As a follow up to our last post about the conservator’s role in dealing with artistic intent, the Objects Conservation Department has been working with outdoor sculpture contractors from Tracy Power Conservation to conserve the Louise Nevelson sculpture Ocean Gate. The sculpture is located at the south corner of the Osher Sculpture Garden at the de Young.
When objects conservators design a treatment for a corroded sculpture, they often have to grapple with the issue of the artist’s intent.
For instance, would Henry Moore at age 29, who made a sculpture with a shiny metallic surface, be in agreement with Henry Moore at 75, who, when interviewed about a treatment, stated that he quite liked the idea that surfaces went green, dry and streaky with time?
One way a conservator can help tease out these contradictions is to interview contemporary artists about the materials and techniques they use and then record how these artists would like their sculptures cared for in the future. At the Fine Arts Museums we are developing a database tracking this information for contemporary sculpture under our care.
Even in a museum environment, objects can become dusty and it is the responsibility of the objects conservation department to dust each artwork. We sometimes dust artworks when visitors are in the galleries and we have noticed that many people are curious about what we are doing. Here is a brief selection of the most common questions about dusting artworks and our responses:
Assistant Conservator Alisa Eagleston dusting the suspended Ruth Asawa sculptures.
Viola Frey’s monumental sculpture, Man Observing Series II, is back from its travels! This is a larger than life sized sculpture made of 13 heavy sections of glazed earthenware ceramics. Teamwork by staff at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco returned the sculpture to its original home in the Saxe Gallery at the de Young.
Amazing art comes through the photo studio on a regular basis.
We tend to save Mondays (when we’re closed to the public) to photograph artworks that are normally installed in the galleries. This way we can take the objects out of the galleries and into the photo studio without impacting the public.
Recently we shot two recent acquisitions from the AOA department. The images will appear in the next edition of the museums' Fine Arts magazine.