Framing and displaying an artwork properly can help draw attention to a work, enhance its visual appeal, and keep it safe. Poorly framing or displaying a work of art, on the other hand, can lead to discoloration, fading, acid burn, and other severe and unnecessary damage.
At The Conservation Center, we are acutely aware that accidents happen, so that is why we offer our services at EXPO Chicago every year. Our team of art handlers and conservators prepare annually to assist in every way possible as hundreds of pieces of art are installed in Navy Pier over two short days. This year we assisted with a piece that suffered damage from international shipment. Somewhere along the way, the glass shattered and the paper piece underneath was in need of a quick rescue.
In 2016, The Center had the pleasure of working on a personal piece for Kerry James Marshall titled Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness and we were very honored when the artist gave us the opportunity to work on another piece from his personal collection. “Ipso Facto” is a painting executed on two plywood panels joined together with batons and screws. The diptych is primed and painted with what appears to be moderately applied acrylic. Both panels depict a figure’s rear. The left panel is painted in white, with various colors playfully peeking through the brush strokes, and the other is painted in black surrounded by small white flowers with intimate red and green details. The piece is unvarnished and while unsigned, the painting is characteristic of Marshall’s work.
The Center's Gilding Department specializes in the preservation of frames and objects with gold, silver, and metal leaf applied to the surface. A wonderful example of the type of projects our Gilding Conservators frequently undertake recently came to us in the form of a mirror in need of conservation.
While The Center is always excited to work on challenging contemporary projects in which new media and methods are used, we still enjoy the oldies and goodies. Recently our Senior Paintings Conservator, Amber Schabdach conserved L’adorazione dei magi, an oil on panel piece circa 1600. L’adorazione dei magi, or The Adoration of the Magi, was brought to The Center to address handling damage.
Located in the Land of Lincoln, The Conservation Center sees its fair share of memorabilia connected to the 16th President of the United States. Among various Lincoln memorabilia, in 2014 we had the honor of restoring the courting couch, the sofa on which a young Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd actually sat throughout their courtship in the home of Mary’s sister, Elizabeth. So when a Lincoln relic causes our conservators to stop in awe, rest assured it is a truly special item.
It seemed like any other Wednesday in September at The Center. Things were relatively quiet after a previously hectic week at EXPO CHICAGO, and the Client Services team was expecting an appointment with Israel Idonije who had a large watercolor piece that needed display options. When the client arrived with the watercolor, the team quickly realized that “display options” was an understatement. The Conservation Center prides itself on interdepartmental collaboration and the consultation soon included several conservators from many departments, all of whom were ready to Bear Down and tackle the task at hand.
A housing technique commonly used at The Center: Creating a sink mat to house paper pieces. Below, Toby Joyce, Director of Conservation Framing, demonstrates the technique:
The paper piece is carefully situated on top of the supporting mount board with an engaged stepped mat. Weights are used to hold down the paper, and ensure that the piece is centered through to the final step.
Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog Plate (Red), recalls birthday parties and carnivals from childhood. The playful subject matter is in stark contrast with the appearance of a metallic medium. In actuality, the piece is made from porcelain with a specially designed metallic glaze, likely to resemble Koons’ 10 foot tall stainless steel Balloon Dog sculptures. An interesting and intriguing piece, its contradictory appearance and composition implores the viewer to touch the piece. The Conservation Center was recently tasked with creating a mount and display case for this 2000 edition Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog Plate (Red). The piece is one of an edition of 2,300 Balloon Dog Plates. As the finish and structure of the piece is extremely fragile and sensitive, it is quite the task to handle the piece and design a mount to properly house the piece to ensure it is preserved and protected.