But if these paintings, sculptures or photographs could speak, they would tell a very different story.
What exactly happens to a work of art when it is not on view is not usually known to the general public. But the folks at Dayton Art Institute had a great idea: Why not show visitors exactly what it means to preserve art so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come?
Art for the Ages: Conservation at DAI runs through September 11 and offers a whole new perspective on art. If you’re looking for an unusual outing for family or friends this summer, this unique exhibition is a great way to entertain and educate.
“It’s really no different than taking care of our bodies,” says Peter Doebler, the museum’s Kettering curator of Asian art, who served as senior curator for the show. He says that art is prone to aging, wear and tear and accidents over the years, just like us.
The various corrections are described and illustrated in the galleries. You’ll see a wide range of artworks from the museum’s permanent collection – 50 examples in total, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, ceramics, furniture, even a mask and lace. They come from a wide variety of cultures and eras.
Many of the objects have not been seen for years due to their fragile condition.
But thanks to generous donors and grants, a number of different conservation projects have been completed in recent years, including a large Korean screen that was sent to South Korea for conservation. Further examples? “Joy of Water,” one of the DAI’s most iconic sculptures, and a rolled up, crumpled Japanese scroll.
These “fixes” became the inspiration for the current special exhibition.
Each of the objects in this exhibition is analyzed – not according to the art movement it represents – but according to the materials used in its manufacture and the way in which it can best be preserved. You will see how this is demonstrated through videos, photos and demonstrations in the gallery. The museum is also planning a number of special programs.
Doebler says it’s important to distinguish between “restoration” and “conservation.” When a work of art is “restored”, it should look like new again. The “conservation” of art, on the other hand, aims to change it as little as possible in order to stabilize damage and decay while at the same time making it visually presentable. The process used for preservation must be reversible in the future, which is why materials other than the original are usually used. The focus in the art world today is clearly on conservation rather than restoration, says Doebler.
As you can imagine, repairing each type of artwork requires different training and specialization. Though larger museums — like those in Cincinnati and Cleveland — often have restorers or conservation labs on-site, the DAI consults and hires experts from around the world to work on its treasures. For example, a restorer may focus on paintings, or on textiles, stone, ceramics, or wood. Each specialty requires training and knowledge of traditional as well as newer technologies – microscopes, ultraviolet and X-ray fluorescence, even CT scans. The object may require treatment with adhesives, fillers and varnishes. The entire process is documented and photographed for later reference purposes.
How is the art damaged?
You can probably guess some of the ways in which a work of art could become damaged, even accidentally. Perhaps a visitor gets too close; maybe it affects the light or temperature; Insects can also be responsible or it can be damaged if it is moved. It may be moldy or originally mounted on something that isn’t very suitable for it.
I can relate. After years of keeping our family photos in boxes, I was determined to get organized and put them in scrapbooks. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that the scrapbook’s sticky pages ruined the photos and that they would have been much better off in their shoeboxes. The same things can happen with works of art.
Therefore we are asked not to eat or drink in the galleries. Wherever I start taking notes with a pen in a museum, a warden or curator immediately reminds me that only pencils are to be used.
Step by step
It’s worth taking the time to read the wall text, which guides you through the conservation process of each object on display. A good example is Dayton From Steel’s Hill. One of Dayton’s earliest known paintings, it was painted in 1844. You’ll learn about the damage the poor painting has suffered over the years and the magic required to bring it back to life. A Termite infestation had damaged a 19th century chest donated by Virginia Kettering, eating away much of the wood and it now looks beautiful.
You may recall how amazing it was when the DAI painting of an old man’s head from around 1612 was examined under UV light and revealed a second head under the overpainting! The theory is that it was painted over much later by someone other than the artist to turn it into a portrait and make it more salable. The DAI decided to restore the painting to the artist’s original composition.
Serena Urry, chief restorer at the Cincinnati Art Museum, speaks at the DAI on July 24. Since taking office in 2012, she has preserved a number of paintings for Dayton, many of which are featured in the exhibition. “It was a real pleasure to work so closely with some of the great paintings at the DAI,” she says. ” One of the most rewarding parts of my job is being able to spend time with a painting and helping make each work look its best for museum visitors. “
While Urry congratulates the DAI for putting together such an interesting exhibition, she admits that it is a strange experience to see her work on display in this way. “Painting restorers usually work so hard,” she says, “to make sure our efforts aren’t so visible!”
HOW TO PROCEED:
What: “Art for Eternity: Conservation at the DAI”
Where: The Dayton Art Institute, 456 Belmonte Park, N. Dayton
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday; 11am to 8pm Thursday; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. ·Until September 11, 2022
Entry: $15 for adults; $10 for seniors, active military, and groups of 10 or more; $5 for college students and youth, free for children under 6 and members
For more informations: www. Daytonartinstitute.org (937) 223-4278