Frame By Frame: Chagall Installation

The Center recently had the remarkable opportunity to work with the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago) to treat and install a large tapestry created by Marc Chagall. The piece, which is one of only three works by the artist in Chicago, now hangs in the modern, state-of-the-art rehabilitation center.

The tapestry remained unfinished at the time of Chagall's death, and desiring to see the piece completed, The Friends of the Chagall Tapestry commissioned Yvette Cauquil-Price to weave the unfinished portions. Created and commissioned with the intention to uplift and inspire, the work features a unique and vibrant blue that, for the artist, symbolized hope. The scene is based on the following biblical passage, and is the only work Chagall created with the express purpose of healing:

For there is hope of a tree
If it be cut down, that it will sprout again
And that the tender branch thereof will not cease.

This writing is printed on the back of the piece and is the largest printed scripture verse in the city of Chicago.

The treatment and installation of the oversized piece, which measures approximately 13 feet by 11.5 feet, was a process that would not have been possible without the collaboration of The Center’s many departments. From the time the tapestry arrived at The Center for conservation until it was fully installed at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, the piece required the careful attention and expertise of The Center’s registrars, conservators, shipping team, framers, and art handlers. 

To begin treatment, the tapestry was examined and surface cleaned to conservation standards by The Center’s Textile Conservator. The piece was then carefully rolled onto a tube with archival interleaving, to be securely kept in The Center’s climate controlled storage facility until framing and installation could begin. To ensure the safe storage and transport of the piece, The Center's art handlers considered the medium and condition both pre and post-treatment. The Center's art handlers' day-to-day tasks are essential to preventative care, including making sure that a conservator's work does not become undone, and that artworks do not incur further damage in transport.

When it came time for installation, The Center’s Textile Conservator, custom framing team, and art handlers collaborated to be sure the piece was safely hung. Additionally, Terry Dowd Inc. worked with The Conservation Center's staff to facilitate the installation, adding yet another element of collaboration to the project. Installations of large-scale works such as this one always pose a variety of challenges, and both talented and experienced teams worked onsite together to ensure a smooth installation in an efficient and safe manner. 

"All of the framing materials had to be engineered for the massive size and tremendous weight that a tapestry of this size would create," said Toby Joyce, The Center's Director of Conservation Framing. "The Optium Museum Acrylic chosen for the glazing option did not come in sheets large enough for the project, so three sheets were seamed together and an integrated cleat was designed into the strainer to accommodate the weight of the piece." 

Due to the large size and the delicate nature of the textile, a custom frame was assembled on-site, piece by piece. The tapestry was archivally mounted to a linen support, which was then reinforced with acid-free matting, to conservation standards. The support also included a strainer to help stabilize the piece. The tapestry was installed into a custom-built, black wooden frame with Optium Museum Acrylic, which was chosen by The Center’s Custom Framing Department for its anti-reflective, anti-static properties, as well as for its protection against UV light rays. Due to the extensive size of the Optium, TDI's team used a crane to lower the Plexiglas through the 10th floor patio of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.

All in all, the project would not have been possible without forward-thinking vision of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and the the assistance of the many conservators, registrars, art handlers, and framers that worked in tandem with the common goal of preserving the marvelous tapestry for generations to come.

To watch a video of the process, click below:

About The Center's Shipping & Installation Department:

The Center’s art handling team provides museum-quality artwork installation services for residential, museum, and corporate settings. Works and collections are handled with the utmost care and attention. Please contact our Client Services team for a quote and to discuss the best option for your needs. 

About The Center’s Climate Controlled Storage:

The Center’s fine art storage is housed in a state-of-the-art warehouse with more than 7,500 square feet of space. Our facility features a security system with controlled access and direct links to the fire department, an HVAC climate controlled system, and a barcode inventory system for tracking the location of all objects. The museum-grade warehouse is climate controlled and maintains steady humidity and temperature levels. Contact The Conservation Center’s Client Services team to find out more about the available art storage options or to discuss your art storage requirements in detail.