Fran Baas and Laura Eva Hartman
This article discusses the collaborative treatment undertaken on an early Yayoi Kusama (born 1929) soft-sculpture chair by both objects and paintings conservators at the Dallas Museum of Art. The chair is one part of Accumulation (1962–1964), a body of work characterized by accumulations of phallic-like fabric protuberances that would eventually evolve to full sensory environments. This body of work represents Kusama’s early artistic career during the period when she first moved to New York City in 1958 and was developing in the avant-garde.
Accumulation, a co-owned work between the Rachofsky Collection and the Dallas Museum of Art, was requested for loan for a retrospective on Kusama; this article details a project during which its condition, treatment needs, and travel logistics were evaluated. The chair is encased in a network of soft, stuffed fabric bundles that are painted white with a thick, rigid paint. Safely packing the object was the primary concern owing to its complex surface—soft, yet brittle simultaneously. Structural treatment of the individual fabric bundles had to be addressed, as several had been crushed and damaged in the past. Networks of large unstable cracks had formed throughout the paint layer, which had also become embedded with grime and needed to be cleaned and consolidated. Owing to the complex nature of the object, both paintings and objects conservators collaborated to develop and enact a specialized treatment plan for this complicated and fantastic object.