Sometimes it is a matter of sheer necessity – as in the case of the Cuban painters, whose paintings never dry because, lacking turpentine, they mixed their oils using petrol. Sometimes it is the lack of concern contemporary artists show regarding thorough testing and checking their techniques or simply the vast range of materials used that present the team of restorers at the Ludwig Forum in Aachen with enormous challenges. How do you restore plastic bags? Which solvents separate without destroying? How do you clean patent leather that has stuck together because of leaking plasticiser? After a thorough inventory of the damage, Julia Rief, Christina Sodermanns and Heinz Hanisch have to perform rigorous analyses of what materials were used and how these may have reacted to each other. In the process, they conduct important research work that, as a rule, provides a lot of new knowledge about the work of art. They then deliberate on the best way to repair the damage without compromising the integrity of the artwork. And, finally, the right conservatory concept is put into action. Two major restoration projects illustrate the important work done by the team.
The Open Conservation Workshop
Nancy Graves painted, drew, made films,created prints, and built sculptures. The choice of materials is reflected in the diversity of the techniques. The varied connections between timber, wire, textiles, fur, glass fiber fabric, synthetic resin, gesso, wax, silicon, paints, and lacquers presented us with many challenges. The open workshop enabled the visitors of the exhibition “Nancy Graves Project & Special Guests” (2013/14) to peek over the shoulders of our conservators and watch on as the compositional variety unfolds and we learn how the artist assembled her works.