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Wednesday, May 31 • 4:55pm - 5:20pm
(Treatment: Going Big) Gilding the Lily? The Conservation Treatment of Alexander Calder's Red Lily Pads

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Red Lily Pads (1956), is a signature work in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Collection purchased from the Perls Gallery during the exhibit Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition, which opened at the museum in late 1964. Calder installed the work directly above the oval tiered fountain in the spiraling rotunda of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed building, initially so low that visitors had to push the mobile out of the way to precede up the first ramp and view the rest of the show. The work was rehung at a reasonable height shortly after the opening but the location still proved problematic. Over the fountain, the paint was repeatedly damaged by coins, which visitors meant to toss into the fountain. In 2013, the Conservation Department of the Guggenheim Museum received a generous grant from Friends of Heritage Preservation and the John and Mary Shirley Foundation to conserve this important work. Treating damaged paint on Alexander Calder's indoor mobiles has long been a topic discussed among curators and art conservators alike. The flat matte paint, which Calder thinned with turpentine and applied without a primer, is easily damaged. Alexander Calder did not leave specific instructions for conservators as to how best to care for his kinetic sculptures. Correspondence exists where the artist describes repainting but what should be done when this approach is no longer viable, since repeated overpainting will eventually cause excessive paint build-up and a compromised appearance. In the past, several treatment approaches have been adopted to solve this dilemma: traditional retouching, toning with a colored reversible layer, as well as repainting, after complete removal of all existing paint layers -- including Calder's original brushed application. This paper will address the Guggenheim Museum's research, thought process and conservation treatment of Red Lily Pads. Research discussed will include national and international comparative site visits, analysis of paint layers and analysis of Ronan Japan Color reds, the paint most commonly used by the artist. The paper will also include an overview of treatment method, which utilized a custom retouching system formulated by Golden Artist Colors, Inc.

Speaker(s)
avatar for Nathan Otterson

Nathan Otterson

Senior Conservator, Objects, Guggenheim Museum
Nathan Otterson returned to the Guggenheim in 2005. He focuses on scientific documentation and treatment of the Guggenheim Museum’s modern and contemporary sculpture collection. Most recently he has concentrated on the treatment of works by Matthew Barney, Joseph Beuys, Maurizio... Read More →

Co-Author(s)
avatar for Tracey Bashkoff

Tracey Bashkoff

Senior Curator, Collections & Exhibitions, Guggenheim Museum
Tracey Bashkoff joined the Guggenheim in 1993 and has contributed to over 15 special exhibitions covering a range of 20th-century subjects. She has organized collection-based exhibitions for the museum since 1997 and her recent presentations include New Harmony: Abstraction between... Read More →
avatar for Federica Pozzi

Federica Pozzi

Conservation Scientist, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Federica Pozzi earned her B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Milan, Italy, where she also completed her Ph.D. in 2012 with a thesis on the development of innovative analytical procedures for the characterization of historical organic colorants. As part of her Ph.D... Read More →
avatar for Carol Stringari

Carol Stringari

Deputy Director and Chief Conservator of the Guggenheim Foundation, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Carol Stringari is Deputy Director and Chief Conservator of the Guggenheim Foundation. Stringari joined the Guggenheim staff in 1992. She is responsible for assessing and developing policy and procedures for the care and treatment of the collection. Working closely with the conservation... Read More →
avatar for John Vitagliano

John Vitagliano

Conservator, Paintings Conservator
John Vitagliano is a Paintings Conservator who obtained his Masters of Arts and Certificate of Advanced Study in Conservation from The Art Conservation Program at the State University College in Buffalo, New York in 1993. Prior to his graduate studies in conservation John trained... Read More →

Wednesday May 31, 2017 4:55pm - 5:20pm
Crystal Ballroom A Lobby Level, West Tower

Attendees (139)