http://www.kunsthaus.ch/en/the-collection/conservation/examples-from-the-world-of-art-conservation/project-phase-1/?redirect_url=title%3Ddommages

Kunsthaus Zürich

Project Phase 1

Art technological and casting specific research
(October 2010 – September 2012)

The first phase will aim to gain a comprehensive understanding of the works in question based on art technology and the condition of the sculptures. Lots of the information is eye-catching, some others aren‘t. Some exhibit a more or less sound white surface – the plaster having never been used to create a mould for casting. These should therefore be treated as unique works. Other works have been painted and then used in the casting process, while yet others have a yellowish or brownish colour resulting from a layer of shellac that was applied as a release agent prior to casting. A few items have been sawn into pieces due to their size, so that the casting procedure could be carried out section by section. Other details have to be detected first and then interpreted.

But why do these objects ask for such an extensive research on art technology? The plaster works to be examined originate directly from Giacometti’s studio in Paris. Giacometti continued to work on them after they had been completed, using casts to isolate different phases of the creation process – or he left the plaster sculptures in their original form. The works therefore carry traces that are invaluable. These traces may yield information regarding the casting sequence, which can be crucial for the classification and thus the valuation of certain works.

Rashly implemented restoration measures could result in such information being irretrievably lost. Tool marks or pencil markings, for example, could be original and therefore worthy of preservation. Consequently, it is imperative that comprehensive assessment and analysis work is undertaken before any possible restoration measures are taken.  

In cooperation with other institutes, mainly the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti in Paris, the results of the project will be compared and made available in a relevant context. If feasible, the insights gained will be compiled for publication, and thus will become accessible to a wider public.

Database

All collected data will be archived in a FileMaker database created only for this purpose. This will allow a reliable analysis and interpretation of all comprised results.

Team

Research and documentation of the sculptures will be carried out by a team in the Kunsthaus Zurich. An advisory board, consisting of specialists in the field of art history, conservation, casting and plaster, will be assisting the core team.
Special analysis procedures such as material analysis, 3-D scans, or x-ray tomography have to be carried out by external specialists.
These methods allow, amongst other things, comparative statements regarding dimensions, material or „inner life“(such as metal or wood armouring) and will hopefully reveal suprising findings.

Decision making: Conservation measurements

The results of phase one of the project will serve as the basis for a discussion on the type of conservation or restoration work that has to be undertaken. It is at this stage that decisions will have to be made on how far restoration/conservation procedures are taken. Should brown residue of a shellac coating be left as it is, documenting as it does part of the sculpture’s history? Are we allowed to reduce such residue, or remove it entirely? Should or must missing elements of sculptures be replaced, and if so to what extent? And should works that have been sawn into sections be respected as they are, or is it permissible to ‘reunite’ the pieces?

Buste d’homme sur socle, 1948
Originally painted plaster
Kunsthaus Zürich / Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung
© Alberto Giacometti Estate / ProLitteris, Zürich
Buste d’homme sur socle, 1948
Originally painted plaster
Kunsthaus Zürich / Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung
© Alberto Giacometti Estate / ProLitteris, Zürich
Buste de Diego, um 1964/65
Original paint brush, revised plaster in the area of  chest
Kunsthaus Zürich / Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung
© Alberto Giacometti Estate / ProLitteris, Zürich
Buste de Diego, um 1964/65
Original paint brush, revised plaster in the area of chest
Kunsthaus Zürich / Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung
© Alberto Giacometti Estate / ProLitteris, Zürich
Femme debout Nr.1, 1956
Shellac coating, multi-part for casting plus multi-layered damage
Kunsthaus Zürich / Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung
© Alberto Giacometti Estate / ProLitteris, Zürich
Femme debout Nr.1, 1956
Shellac coating, multi-part for casting plus multi-layered damage
Kunsthaus Zürich / Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung
© Alberto Giacometti Estate / ProLitteris, Zürich