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Tuesday, May 30 • 11:40am - 12:05pm
(Opening General Session) Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs

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In 2014 The Museum of Modern Art opened a landmark exhibition centered on the final chapter of Matisse's long career, the cut-outs. The largest Matisse cut-out exhibition ever mounted, it had as its central work one of MoMA's most beloved attractions, The Swimming Pool. This large, room-sized cut-out was not only the centerpiece of the exhibition, its conservation was the genesis of the show. This exhibition was the first time that a conservator at MoMA, Karl Buchberg, was also a curator of an exhibition; sharing this title with Jodi Hauptman, Senior Curator of Drawings and Prints. The Swimming Pool was created in 1952 in the dining room of Matisse's Cimiez-Nice apartment. Matisse's assistants would paint sheets of paper with Linel gouache which were then dried and stored. When Matisse wanted a particular color, a sheet would be brought to him which he would then cut into a desired shape. A studio assistant would then take the cut shape and pin it on the studio wall according to Matisse's instructions. The Swimming Pool consisted solely of ultramarine blue painted paper shapes on a frieze of white Canson paper pinned to the burlap lined walls of the dining room. After his death in 1954 it was permanently mounted by the Parisian firm Lefebvre-Foinet. The work was divided into nine panels; the blue shapes were adhered to the white paper frieze which was then adhered to new burlap, chosen by Matisse's widow as it was the only fabric faithful to the original conception. When MoMA acquired the work in 1975, the white paper was stained, the ultramarine blue shapes were unevenly decolorized from the contact with the acidic burlap and the burlap itself severely darkened. My predecessor, Antoinette King, removed the staining in the white paper during a lengthy treatment. The blue cut-outs and the burlap were not treated. In 2009 I decided to carry out a treatment with three goals: to replace the discolored burlap to return the work to its original color balance, to increase the height of the new panels to re-create the original dimensions of the work and to re-install the work in a room that re-created the original floor plan. Although the white paper frieze was not original--- it had been newly added during the first mounting,---I chose not to replace it. It was approximately the same age as the blue cut shapes and had a similar patina. The most radical decision was not to re-adhere the white frieze and blue cut shapes on new fabric, but instead to pin them on the newly fabricated panels. This re-created the original pinned aspect of the work and minimized any further acid induced damage. This paper aims to describe the treatment choices for this work and illustrate how these choices came to inform the cut-out exhibition as a whole, highlighting the relationship and collaboration between conservator and curator.

avatar for Karl Buchberg

Karl Buchberg

Senior Conservator (Retired), Museum of Modern Art
Karl Buchberg has a B.A. from Columbia University and a M.A. and Diploma in Conservation from New York University. Before coming to The Museum of Modern Art he was the Conservator of Rare Books and Special Collections at the Firestone Library of Princeton University. From 1984 to... Read More →

Tuesday May 30, 2017 11:40am - 12:05pm
Regency Ballroom Ballroom Level, West Tower

Attendees (522)