From June 9th – 11th 2016, an interdisciplinary conference for conservators, curators, and art scholars was held in Kassel, Germany, organized by the paintings specialty group of the German Association of Conservators (Verband der Restauratoren VDR) and the Museum Landscape Hessen Kassel (Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel). The conference’s topic “Layer by Layer – The significance and aesthetic of the surface” (Schicht um Schicht – Die Bedeutung und Aesthetik der Oberflaeche) aimed to give an extended view on various types of objects focusing on surfaces in all their facets and raised thought-provoking questions. What importance do we ascribe to the original surface when we look at an object? What impact do irreversible conservation treatments have on our aesthetical perception of an object? How do conservators, curators, artists, and visitors observe, describe and interpret surfaces?
On the one hand, observations and interpretations happen through visual and scientific examination, based on experience and analysis of conservators and scientists. On the other hand art historians analyze objects and their surfaces in their historical context. Perception psychologists who also participated noted that these kinds of different interpretations are not just a result of a profession or particular methods, but are also influenced by individual interests and especially individual perception.
The title of the conference already implied that the talks wouldn’t just scratch the surface, thus not just give a superficial overview of an objects surface, but rather go in depth. Presentations and following conversations discussed how various layers and sometimes damages within them affect the character of the surface – intended or not.
Furthermore, the variety of presented objects, speakers from different fields of conservation and speakers from other disciplines showed the broad range and importance of the topic: surface. The conference offered a platform for participating experts from various fields to discuss their experience and opinions. However, it also showed us that we will continue to struggle with defining and describing specific appearances, causes and effects as we face the limitations of our individual perceptions and terminology. Lastly, the conference highlighted the importance of continuing conversations across fields, where accurate and clear terminology can be incredibly beneficial. Ultimately, improved communication and understanding will benefit the object, its preservation and presentation, and is nevertheless essential for our decision making process.
As most of the conference was held in German, this English summary has been provided to encourage and support a transnational exchange of ideas and information. The following outline is based on the conference’s booklet with its short abstracts, notes taken by the author of this post and a German review written by Cornelia Peres and Dirk Welich. For more specific information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Anne Harmssen: About finiteness of immaculately beautiful surfaces
- Nathalie Baeschlin: Fragile and precious – tense painting surfaces of the 20th century
- Dr. Helmut Leder: Perception of art from an empirical aesthetic research point of view. Is it a question about style?
- Dietmar Wohl: Assertions about surfaces of paintings in the theories of conservation and restoration
- Dr. Martina Sitt: Still not close enough? Problems about exchange of knowledge between art history and conservation
- Sybille Schmitt: Systematic tools and resources to determine and evaluate surface and structure on baroque paintings
- Cornelius Palmbach: Active Thermography – visualization of damages and hidden structures in paint layers and other coated surfaces
- Theresa Braeunig: Crucifix – reconstruction and composition of a late Gothic work using 3D-technology
- Susanne Litty, Mira Dallige-Smith: Brilliant sh(r)ine – the complexity of original and alteration shown on a North Indian miniature-altar as an example
- Thomas Kraemer: Changes in a paintings surface through thinning or removing varnishes. An example from the Gemaeldegalerie Alte Meister in Kassel
- Joerg Klaas: “Like greyblue painted surfaces” – Alterations of ultramarine containing paint layers in easel paintings
- Linda Haselbach, Dr. Albrecht Pohlmann: Efflorescence, blanching, protrusions – Fatty acid dissociation and lead soap building in oil studies by Adolf Senff
- Andreas Krupa: Reconstruction as a conservation treatment? – Sheen and color of a furniture surface with mahogany-appearance
- Andreas Hoppmann: Varnish separation on a triptych by Bartholomaeus Bruyn the Elder
- Sabine Formanek: A surface that is polished with “chalk and water and a piece of felt till it appears like glass” restoration of a tabletop with a transfer decoration
- Jonathan Bikker: What’s so funny about impasto? Arnold Houbraken’s lampooning of Rembrandt’s use of texture in perspective; Talk given in English
- Stefanie Lorenz: Conservation of River scenery by Jacob Philipp Hackert, 1805. A method for a layer selective varnish removal
- Babett Forster, Romy Koenig-Weska: The portrait as a palimpsest. Layer by layer in scholar portraits from Jena
- Felix Muhle: Delicate sheen: Polished white bole in abbot Anselm II. “Wohncabinet” in cloister Salem, Southern Germany
- Eva Bader: Surface cleaning of the installation Barraque D’Dull Odde by Joseph Beuys at the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum in Krefeld, Germany
- Franziska Bolz: Shoe-paste, sand and fire – artificial aging as a part of Tingatinga-paintings from Tanzania (East Africa)
- Caroline von Courten: The Photographic Surface as Interface in mixed-media photo-works: Layers of materials, processes and meanings in Ger van Elk’s Dutch Grey, 1983/84
- Dr. Dietmar Ruebel: Handcraft and machine aesthetic – surfaces as internal memory of 20th and 21st century art
- Helena Ernst: The Keep by Mike Kelley at the Museum Brandhorst, Munich, Germany
The conference opened with an introduction given by Justus Lange, who demonstrated how different surfaces are perceived nowadays and how they have been perceived in the past. By discussing initial ontological issues of surfaces, he showed how relative and subjective the appraisal process of a surface can be and thus, prefaced the first session of the three-day long, interdisciplinary conference.
Anne Harmssen: Von der Endlichkeit makellos schoener Oberflaechen
Anne Harmssen: About finiteness of immaculately beautiful surfaces
Anne Harmssen presented in the first talk of the conference a three dimensional object by contemporary artist Carola Keitel called O 11 (Objekt 11). Her work perfectly represented the conference’s theme and showed how essential the material properties – and therefore surface and texture can be essential for an object’s meaning. Harmssen described Keitel’s meticulous method of treating the object’s metal surface, in which she has used a regular trashcan and transformed it to an artwork with an absolute pristine surface. Due to a damage on the object, Harmssen was confronted with the question whether or not and how to repair the damage in an immaculate surface. The artist herself saw the integrity of the piece compromised and hence the object itself destroyed. Harmssen, who is also owner of the object, decided not to follow the artist’s suggestion to grind the entire surface down, therefore recreating a pristine and perfect surface again, but rather decided to conduct a localized treatment. The talk was followed by a discussion as to whether the existence of this particular object is founded on its surface and can only be justified by its immaculate state and whether the object’s integrity and perfection is more important than its history.
Nathalie Baeschlin: Fragil und prezioes – spannungsvolle Gemaeldeoberflaechen des 20. Jahrhunderts
Nathalie Baeschlin: Fragile and precious – “tense” painting surfaces of the 20th century
Following Harmssen, Nathalie Baeschlin presented a paper based on several examples, such as paintings by Picabia and Mondrian and objects of raku ware, where either the fragility of the surface or the entire layer structure can be essential part of the artwork if intended by the artist. For example, she described how Picabia experimented with crackle lacquer and other methods to create intentional fissures through layering. However, her remarks about the surfaces of 20th century paintings and their intended fragility made clear that special properties of a surface can be intrinsic to the object, thus untouchable as an element of its meaning.
Prof. Dr. Helmut Leder: Wahrnehmung von Kunst aus der Sicht der empirischen Aesthetikforschung. Eine Frage des Stils?
Prof. Dr. Helmut Leder: Perception of art from an empirical aesthetic research point of view. Is it a question about style?
Unlike Baeschlin, Prof. Dr. Helmut Leder as well as Dietmar Wohl, focused on the unintentional changes in surfaces and discussed how viewers perceive them. Among other substantial aspects of perception, Leder presented a model of aesthetic processing, in which aesthetic experiences involve five stages: perception, explicit classification, implicit classification, cognitive mastering and evaluation. Leder presented results of perception studies regarding questions of an artist’s style: How long does it take to perceive style? Do we see style as the means of how the art object was created or produced?
Further reading: Leder et al.: A model of aesthetic appreciation and aesthetic judgments, in: British journal of Psychology Vol 95, Issue 4, 2004, pp. 489-508.
Dietmar Wohl: Aussagen in den Theorien der Konservierungs- und Restaurierungswissenschaft zur Oberflaeche von Gemaelden
Dietmar Wohl: Assertions about surfaces of paintings in the theories of conservation and restoration
Dietmar Wohl explained how an increasing “scientification” of conservation and restoration leads to various sub disciplines, each one with its own theories, e.g. practical conservation, conservation history and technical art history.
Prof. Dr. Martina Sitt: Noch nicht nah genug? Problem des Wissenstransfers zwischen Kunstgeschichte und Restaurierung
Prof. Dr. Martina Sitt: Still not close enough? Problems about exchange of knowledge between art history and conservation
Prof. Dr. Martina Sitt illustrated how contributions by conservators in museum and exhibition catalogs in recent years have enriched our knowledge about an artist’s oeuvre. However, incorporation of these contributions within the analysis of a work is often still insufficient. New information and knowledge gained through conservation treatment and examination are often presented as raw data, not communicated well enough and hence difficult to integrate accurately. This unfortunately results in a crux of two different specific terminologies used in two different fields attempting to discuss the same object. Based on paintings by Teniers, van Delen and Gruenewald, Dr. Sitt’s talk discussed possibilities and problems of exchange between the two fields in a very clear and enriching way.
Sybille Schmitt: Systematische Hilfsmittel zur Bestimmung und Bewertung von Oberflaeche und Struktur an barocken Gemaelden
Sybille Schmitt: Systematic tools and resources to determine and evaluate surface and structure on baroque paintings
As Sybille Schmitt could not present her talk in person, a colleague read her paper, which outlined the importance of an accurate terminology when it comes to describing layer structures, especially on a microscopic scale. By drawing an analogy to geomorphology and its terminology used to characterize variances in layer structure and surface, she introduced a helpful toolkit to conservators that both, describes and evaluates surface changes in paint layers. Despite huge differences in scale between microscopic cross sections of paint layers and the earth’s stratigraphy, the comparison of different phenomena created by physical, chemical or biological processes and forces was very persuasive to me. An example, which compared layer deformation caused by lead soap building to geomorphological deformation was fascinating and surprisingly accurate. It remains uncertain, if and when conservators will choose to adopt this toolkit or terminology.
Cornelius Palmbach: Aktive Thermografie – Visualisierung von Schaeden und verborgenen Strukturen an Malschichten und anderen Oberflaechen
Cornelius Palmbach: Active Thermography – visualization of damages and hidden structures in paint layers and other coated surfaces
Cornelius Palmbach gave an impressive overview of an Active Thermography project conducted at the Bern University of applied sciences BFH (Bern, Switzerland). Palmbach used Active Thermography as a non-destructive imaging technique to locate, visualize, and quantify both hidden structures and damages located beneath coated surfaces. Through subtle and periodical warming of an object’s surface, underlying areas that differ in their thermic properties give different responses that can be then detected with an IR-camera (Lock-In thermography). Palmbach presented convincing examples as he illustrated the identification of lifting paint layers, veneer, and plaster.
Theresa Braeunig, Joerg Maxin, Iris Winkelmeyer: Kruzifix! Rekonstruktion und Gestaltung eines spaetgotischen Werkes mittels 3D-Technik
Theresa Braeunig: Crucifix! Reconstruction and composition of a late Gothic work using 3D-technology
Theresa Braeunig discussed the examination of a nearly life-sized, late Gothic crucifix at the Lenbachhaus Munich, Germany. The project also involved the reconstruction and visualization of missing form elements and alterations in color design and the application of modern technology. 3D scanning and 3D printing helped visualizing the object’s appearance with different color designs from different time periods. Her work resulted in an exhibition dedicated to the research results and visualizations.
Further reading: Theresa Braeunig, Joerg Maxin, Iris Winkelmeyer: 3D-Rekonstruktion der Gestaltung eines spaetgotischen Kruzifixes aus Franz von Lenbachs Sammlung, in: Zeitschrift fuer Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung, Vol. 1, 2016, pp. 183-196.
Susanne Litty, Mira Dallige-Smith: Glaenzender Sch(r)ein – die Komplexitaet von Original und Ueberarbeitung am Beispiel eines nordindischen Miniaturaltars
Susanne Litty, Mira Dallige-Smith: Brilliant sh(r)ine -the complexity of original and alteration shown on a North Indian miniature-altar as an example
Susanne Litty described examination results of a miniature shrine in the collection of the Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin, Germany. The core theme to her talk was the difference between original and altered material, and related issues involving treatment-based decisions. The identification of a later application of a high gloss varnish, also known as “Soluble Nylon”, was one of the main challenges.
Thomas Kraemer: Veraenderungen der Bildoberflaeche bei der Duennung oder Abnahme von Firnissen. Ein Beispiel aus der Kasseler Gemaeldegalerie Alter Meister
Thomas Kraemer: Changes in a paintings surface through thinning or removing varnishes. An example from the Gemaeldegalerie Alte Meister in Kassel
Thomas Kraemer presented a treatment of the painting White Hen with Small Cake by Melchior de Hondecoeter, in the collection of the Gemaeldegalerie Alte Meister in Kassel, Germany. Kraemer’s talk focused on a highly solvent sensitive intermediate varnish layer that made the accurate removal and/or thinning of the top varnish layer with organic solvents impossible. Furthermore, the top varnish was discolored and had evolved a bark-like texture. Even though Kraemer had some success using a mastic resin-powder for mechanical varnish removal, he sought further improvement of the cleaning results.
Further reading: Thomas Kraemer: Veraenderungen der Bildoberflaeche bei der Duennung oder Abnahme von Firnissen. Ein Beispiel aus der Kasseler Gemaeldegalerie Alter Meister, in: VDR Beitraege zur Erhaltung von Kunst- und Kulturgut, Vol. 1, 2017, pp. 26-34.
Dr. Joerg Klaas, Dr. Heike Stege: “Wie graublau angestrichene Flaechen” – Die Veraenderungen ultramarinhaltiger Farbschichten in der Tafelmalerei
Dr. Joerg Klaas: “Like greyblue painted surfaces” – Alterations of ultramarine containing paint layers in easel paintings
Dr. Joerg Klaas’ presentation focused on “ultramarine sickness” in paintings. Klaas has worked on this degradation phenomenon for several years and published about it in his dissertation at the TU Munich in 2010/11. Within this project, his research covered the examination of paintings from 1475-1720. The examination of several paintings from this time period and mock-ups indicates that the “ultramarine sickness” is not a chemical discoloration, but rather a separation of pigment and binder that causes ultramarine containing layers to appear opaque and lighter or grey.
Further reading: Dissertation in German
Linda Haselbach, Dr. Albrecht Pohlmann: Ausbluehungen, Weissschleier, Protrusionen: Fettsaeureabspaltungen und Schwermetallseifen in den Oelstudien des deutsch-roemischen Malers Adolf Senff (1785-1863)
Linda Haselbach, Dr. Albrecht Pohlmann: Efflorescence, blanching, protrusions: Fatty acid dissociation and lead soap building in oil studies by Adolf Senff
Haselbach and Pohlmann showed a variety of botanical studies by Adolf Senff, most of them executed in oil on paper. 59 similar studies are in the collection Kunstmuseum Moritzburg in Halle (Saale), Germany. Several studies show varying amounts of degradation on the surface including efflorescence, blanching, and protrusions. Haselbach, who wrote her master’s thesis on this project, discussed possible causes for the types of degradation and suggested different treatment options, such as removal, inpainting, varnishing and preventive methods.
- Thesis in German
- Linda Haselbach, Dr. Albrecht Pohlmann: Ausbluehungen, Weissschleier, Protrusionen: Bildung von Schwermetallseifen in den Oelstudien des deutsch-roemischen Malers Adolf Senff (1785-1863), in: VDR Beitraege zur Erhaltung von Kunst- und Kulturgut, Vol. 1, 2017, pp. 7-18.
Andreas Krupa: Rekonstruktion als restauratorische Massnahme? – Glanz und Farbe einer Moebeloberflaeche mit Mahagoni-Optik
Andreas Krupa: Reconstruction as a conservation treatment? – Sheen and color of a furniture surface with mahogany-appearance
Andreas Krupa discussed the difficult conservation treatment of a Biedermeier escritoire (1840, Northern Germany). Cumulative light exposure resulted in a faded and matte appearance of the escritoire that contrasted with other examples of furniture from that time period. These examples were still in good condition and showed a rich, saturated, glossy and Mahogany-red surface. However, several attempts to re-saturate the surface of the escritoire either failed or lead to unsatisfying results. Poor results led Krupa to build a reconstruction following historical models and recipes, gaining unexpected experience and outcomes.
Publication in VDR Beitraege zur Erhaltung von Kunst- und Kulturgut pending.
Andreas Hoppmann: Firnistrennung an einem Triptychon von Bartholomaeus Bruyn der Aeltere – Ein wahrgenommener Gluecksfall
Andreas Hoppmann: Varnish separation on a triptych by Bartholomaeus Bruyn the Elder
Andreas Hoppmann presented one of those rear case studies where a selective varnish removal was conducted. On a Triptych by Bartolomaeus Bruyn (the Elder) a heavily discolored varnish was removed by using an alkaline buffer solution. Conservators were able to separate the top layer of oil-containing varnish from the resinous varnish underneath without damaging lower layers. The selective cleaning revealed a barely discolored resinous varnish layer that was in good condition.
Further reading: Andreas Hoppmann, Firnistrennung an einem Triptychon von Bartholomaeus Bruyn der Aeltere: Ein wahrgenommener Gluecksfall, in: VDR Beitraege zur Erhaltung von Kunst- und Kulturgut, Vol. 2, 2016, pp. 96-101.
Sabine Formanek: Eine Oberflaeche die mit “Kreide und Wasser und einem Stueck Filz solange geschliffen, bis es wie Glas ist” – Die Restaurierung einer Tischplatte mit Umdruckdekor
Sabine Formanek: A surface that is polished with “chalk and water and a piece of felt till it appears like glass” – restoration of a tabletop with a transfer decoration
Sabine Formanek showed her treatment of a table that was designed using an unusual transferware technique (1830, Museum fuer Angewandte Kunst, Vienna, Austria). Formanek described the transfer technique itself, damages and condition issues, and various treatment steps including consolidation, cleaning, filling, inpainting.
Further reading: Die Restaurierung eines Tisches mit Umdruckdekor aus dem Bestand des MAK Wien
Dr. Jonathan Bikker: What’s so funny about impasto? Arnold Houbraken’s lampooning of Rembrandt’s use of texture in perspective; Talk given in English
Dr. Jonathan Bikker from the Rijksmuseum illustrated Rembrandt’s various ways of manipulating paint to create surface texture, such as his early use of the butt-end of his brush or a palette knife, which he used later in his career. Bikker also discussed how Arnold Houbraken, Dutch painter and writer in the Golden Age, criticized Rembrandt for this “rough” manner of painting, which contrasted with the fine and the loose manner exemplified by Frans Hals.
Stefanie Lorenz: Die Restaurierung des Gemaeldes “Flusslandschaft” von Jacob Philipp Hackert – Eine Methode zur schichtenselektiven Firnisabnahme
Stefanie Lorenz: Conservation of River scenery by Jacob Philipp Hackert, 1805 – A method for a layer selective varnish removal
Stefanie Lorenz presented the treatment of a painting by Jacob Philipp Hackert in the collection of the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany. Lorenz’s self-described greatest challenge of the treatment was the cleaning of the painting, which had a discolored and patchy surface appearance. Close examination revealed five different varnish layers in dark areas whereas bright areas, such as the sky, showed less layers, but also some intermingled ones. Furthermore, there was evidence for residues of an original varnish, which complicated varnish removal using free solvents. Based on this initial situation, Lorenz tested several treatment options for cleaning and presented an interesting and successful mechanical varnish removal using a melamine resin sponge.
Further reading: Stefanie Lorenz: Die Restaurierung des Gemaeldes Flusslandschaft von Jacob Philipp Hackert. Eine Methode zur schichtenselektiven Firnisabnahme, in: VDR Beitraege zur Erhaltung von Kunst- und Kulturgut, Vol. 1, 2017, pp. 19-25.
Dr. Babett Forster, Romy Koenig-Weska: Das Bildnis als Palimpsest – Schicht um Schicht in Jenaer Gelehrtenbildnissen
Dr. Babett Forster, Romy Koenig-Weska: The portrait as a palimpsest – Layer by layer in scholar portraits from Jena
Dr. Babett Forster and Romy Koenig-Weska showed a variety of portraits from the University in Jena, Germany. From 1548 to the late 18th century, many scholars donated their portraits, often equipped with inscriptions, to the university. Research by Foster and Koenig-Weska has shown, that many of these inscriptions were altered through the centuries. However, some of these covered and overwritten inscriptions start reappearing or are getting uncovered by conservators. The presentation emphasized a complex discussion concerning the preservation and presentation of those portraits in consideration of factors, such as legibility and importance of historic alterations and documents, aesthetics of the portrait, and possible treatment solutions.
Dr. Felix Muhle: Empfindlicher Glanz: Die Fassungen auf Porcellain-Arth im “Wohnkabinet” Abt Anselms II. In Kloster Salem
Dr. Felix Muhle: Delicate sheen: Polished white bole in abbot Anselm II. “Wohncabinet” in cloister Salem, Southern Germany
Felix Muhle discussed the “Wohncabinet” of Abbot Anselm II, at cloister Salem, Germany, focusing on the plaster and furniture elements, which were added by Johann Georg Dirr between 1763-1766. Muhle stated that furniture, sculptures and plaster frames were mostly preserved with their original polished white bole that is imitating porcelain. The presentation covered technical as well as aesthetic aspects of sheen and material imitation and discussed possibilities and limits of cleaning and reduction of grime on water sensitive surfaces.
Eva Bader: Die Oberflaechenreinigung der Installation “Barraque D’Dull Odde” von Joseph Beuys im Kaiser Wilhelm Museum Krefeld
Eva Bader: Surface cleaning of the installation Barraque D’Dull Odde by Joseph Beuys at the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum in Krefeld, Germany
In 1977 Joseph Beuys himself installed Barraque D’Dull Odde at the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum in Krefeld, Germany. The work consists of 650 individual pieces embracing felt, food, dead bees, piles of loose chalk, a dust painting and many other curiosities. This installation represents one of the last “untouched” pieces by Beuys. The preservation of the original installation as well as the great variety of materials complicated the removal of dust that accumulated in almost 40 years. Eva Bader brillantly discussed not just Beuys work process, intentions and created effects, but also presented several conservation approaches for surface cleaning such a complex installation as well as suggested options regarding preventive conservation.
Franziska Bolz: Von Schuhcreme, Sand und Feuer – Kuenstliche Alterung als Bestandteil von Tingatinga-Gemaelden aus Tansania (Ostafrika)
Franzska Bolz: Shoe-paste, sand and fire – artificial aging as a part of Tingatinga-paintings from Tanzania (East Africa)
Franziska Bolz presented her extensive research on Tingatinga style paintings, named after the creator Edward Saidi Tingatinga, who painted in Tanzania at the end of the 1960s. Before he died in 1972, he taught his technique to friends and family members, many of who continued to make Tingatinga-paintings. The paintings are known for their high gloss lacquer paint, which is sometimes patinated with dust, shoe-paste and/or soot. Bolz discussed the intention, genesis, history and integrity of the paintings made by the artist himself compared to today’s practicing artists. She also addressed issues of authenticity and forgery.
Caroline von Courten: The Photographic Surface as Interface in mixed-media photo-works: Layers of materials, processes and meanings in Ger van Elk’s Dutch Grey, 1983/84
Unfortunately Caroline von Courten’s presentation on Ger van Elk’s painted silver-gelatin print Dutch Grey (1983-84) had to be canceled. However, in the abstract she discusses signs of the print’s early degradation. The painted surface of the print has changed due to the unintended migration of silver particles. Based on this case study, von Courten shows, “how the changing photographic surface becomes the visible juncture between what is usually separated as immaterial image and physical image carrier”. (Quote from Caroline von Courten’s abstract in conference booklet)
Caroline von Courten: The Photographic Surface as Interface in mixed-media photo-works – Layers of materials, processes and meanings in Ger van Elk’s Dutch Grey, 1983/84
Prof. Dr. Dietmar Ruebel: Handarbeit und Maschinenaesthektik – Oberflaechen als Arbeitsspeicher in der Kunst des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts
Prof. Dr. Dietmar Ruebel: Handcraft and machine aesthetic – surfaces as internal memory of 20th and 21st century art
In Prof. Dr. Dietmar Ruebel’s absence, a colleague read his talk about handcraft and machine aesthetic – surface as internal memory of 20th and 21st century art, to the audience. In his paper he illustrated tool marks found on surfaces of mainly three-dimensional objects.
Further reading: Dietmar Ruebel, Handarbeit und Maschinenaesthektik. Oberflaechen als Arbeitsspeicher in der Kunst des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts, in: VDR Beitraege zur Erhaltung von Kunst- und Kulturgut, Vol. 2, 2016, pp. 88-95.
Helena Ernst: “The Keep” von Mike Kelley im Museum Brandhorst
Helena Ernst: The Keep by Mike Kelley at the Museum Brandhorst, Munich, Germany
Helena Ernst presented her research and treatment on Mike Kelley’s The Keep, now in the collection of the Museum Brandhorst. Kelley’s use of various materials and especially their condition when he completed a piece requires new conservation approaches to preserve both the intention and appearance of the object. Based on the battered door of this installation, Ernst explained what condition issues she had to deal with prior to the treatment. The issue of flaking and lifting paint on the battered door was even more complicated as Kelley intended and expected visitors to come close to the door, even touch it and look through a fish eye to experience the installation. In her talk Ernst also showed how the appearance of the door was probably more important than the door itself and how even material losses are intentional. However, conservators and curators discussed how much loss is acceptable and how much loss is preventable, to support the artist’s intention. Ernst described various consolidation methods, such as insertion of pieces of coated Japanese paper that functioned as a hinge for flaking paint. This method enabled the consolidation of flaking paint without loosing the character of a battered and flaky surface.
Further reading: Helena Ernst: The Keep von Mike Kelley im Museum Brandhorst. Die Sicherung der Farbschicht: eine konservatorische Herausforderung, VDR Beitraege zur Erhaltung von Kunst- und Kulturgut, Vol. 1, 2017, pp. 35-44.