Museums always struggle to balance presenting new exhibitions, with new art and scholarship to their audiences, against the more invisible work of conserving the things in our care. Conservation isn’t sexy; it’s painstaking, detail-oriented and frustrating as conservators and staff find solutions to material problems in objects 10, 100 or 1,000, years old.
Contemporary artists in particular stretch the logical capacities of materials beyond the norm. When Laumeier’s conservation team met with engineers to figure out how and why Donald Judd did what he did in his Untitled work from 1984, they couldn’t believe we would spend the time to solve problems they considered insignificant relative to those of a skyscraper.
But concern ourselves we do.
Chief Preparator Nick Lang and assistant Manda Remmen tackle the conservation of Judd’s work as part of our $100,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to conserve and restore this major work. They are pitting chemical solution strength against lichen and rust, and our team is winning.
Who would ever wash a 20-story skyscraper? If it was an art work, we would!