Contemporary Art Piece

CASE STUDY

The object had come apart due to incompatible materials and required a reversible solution that would hold it together.

Conservation of Nick Cave Object

BEFORE TREATMENT (propped together)

THE OBJECT

The piece is a beaded and brass object from the series Property by Nick Cave, belonging to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art (NAMA 2014.50.1-240)It is constructed of a conically shaped piece of foam, decorated by a solid field of sequins and beads that are pinned to the foam. Below the field of decoration is approximately 1/2” of undecorated foam which is inserted within a repurposed brass object that resembles a finial. The brass object is circular with a rounded base.

Nick Cave, American (born 1959), Property, 2014. Mixed media including found and fabricated objects: iron shoeshine chair, vintage molds, thistle seed, concrete figure, ceramic birds, perfume-bottle birds, metal flowers, and strung beads, 92 × 239 1/2 × 53 inches (233.7 × 608.3 × 134.6 cm). The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust through the George H. and Elizabeth O. Davis Fund, 2014.50.1-240. Art © Nick Cave. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 

CONDITION

The object arrived to its destination in two pieces, with the decorated foam element detached from the brass object. It was confirmed that the two pieces were already detached when put on display at the last venue. A caulk-like material was visible around the interior walls of the brass object, which had failed to effectively bond to the foam.

Conservation of Nick Cave Object

BEFORE TREATMENT 

Conservation of Nick Cave Object

When previously on display, the two pieces were simply propped against each other (the foam element set within the brass object), however doing this makes the sharp metal edge of the brass object angle closely to the beaded decoration, and this is also unsafe when the time comes to move the object if the handler is unaware it is in two pieces.

 

TREATMENT

The two pieces were mechanically connected by designing an internal mount that anchors the foam element to the brass object using monofilament. This method of attachment was non-invasive, completely reversible, and hidden.

Conservation of Nick Cave Object

The Mount (anchor)

Conservation of Nick Cave Object

DURING TREATMENT 

The internal mount was made of silicone rubber cast into a ring with crossbars, designed to fit within the curved wall of the broadest internal space of the brass object.

Mount Fabrication

Fabrication of the mount began by making a clay mold, which was then filled with silicone rubber to cast the desired shape. Originally, strands of 4lb weight monofilament line were embedded within the silicone rubber during casting, however this was replaced by heavier, stronger 10 lb camouflage line threaded-through and tied to the ring at each of the 4 crossbars. The ring was wrapped in plumber’s tape to provide an inert barrier between the silicone rubber and the interior of the brass object.

Conservation of Nick Cave Object
Conservation of Nick Cave Object
Conservation of Nick Cave Object

Materials & Suppliers

Copyflex® Liquid Silicone—two-part silicone rubber

Make Your Own Molds, Inc.,

Lot 15121401,

Cincinnati, OH

800-333-5678

Plumber’s Sealant Tape—high-density PTFE 

Unknown supplier

Camouflage Monofilament,10 lb

Cortland Line Company,

3736 Kellogg Road,

Cortland, NY 13045

607-756-2851

info@cortlandline.com

Conservation of Nick Cave Object

Inserting the Mount

The internal silicone rubber mount is flexible, allowing it to be manipulated within the narrower opening of the brass object, while also thick enough to provide the rigidity needed to keep it in place.

After the mount was inserted within the brass object and manipulated into position, the monofilament lines were pulled taut and the foam element put in place. Each line was carefully navigated through the field of sequins and beads on the sides of the foam element, and each opposite line was tied to each other at the top of the conical shape.

AFTER TREATMENT 

Conservation of Nick Cave Object
 
 

Treatment performed under the supervision of Kate Garland, Senior Conservator, Objects, at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri.

AFTER TREATMENT