, 1874/75-?, goldsmith; Josef Hoszfeld, Austrian, 1869-1918, Adolf Erbrich, Austrian, 1874-?, Alfred Mayer, Austrian, 1873-?, silversmiths; Josef Weber, dates unknown, cabinetmaker; Wabak, Albrech, Plasinsky, Cerhan (unidentified craftsmen), silver, moonstone, opal, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, baroque pearls, onyx, ivory, enamel, glass, and Macassar ebony veneers (replaced), Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

With fall just around the corner, here’s a brief sneak peek into the conservation treatment, made possible through the Art Conservation Project grant from Bank of America, of the DMA’s recent acquisition, a masterpiece of Viennese design known as the Wittgenstein Vitrine.

An exhibition dedicated to this spectacular addition to the DMA’s collection, Modern Opulence in Vienna: The Wittgenstein Vitrine, opens November 15 in the Conservation Gallery. The display will examine the historical significance of the Wiener Werkstätte vitrine and include other examples of Viennese art and design from the period. It will also highlight the conservation treatment and technical analyses carried out during the past year.

Collaboration between curator and conservators – a discussion on original wooden base height, veneer, and finish

Collaboration between curator and conservators – a discussion on original wooden base height, veneer, and finish

Fitting the new curved glass side panel – the replacement of a missing element

Fitting the new curved glass side panel, replacing a missing element

The elaborate silver vitrine (or display case) stands roughly five feet tall and is encrusted with pearls, lapis lazuli, opals, onyx, and other gemstones. Each of these materials requires different conservation approaches and solutions. The overarching goal of the treatment has been to bring the piece closer to its original 1908 appearance, as well as to stabilize a number of fragile elements. The most stunning transformation has resulted from the reduction of blackened tarnish and the removal of layers of old silver polish residue trapped within the intricate metalwork.

Detail of old polish residue trapped between glass and metalwork

Detail of old polish residue trapped between glass and metalwork

Detail of old polish residue caught between the glass panes and silver decorative elements

Detail of old polish residue caught between the glass panes and silver decorative elements

Many painstaking hours of old polish removal and reduction of silver tarnish.

Engaging in many painstaking hours of old polish removal and reduction of silver tarnish

Conservation treatments do not take place within a vacuum, and an exciting part of the project has been the interdepartmental collaboration between the curatorial, conservation (including myself), and collections staff at the DMA. Kevin W. Tucker, The Margot B. Perot Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the Dallas Museum of Art, and I have also been working with outside consultative experts, including silversmiths, specialty glassmakers, gemologists, research scientists, and even an ornithologist (to help identify the various birds depicted on the vitrine).

Detail of a pearl cluster with two birds.  Notice the old polish residue in the interstices surrounding the cluster.

Detail of a pearl cluster with two birds. Notice the old polish residue in the interstices surrounding the cluster.

During removal of silver tarnish, as seen in this image from left to right.

During removal of silver tarnish, as seen in this image from left to right.

Working almost daily on an intimate and intense level with an object has resulted in many discoveries, which we look forward to sharing with the public in both the exhibition and the opening symposium on November 15, 2014.

Fran Baas is the Associate Conservator of Objects at the DMA.

Conservation Time Travel

Uncrated recently caught up with the DMA’s  associate conservator, Fran Baas, who joined the Museum in November. This summer, you can find her working on the 1908 Viennese Wittgenstein silver cabinet, pictured below.

FranBaas

Describe your job in fifty words or less.
My title is Associate Conservator, and I oversee the activities involved in the long-term preservation of the DMA’s permanent collection of objects and textiles. This comprehensive approach includes treatment, research, and analysis, and the preventive care of the collection.

What might an average day entail?
Each day is very different and has me running around all over the Museum. I might be assessing objects as potential loan candidates, responding to e-mails, writing reports, and doing actual benchwork. 

For example, recently, over the course of two days, I treated three plaster “pears,” dehydrated a SCOBY (a colony of bacteria/yeast that is part of a contemporary piece), conditioned silica gel, cleaned a few inches of an intricate early 20th-century Viennese silver piece, discussed with curators and collections staff the “inherent vice” of an extremely fragile piece, helped identify materials in an African headdress, and assisted in the treatment of some large oversized paintings. My job keeps me hopping across decades, centuries, and millennia . . . not to mention across the world geographically!

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges?
 I absolutely love my job. It’s a huge responsibility, but a privilege that I do not take lightly. The biggest challenge is never having enough time!

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?
For a long time, I struggled with where I fit. I am very “left-brained, right-brained,” as they say. Not only do I love working with my hands and looking at art, but I love science and the process of discovery. It took me awhile to find a profession that combines art and science. Conservation is a field where I get to do my favorite things in an effort to preserve art and artifacts for future generations to appreciate. I have the best job in the world.

Do you have a favorite work in the DMA’s collection yet?
As cliché as this sounds, I fall in love with whatever piece I am currently working on. Getting to work with a piece up close, in conjunction with the material analysis and background historical research, allows me to really “get to know” a piece . . . and as a result fall in love.

What are you looking forward to in your future here at the DMA?
I look forward to getting to know each and every object and textile in the DMA’s encyclopedic collection!

Hide and Go Seek: A Behind-the-Scenes Field Trip to Permanent Collection Storage

A few months ago, the seven other McDermott Interns and I toured art storage with Anne Lenhart, associate registrar for the permanent collection. Each year, McDermott Interns explore the storage facilities and get a sneak peek inside the DMA’s collection. We spotted more than a few hidden gems during the tour, which you can find, too, through our DMA Friends program. DMA Friends points can be redeemed for an Into the Deep reward that explores art storage. See snapshots of the secrets of storage below!

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First stop, Main Storage: Adolph Gottlieb’s Orb, 1964, is rolled out for closer inspection. If you would like to see it for yourself, the painting is on view through March in the Museum’s Hoffman Galleries.
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Second stop, Conservation Office: Mark Leonard, chief conservator, works on a painting’s mounting in his old office. With the opening of the Paintings Conservation Studio in November, his work process is now on public display.
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Third stop, Photography: Here works, such as water pitchers, are photographed for publication.
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Fourth stop, Cold Storage: Marc Quinn’s blood heads have never been stored here. If they ever do come to the Museum, we’ll have the proper storage for them!
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Fifth stop: Textile Storage: Textiles are tightly packed on rungs.
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Sixth stop, Large Objects: While some artists do not designate what particular hardware and software to use for digital artworks, some do. We have a nice collection of “ancient” relics.
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Seventh stop, Prop Storage
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Eighth stop: Meso-American and Small Objects Storage: Anne gives Amy Kaczmarek a closer look.
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Temple Shipley is the McDermott Curatorial Intern for Contemporary Art at the DMA.

Summer Conservation at the DMA: Treatment of Sanction of the Museum by Daniel Buren

If you’ve visited the DMA lately, you may have been wondering what is going on behind the closed doors of the Chilton Galleries, the same galleries that held the recent Chagall: Beyond Color exhibition. The galleries have been transformed into a temporary conservation workspace, where we have been busily working on a massive installation artwork by Daniel Buren.

Daniel Buren in 1995. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Daniel Buren in 1995 (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Daniel Buren (b. 1938) has been creating dynamic public installations since the early 1970s. His conceptual artwork challenged the traditional formats at the time and frequently combined modern pieces with historical architecture. Now Buren’s large striped artworks are recognized instantly across Europe, earning him revered status in his native France.

Sanction of the Museum being unrolled for the first time at the DMA.

Sanction of the Museum being unrolled for the first time at the DMA

The DMA recently acquired Buren’s 1973 Sanction of the Museum, which consists of six enormous panels of cotton fabric with alternating white and colored vertical stripes. Each panel bears two stripes of white acrylic paint applied to both the front and back of the fabric at the far left and right edges. The panels will hang from the ceiling near the Ross Avenue Entrance (at the south end of the Museum’s main Concourse) like a series of banners that can sway slightly in the air. They will lead the way upstairs to the new Conservation Studio, where Museum visitors will soon have a window into the often-unseen world of art conservation.

Conservation Interns Diana Hartman and Jessica Ford steaming one of the large canvas panels

Conservation interns Diana Hartman and Jessica Ford steaming one of the large canvas panels

As conservation interns, our job was to stabilize and restore visual integrity to the canvas panels. They had been rolled up in storage since the artwork’s last installation in 1989, prior to their acquisition by the DMA last year. This is good in that the artwork hasn’t seen a lot of wear or fading from UV, but because it was rolled improperly a number of minor damages were incurred. (If you’re curious about how to properly care for your paintings, here is a good place to start!) The most pressing issues we encountered were the extreme creases and wrinkles that marred the artwork’s stoic appearance. We also found numerous small stains and tears.

side by side

Before performing any treatment on the artwork itself, we made mock-ups and conducted tests to decide on the best option. In conservation practice, a “less is more” approach is always best, using minimal interference and always using reversible materials. In this particular case, we successfully steamed away most of the wrinkles in the fabric and reduced the most severe creases under custom weights. Small tears were mended with thread-by-thread reweaving and custom-made patches. Soft vinyl erasers and cellulose pulp poultices were used to reduce scuffs and dirt.

hole

After an intense eight weeks of preparation, installation is now underway! We are thrilled to have been a part of the team that helped bring this important contemporary artwork to Dallas. This conservation treatment is just the start of many more exciting projects that will be taking place on public view in the new Conservation Studio when it opens this fall. Be sure to check out Sanction of the Museum the next time you visit the DMA!

Diana Hartman and Jessica Ford are art conservation interns working with Chief Conservator Mark Leonard at the DMA this summer. Diana is a conservation technician at Winterthur Museum, and Jessica is a graduate fellow in paintings conservation at Winterthur/University of Delaware.


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