Conservation of Sculptures and Installations

The National Museum’s collections of sculptures and installations encompass everything from “classical” stone and bronze sculpture to modern sculptures and installations.

Many of the National Museum’s more recent sculptures and installations use unconventional materials and methods. Some of the works also include kinetic elements.

Assessing the condition

All conservation work begins by checking the condition of a sculpture or an installation: Is the object undergoing a process of degradation? Has any new damage occurred? We document the condition of the piece in text and images and repair any damages that may have occurred, so that the sculpture is stabilized. Sometimes it may be necessary to analyse the object in order to identify the materials or techniques the artist has used, so that we may choose the optimal method of conservation. We establish guidelines for how the objects are to be handled, displayed, stored, and packaged, so that its lifetime may be extended as much as possible.

Many sculptures and installations contain industrially manufactured items, machines, or other gadgets that have been modified and repurposed. It is therefore essential to consult experts from other fields when the conservator’s own expertise falls short, for example when repairing neon lights, compressors, or cooling elements.

Documentation

In addition to combating the three main threats against the lifetime of the object, namely chemical, mechanical, and biological impacts, the conservator who works with sculptures and installations must actively document these objects. Particularly when working with installations, the surroundings and the relationships between the individual parts are at least as important as the individual parts themselves. Discussions with the artists themselves provide vital information about how the given sculpture or installation should be displayed, in addition to providing us with useful knowledge about the materials and techniques the artist has used.