Posts Tagged 'conservation'



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.

Picture This – Part Deux

Over a year ago, the Dallas Museum of Art sent  College of Animals by Cornelis Saftleven (1607-1681) to a conservator for cleaning and minor repair. With the grime removed from the Dutch artist’s enigmatic composition, it was the perfect time to do a bit more. So we replaced the thin, unadorned gilt frame that formerly surrounded the canvas with one more in keeping with the sort preferred by Dutch artists working during Saftleven’s time. Seventeenth-century Netherlandish artists typically favored a waffle or ripple style molding frame. These darkly painted wooden frames that simulated ebony are decorated with several rows carved in a zigzag design, and often have a reverse ogee profile.  A few months ago, the DMA purchased a period Dutch frame that has all of these design elements from a Parisian dealer. Now that Saftleven’s College of Animals is back from the conservator and has an appropriate frame, it is once again on view in the European galleries for everyone to enjoy!

The simple gilt frame that formerly surrounded Cornelis Saftleven’s “College of Animals,” n.d., oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation, 1987.32

Cornelis Saftleven, College of Animals with its period seventeenth-century waffle-style Dutch frame.

Detail of College of Animals’ new frame

Martha MacLeod is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant to the European and American Art departments.

Educator Resources: Video Visions

Ever since it killed the radio star, video has been thriving.  Let’s take a look at three valuable resources with great videos featuring art, art history, artists, and curators.  Educators in and out of the classroom just might want to add these to their “toolboxes,” if you haven’t already.

1. Smarthistory – Started as a blog in 2005, this oh-so-smart, multimedia resource makes art history come alive on the web.  No more expensive, heavy textbooks to tote around!  Smarthistory includes over 360 videos and continues to grow through a recent merger with Khan Academy, which allows founders Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker to focus full-time on expanding content.  In addition to the videos, which are easily sorted via thirteen categories ranging from art historical periods to materials, the website includes images and information for over 440 artworks, as well as sample syllabi and strategies for teaching art history online.

2. Artists Documentation Program – This is a new favorite of mine, discovered while surfing the Art 21 blog last year.  The Artists Documentation Program (ADP) features twenty-nine interviews with contemporary artists and their close associates discussing the materials and techniques of the artists’ works.  Jasper Johns, Mel Chin, Cy Twombly, Ann Hamilton, and Sarah Sze are just a few of the artists interviewed.  Conducted by conservators, the videos are intended primarily as research documents to aid in preservation and care of the art.  Some of the footage goes back to the early 1990s when the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded a grant to the Menil Collection in Houston.  Following this initial grant, the project continued and expanded under the leadership of former Menil conservator Carol Mancusi-Ungaro.  The Whitney Museum of American Art and the Center for the Study of Modern Art at Harvard are key collaborators.   Note: while viewing of the videos is free, the ADP requires users to register before granting access to video interviews.  This acknowledges and supports appropriate use of the videos.

3. DMA.Mobi – Available via mobile devices and the web, this home-grown, Dallas Museum of Art resource showcases artworks in the Museum’s collection and current exhibitions.  Piloted in summer 2009, the smARTphone tours re-launched this month with a new design and fifty new artwork stops.  Videos featuring DMA curators discussing works in the collection are a key component.  Cultural information, contextual images, and audio clips provide additional information about the artworks.

DMA smARTphone tour screen

Anne Bromberg, the Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and Asian Art, discusses a Roman mosaic in the DMA's collection

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Teaching Programs and Partnerships

A Curator’s Best Days

The best days in a curator’s professional life are often the days spent in the conservation lab. That’s where we get to spend quality time with works of art and talk to conservators, the fantastically knowledgeable people who can look through a microscope or infrared scope and tell you the life history of an object. I was lucky enough to spend several hours in the painting conservation lab of the Midwestern Art Conservation Center (MACC), a private conservation center housed at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). I was there to confer with conservator David Marquis just before he begins cleaning an important painting in the DMA’s collections, Paul Gauguin’s Under the Pandanus, also known by its Maori title I Raro Te Oviri.

Gauguin painted Under the Pandanus in 1891, a few months after he arrived in Tahiti for the first time.  Sometime later, possibly the next year, he painted a second version of the composition, and that picture is now in the collection of the MIA. When I got to the MACC lab, they had brought both paintings to the lab and removed them from their frames so that we could do a thorough comparison. Ours is on the right, the MIA version on the left.

Last year we began to look closely at the condition of our painting, and earlier this summer we sent our painting to the MACC for technical analysis. Once the two versions of the painting were placed side by side, the differences become more and more obvious . . . and intriguing.

Though the technical study had just begun, David Marquis immediately pointed out how dirty the surface of the DMA canvas was, and how discolored the old layer of varnish had become. This yellowed varnish layer and surface layer of grime radically changed the appearance of the painting. MIA Associate Curator of Paintings, Sue Canterbury, described it as being like looking at the painting through a double-amber filter—not exactly what Gauguin had intended! The MIA version, which was cleaned within the last ten years, gives us a much better sense of what our painting must have looked like when it was first completed.

Once we decided to take off these two “amber filters,” David Marquis began by making “cleaning windows,” that is, cleaning small areas of the canvas. This is the first window he opened, in an area of the horizon near the right edge of the painting.

The results are pretty amazing! The white surf is actually so much brighter and cooler in tone than it appears in the dirty areas. Now that he knew what the cleaning might reveal, David opened some windows in other areas. When I got to the lab to take a look, several areas of the canvas had been cleaned, revealing a whole new palette of colors.

Once David’s cleaning of the varnish and grime is complete later this summer, we’ll have a much better sense of the choices Gauguin made while he was working on our painting, as well as how the painting has changed over time and the extent of work done by earlier conservators. We’re just at the beginning of this important project, so stay tuned for future updates about the results of our study of Under the Pandanus, and look for it to be back in the galleries, and looking better than ever, next year.

Heather MacDonald is The Lillian and James H. Clark Associate Curator of European Art at the DMA.


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