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Kunsthaus Zürich

Progress report
April 2011 – April 2012

New insights in the work cycle and the research highlights

In the past twelve months, the principal focus was in the in-depth examination of the plaster casts within the preset time frame and according to the research guidelines which were set up at the beginning of the project. Much meaningful information has been gathered from ca. forty plaster sculptures. Many comparisons of structural and technical characteristics have been identified that can be attributed to either Alberto himself, or to his brother Diego (who made most of the molds from the clay models) or to the foundries.

The first 3-D scan carried out in spring of 2011, gave very revealing results which led us to consider that further examinations of the interior would be most promising. A complete set of 3-D CT scans was not possible due to the high costs involved. However, thanks to innovative technical ideas developed by EMPA Dübendorf during the fall of 2011, all the plaster pieces were successfully x-rayed by a mobile apparatus brought to the Kunsthaus. The treasure of digital images and information gleaned has made it possible to better understand the armature production methods and to recognize subsequent changes or repairs. The new information is invaluable generally speaking and also from a conservation standpoint. It helps to evaluate the fragility of the objects and to optimize the handling and transport.

The extended team of experts met again in January 2012 with the goal of answering questions pertaining to technical aspects of casting. Felix Lehner (Principal of Foundry Kunstgiesserei Sitterwerk in St. Gallen) and Rolf Fritschi (Conservator of the Archeological Collection of the University of Zurich) were particularly valuable consultants. One of the topics of the discussion was to consider the exact function of the cone-shaped indentations, previously understood as positioning marks on the underside of the original plaster model. These indentations were drilled into the base at the foundry in order to maintain the exact positioning of the original plaster model and the outer capsule of the mold. These capsules were initially retained at the foundry for possible re-use, however in this circumstance, they unfortunately no longer exist.

A further focus of this year’s research was the analysis of selected materials, undertaken by the SIK ISEA (Swiss Institute for Art Research) in March 2012. The results of the analyses were unequivocal in confirming previous hypotheses on the use of molding-sand, clay, gelatine and shellac.

Furthermore, the interpretation of residues of those materials on the plaster surfaces and of all examinations to date lead to a clear sequence of the mold-forming processes, which shows that the sculptures were cast in bronze repeatedly from different molds at different times. It was not uncommon to find up to three different techniques of molding on one object (sand, gelatine silicon-rubber).

The evidence of both sand and gelatin molding techniques, suggests a shift in the collaboration of Giacometti with different foundries in 1952, from Rudier to Susse. However, the use of silicone-rubber molding techniques indicates that some bronze-casts were made at a much later date, most likely after Alberto’s death and at the order of Albert’s widow, Annette Giacometti, perhaps in the 1980’s.

The sequence of the complex molding-processes is a primary and integral part of the bronze production, therefore a direct comparison between the plaster-model and the corresponding bronzes is extremely relevant. To this effect, we are pursuing further collaboration with the Fondation Alberto and Annette Giacometti (FAAG) in Paris, which owns pertinent archival documents.

Outlook

During the fall of 2012, the Kunsthaus Zürich will introduce its first results in a small exhibition of the initial two years of the Giacometti Plaster Research Project. This will establish a platform to exchange scientific information among persons interested in Giacometti. This presentation will also provide a basis for discussion during the second and practical part of the project, which will entail an attempt to define the guidelines for the conservation and handling of the fragile artifacts. Answers will be sought for key questions, for example: to what extent should surface cleaning be undertaken without the removal of important marks? Which damages can or should be treated? How should fragmented, multi-part, objects be handled and exhibited? This is just a small selection of the many questions that need to be discussed within the interdisciplinary team of art historians and conservators at the conclusion of the first part of this project.

Alberto Giacometti: Four-year evaluation and restoration project of Alberto Giacometti plasters

Project Phase 1: Art technological research

Project Phase 2: Conservation / Restoration

Progress report: October 2010 to April 2011
Definition of the main areas of research and systematization of work processes
Beginning of the investigative phase and outlook

Progress report April 2011 – April 2012

Progress report April 2012 – April 2013

Image 1: 
«Buste d’homme Chiavenna I» In front of a mobile digital x-ray panel and detector of the EMPA Zürich 
© Alberto Giacometti Estate / ProLitteris, Zürich
Image 1:
«Buste d’homme Chiavenna I» In front of a mobile digital x-ray panel and detector of the EMPA Zürich
© Alberto Giacometti Estate / ProLitteris, Zürich
Image 2: 
«Tête sans crâne»
The x-ray image displays three separate metal armature rods
© 2011 Kunsthaus Zürich
Image 2:
«Tête sans crâne»
The x-ray image displays three separate metal armature rods
© 2011 Kunsthaus Zürich
Image 3: 
«Buste au grand nez»
Cone-shaped indentations / positioning marks on the base  
© 2011 Kunsthaus Zürich
Image 3:
«Buste au grand nez»
Cone-shaped indentations / positioning marks on the base
© 2011 Kunsthaus Zürich