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Displaying items by tag: conservators

Friday, 11 July 2014 10:09

The Met’s Obelisk Gets a Major Cleaning

Thutmose III thought big.

His Obelisk, however, is being treated at the level of atomic particles.

Since early May, conservators have been cleaning the Obelisk with hand-held lasers. Inch by inch, as if a magic wand were being passed over the hieroglyphs, the flecked pink granite of Aswan, Egypt, has emerged from under Manhattan’s gray pall.

The Obelisk was first erected about 3,460 years ago at Heliopolis, on the outskirts of modern Cairo, to glorify Thutmose III, a pharaoh who has been likened to Napoleon. The Romans moved it to Alexandria, from where it was transported in 1880 to New York City, as a gift from the khedives who then ruled Egypt. It was re-erected on Greywacke Knoll in Central Park in 1881.

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Britain’s Royal Collection is to undergo the most ambitious condition survey ever carried out on a major group of paintings. On the eve of the conservation project, The Art Newspaper can give the precise number of paintings for which the collection is responsible: 7,564 works in oil. This is the first time that the number has been confirmed in the past 500 years. The works will all be condition-checked and properly photographed, and images of most of the paintings will be published online, revealing for the first time the extent of the world’s greatest private collection.

The Painting Condition Survey is due to begin this summer with the “lesser” palaces—Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, Sandringham in Norfolk and Balmoral in Scotland. A team of four conservators and frame technicians will move systematically through each of the royal residences, room by room. Desmond Shawe-Taylor, the surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, says that the paintings will be taken off the wall, one by one, and removed from their frames. This will be a complex logistical exercise, since the pictures hang in 13 royal residences throughout the UK.

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A hidden painting has been found by scientists beneath the brush strokes of The Blue Room, a 1901 Picasso artwork.

Art experts and conservators at The Phillips Collection in Washington used infrared technology on the masterpiece, revealing a bow-tied man with his face resting on his hand.

Picasso created both works in Paris during his famous blue period.

"It's really one of those moments that really makes what you do special," said conservator Patricia Favero.

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 In the 1960s, the Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko was commissioned by Harvard University to create a series of murals. Completed in 1962, the large panels were displayed in the University’s Holyoke Center (now the Smith Campus Center), which boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, from 1964 to 1979. Over time, the constant exposure to natural light caused the murals to fade and the once-vibrant paintings were relegated to storage, where they remained until now.

The Harvard Art Museums, which will reopen on November 16 following a major renovation, have devised a revolutionary technique to restore the murals to their original richness. The process, which was developed over several years by a team of conservators, curators, and scientists from Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, and the University of Basel in Switzerland, involves digitally projecting specially calibrated light to correct the murals’ devastating color loss. The works will be unveiled to the public in the exhibition “Mark Rothko’s Harvard Murals.”

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Mark Rothko's painting Black on Maroon has gone back on public display at London's Tate Modern gallery, 18 months after it was vandalised with graffiti.

The 1958 painting was defaced by Wlodzimierz Umaniec in October 2012. He was sent to prison as a result but has now apologised for his actions.

The Tate's conservators have spent 18 months repairing the painting.

Conservator Rachel Barker said: "It's definitely better than I could have hoped at the beginning of the project."

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is currently hosting the Global Museum Leaders Colloquium, a twelve-day program aimed at forging links and developing dialogues between some of the world’s most influential museums. The fourteen participants represent a wide variety of institutions, including national, state, municipal, and private museums. The colloquium will explore the major challenges that museum directors face, including management issues, conservation matters, and the well-being of the global economy.

The colloquium is the first of its kind at the Met, and has been spearheaded by the museum’s Director and CEO, Thomas P. Campbell. In a press release from the museum, Campbell said, “Ideally, this exchange of ideas and expertise will generate collaborative thinking that will prove beneficial not only to the participating institutions but to museums on a much broader scale.”

The Met has been an international institution since its founding in 1870 and has continued to collaborate with museums across the globe through exhibitions as well as training and research projects. In addition, the museum organizes a number of programs that bring international curators, conservators, and scholars to New York.

Participants in the Global Museum Leaders Colloquium include Mohammed Fahim Rahimi, Chief Curator at the National Museum of Afghanistan; Victoria Noorthoorn, Director of the Museo de Arte Moderno in Buenos Aires; Liang Gong, Director of the Nanjing Museum; Stijn Huijts, Director of the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht; and Steven Sack, Director of the Origins Center in Johannesburg.

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Monday, 09 December 2013 18:29

National Gallery Unveils Chagall Mosaic

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. has unveiled a permanent and public home for a glass and stone mosaic designed by Marc Chagall. ‘Orphée,’ which was donated to the museum by the late collector Evelyn Stefansson Nef, will reside in the National Gallery’s Sculpture Garden.

The mosaic, which was a special gift from Chagall to Nef and her husband, John, spent over 40 years in the couple’s garden in Georgetown. The work was donated to the museum in 2009 as part of a major bequest of over 100 works from the Nef’s collection of 19th- and 20th-century artworks. Measuring around 10’ x 17’, the mosaic depicts various figures from Greek mythology.    

The work was one of the first large-scale outdoor Chagall mosaics to be installed in the United States and during the spring of 2010, a team of conservators, curators, art handlers, designers and masons spent five weeks removing the mosaic from the Nef’s garden wall. Over the next three and a half years, conservators, gallery masons, designers and Italian mosaic experts cleaned the glass and stone, repaired the mosaic’s structural reinforcement, and painstakingly re-installed the work in the National Gallery’s Sculpture Garden.

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London’s Victoria and Albert Museum announced that they discovered a previously unknown oil sketch by English Romantic painter John Constable. The sketch of trees, which dates back to 1821 or 1822, was found tucked beneath another work by the artist, “Branch Hill Pond: Hampstead.” Conservators had removed the painting’s lining while preparing for the upcoming exhibition, “Constable: The Making of a Master.”

Constable’s daughter donated the contents of the artist’s studio -- including 92 oil sketches, 297 drawings and watercolors, and 3 sketchbooks -- to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1888. The recently discovered sketch is currently on view at the institution.    

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The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will grant the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries $1 million to help conserve Chinese paintings housed in the museum’s galleries of Asian art. The Smithsonian says that it is the only institution in the United States to offer a program that teaches conservators how to care for fragile Chinese paintings. The new grant will endow a position for an assistant Chinese painting conservator to provide support for the program.

While there are thousands of delicate Chinese paintings in American museums, there are only four expert conservators. Smithsonian officials said that the number of experts trained to care for Chinese paintings is dwindling, which is troublesome as these works are challenging to care for. Many Chinese paintings are very old and made up of layers of varying materials including paper, silk, fabric and paste, which all require different preservation methods.

The Mellon grant requires that the Smithsonian match the funds with an additional $750,000 by 2016 in order to endow the position.

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A Danish phD thesis revealed that a common preservation method may cause more harm than good to artworks. The study showed that when an oil painting treated with the once-popular wax-resin lining is exposed to relative humidity over 60 percent there is a good chance that it will shrink, compressing the paint and causing it to flake off. The revelation was part of Cecil Krarup Andersen’s thesis, which was recently defended at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Conservation.

During the 20th century the “lining” technique was popular among conservators and used to protect well-known masterpieces including works by Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh while traveling for loan exhibitions. For her thesis Lined canvas paintings: Mechanical properties and structural response to fluctuating relative humidity, Andersen studied the Danish national gallery's collection of Danish Golden Age paintings and examined the difference in moisture sensibility before and after wax-resin lining.

The wax-resin technique became popular during the 1960s but was obsolete by the 1970s since the method tended to darken paintings’ colors. However, the discovery of relative humidity’s effect on wax-resin lined canvases is a new finding. While the majority of museums maintain an approximate relative humidity of 50 percent, malfunctioning climate controls and flooding could leave some of the finest works in the canon of art in perilous danger.

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