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Wednesday, May 31 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
085. (Paintings) Future prospects of conservation treatments with a micro-aspirator tool

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The conservators of the Fondation Beveler have recently been experimenting with a rather unknown tool, the micro-aspirator, which enables new approaches in conservation treatment methods and has shown very promising results. The micro-aspirator can help conservators achieve the ambition of treating surfaces with minimal mechanical action while also preventing the penetration of conservation materials into surfaces, thus significantly reducing the potential for surface abrasion and residues. Invented and designed by Swiss conservator Benno Wili, the micro-aspirator basically produces a highly controllable suction action by means of a regulated medical pump. Tip-like and different-sized nozzles or brushes are attached with tubing to a vessel which can collect all types of liquids, gels and particles after passing them through a filter. The apparatus is portable and no larger than a regular vacuum cleaner. Treatments of three paintings will be presented in this talk, which were successful in particular thanks to this technology. The micro-aspirator allowed the Beyeler conservators to remove a non-original natural varnish almost entirely swabless from an early Pablo Picasso oil painting of the Demoiselle d’Avignon period. The complex surface was treated several times in the past and showed various retouches as well as areas of historical patina which were to be preserved. Cleaning with the micro-aspirator, made it possible to remove only the non-original varnish, leaving the patina and retouches underneath intact by reducing the mechanical manipulation on the surface. In the same manner, a synthetic varnish was removed from the impasto rich paint surface of a large Claude Monet Nympheas oil painting (1916-1919). The micro-aspirator enabled the conservators to reach even into the tiniest crevices and interstices by means of the strong but defined suction. In comparison to other Monet paintings cleaned with swabs, a clear advancement in thorough and even varnish removal was achieved. The conservators also successfully treated an Andy Warhol silkscreen painting (1984) with the micro-aspirator. Covered by the artist in diamond dust powder directly into the wet paint for a sparkling effect, the work suffered from extreme, almost disfiguring soiling from „real“ dust. The only plausible option was to pull-off the dust fibres manually. However, with the help of the micro-aspirator, individual dust fibres were easily removed with the right amount of suction strength and control, without affecting or losing any of the original diamond dust particles in which the dust fibres were lodged and tangled. While these are only few examples of treatments with the micro-aspirator, the authors believe there is a potential for further applications which need be tested and considered. Other case studies which have shown promising results will be touched upon, such as consolidation, cleaning fire-damaged surfaces or removing foxing from paper. The micro-aspirator is a promising new conservation tool, but every innovation should also be treated with caution and continuing re-evaluation. The aim of this talk will be to present the applications employed so far, consider future prospects and adress possible limitations as an overall introduction to this new technology for the participants of the 45th AIC Annual Meeting.

avatar for Friederike Steckling

Friederike Steckling

Conservator, Fondation Beyeler
Friederike Steckling has been Conservator at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel Switzerland since 2001. Trained as a paintings conservator, she received her Certificate of Advanced Study in Conservation and MA in Art History in 1997 from the Conservation Center and IFA of NYU. After several... Read More →

avatar for Markus Gross

Markus Gross

Chief Conservator, Fondation Beyeler
Markus Gross was trained at the Conservation-Restauration BFH (Berner Fachhochschule) in Berne, Switzerland (Diploma FH 1993) as a paintings, objects and wallpainting conservator and worked in several museums in Switzerland and as a free-lance conservator until 2001. During this time... Read More →

Dr. Nadim C. Scherrer

Head of the analytical laboratory, Bern University of Applied Sciences

Dr. Stefan Zumbühl

Conservation Scientist, Bern University of Applied Sciences

Wednesday May 31, 2017 3:30pm - 4:00pm CDT
Riverside West Exhibit Hall Exhibit Level, East Tower
  9. Poster, Paintings