The Conservation Department at QAG / GoMA is comprised of sculpture, paintings and paper conservators, mountcutters, conservation framers and conservation technicians. There are 13 staff in the department although approximately half work part time. A popular image of Conservators is often people painstakingly cleaning paintings in a studio or laboratory. While many conservation treatments are detailed and painstaking, conservation of contemporary art in particular requires innovative treatment and display preparation approaches to unique challenges. Installing fragile and complex artworks is very much a collaborative approach between the Gallery’s Workshop staff, Installation team and Conservators. Conservators offer advice, work alongside and in some instances, lead Installation and Workshop teams on some projects. This presentation will show three case studies where contemporary artworks required Conservator’s involvement in formulating and guiding practices for the safe display while maintaining the artworks artistic integrity. The works being discussed are; a 10 metre by six metre painting by Iranian artist, Shirana Shibazi, a life sized fibreglass elephant by Indian artist Bharti Kher, and a nine metre long photograph by Chinese artist WANG Qingsong. It will also briefly outline the conservation treatments applied to these three artworks. I will also very briefly talk about the Centre of Conservation of Contemporary Art (CCAC ) which is based at the GoMA Conservation Laboratory.
This is how the painting arrived at GoMA from Iran. The watch is here to provide scale. Although the best efforts are made to send artworks in the best condition. Large works are very expensive to transport and sometimes they arrive in lots of different conditions.
There were two 6 x 10 metre paintings in the package.
The painting was unfolded in the GoMA Conservation lab. The lab was purpose built to accommodate large artworks. The work was then turned over to face downwards and then treatments were applied to remove the creases from the back. Due to the extensive amount of building and painting that is often involved in exhibition design, we have a minimal amount of time available to work in the display space so we need to do as much work as possible in the Conservation Lab. The work was then rolled for storage and transport down to the gallery space where the work was going to be installed.
Once in the gallery space, final treatments were carried out. Prior to installing the work. This is Anne Carter. Paintings Conservator. She is holding a conservation grade iron (precise temperature control and no water) which is used to reduce or remove creases.
Anne is ironing through two pieces of barrier fabric. One is sometimes dampened to introduce moisture into the canvas without causing staining.
A stretcher was designed by Conservation staff and then built by external contractors. The Paintings conservator, the Conservation framer and the Paintings technician are all involved in the design of the stretcher. The stretcher can be seen here beside the painting.
The stretcher was lifted up with the rope and pulley system and the painting placed under it, facing downwards. The stretcher was then lowered back down onto the artwork.
The painting was stretched by the Conservation framer and Installation staff. A stretcher rather than a strainer was made to mount this work because we knew that due to the size of the work it would not be possible to get sufficient and even tension just by stretching. The stretcher had to be keyed out quite considerably to get the correct tension.
The stretched painting was lifted into position using the rope and pulley system and lots of staff. Staff were on standby in cherry pickers to guide and support the work as the top edge was lifted higher.
4 cherry pickers were required to secure the work to the wall.
Final treatments (inpainting and cleaning) were done after the work was installed. Of course it had to be done on a cherry picker.
This work represents a lifesized elephant and is made from fibreglass with bindis over the surface which has 15 coats of a PVA coating. The work was made in India and is one of three that were made.
The work arrived from India wrapped in Cellaire and bubblewrap and packed in a crate. The work had to be forklifted into the foyer of QAG due to its size.
QAG staff unwrapping the elephant
The friction between the wrapping and the bindis during transport caused abrasion resulting in lifting and loss. After a lot of testing, an adhesive was found that would adhere the bindis back to the fibreglass. The artist provided us with a number of spare bindis to use as replacements. The work sits directly on the floor and the only way to lift it was for at least 8 people to wiggle their fingers underneath the edges. This also caused abrasion to the bindis, causing them to lift and fall off over time. The work is also regularly displayed at GoMA and needs to be moved regularly and then the work was also requested for loan to Japan and Korea where we would have limited control over the handling of the work. Based on the upcoming loan and the ongoing difficulties of lifting the work, it was decided to install a lifting system inside the elephant to enable it to be lifted and moved with out having to touch the surface. After months of discussion between Sculpture Conservators and Workshop staff, a system was developed and agreed upon. Workshop staff constructed the lifting system and installed it in the artwork with the assistance of an external fibre glassing contractor.
The interior of the sculpture allowed us to attach a lifting system inside.
A ply was attached to the interior. The ply created a flat stable surface to which the lifting system could be secured to. A painted steel box frame was made by Workshop staff and 4 electric metal legs usually used for adjustable office desks where installed. The legs all plug into a central control box which co-ordinates the legs so they raise and lower at the same pace. The steel box structure retracts back up inside the elephant so that it isn’t visible during display. The additional feature we added was a power box so that the system would work at both 240 V and 120 V. This was necessary for the system to work in Japan.
Once the work is lifted, metal rods are inserted through metal brackets on the system and bolted in position to prevent the work sliding around.
The lifting system was also used to secure the work during sea freight transport when it went on loan to Japan and Korea. The ideal way to transport this sculpture is to avoid any contact with the surface to avoid damage to the binds and the coating. The steel structure was located over a pine structure secured to the bottom of the crate. And the bottom of the crate was lined with Mylar, a tough, slippery plastic. The metal bars were secured to the inside of the crate as well.
The work was lowered.
Padded bars were placed above the elephant in case it was caused to lift upwards due to handling or poor sea conditions during sea freight. The bars did not touch the surface of the artwork.
Being installed in South Korea. The work did not sustain any damage during its travel to Japan and South Korea.
Liz Wild - Part 1
Plenary: Changing Nature of Collections Hall A, MECC Chair: Lisa Jones Liz Wild Conservator, Sculpture Conservation Department, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Illustrated Case study QAG | GoMA’s Contemporary Art Collection
PhGGFGoto Album GoMA Conservation projects – working outside the box by Liz Wild
GoMA Conservation Department <ul><li>Key roles: </li></ul><ul><li>Preventive conservation and treatment of the Gallery’s Collection </li></ul><ul><li>Preparation of artworks for exhibition, loan and regional touring programs </li></ul><ul><li>Research </li></ul>
Shirana SHAHBAZI / (Sirous Shaghaghi collaborating artist) / [“Schaedel-03-Painting-2008”] / Synthetic polymer paint on canvas / ed. Of 3 (+1 AP) / 600 x 1000cm / collection of the artist
Bharti KHER The skin speaks a language not its own 2006 Fibreglass and bindi , ed. 1/3 / 167.6 x 152.4 x 457.2cm (irreg., approx.) Purchased 2007. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation