About the Hirshhorn

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is the Smithsonian Institution's museum of modern and contemporary art.

The Hirshhorn is located on the National Mall at the corner of 7th Street and Independence Avenue SW in Washington DC.

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Join us on the Plaza for a free public opening TONIGHT, July 17, 7–10:30 pm. Galleries open at 7:30 pm. A competitive sprint car will be parked on site, and Scarpitta driver Greg O’Neill talks about racing at 8 pm. Exhibition curator Melissa Ho leads a gallery tour at 9 pm. “Art & Racing: The Work and Life of Salvatore Scarpitta” screens continuously throughout the evening. Rocklands Real Barbecue and beer will be available for purchase. More information at hirshhorn.si.edu.
Installation view of “Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler” at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, 2014. Photo: Cathy Carver.
Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler is made possible in part by the generous support of the Estate of Frank B. Gettings in memory of Nancy Kirkpatrick and Frank Gettings, C.P. Beler, the Holenia Trust, and the Hirshhorn Exhibition Fund. The exhibition brochure is generously underwritten by Kristin and Howard Johnson and the Italian Cultural Institute on the occasion of Italy’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union from July 1 through December 31, 2014.

Join us on the Plaza for a free public opening TONIGHT, July 17, 7–10:30 pm. Galleries open at 7:30 pm. A competitive sprint car will be parked on site, and Scarpitta driver Greg O’Neill talks about racing at 8 pm. Exhibition curator Melissa Ho leads a gallery tour at 9 pm. “Art & Racing: The Work and Life of Salvatore Scarpitta” screens continuously throughout the evening. Rocklands Real Barbecue and beer will be available for purchase. More information at hirshhorn.si.edu.

Installation view of “Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler” at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, 2014. Photo: Cathy Carver.

Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler is made possible in part by the generous support of the Estate of Frank B. Gettings in memory of Nancy Kirkpatrick and Frank Gettings, C.P. Beler, the Holenia Trust, and the Hirshhorn Exhibition Fund. The exhibition brochure is generously underwritten by Kristin and Howard Johnson and the Italian Cultural Institute on the occasion of Italy’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union from July 1 through December 31, 2014.

Posted on Thursday, July 17th 2014

Tags smithsonian hirshhorn salvatore scarpitta traveler

Reblogged from Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler Opening Event 

Join us on the Plaza for a free public opening Thursday, July 17, 7–10:30 pm. Galleries open at 7:30 pm. A competitive sprint car will be parked on site, and Scarpitta driver Greg O’Neill talks about racing at 8 pm. Exhibition curator Melissa Ho leads a gallery tour at 9 pm. “Art & Racing: The Work and Life of Salvatore Scarpitta” screens continuously throughout the evening. Rocklands Real Barbecue and beer will be available for purchase.
Salvatore Scarpitta, “Sal Cragar,” 1969 and “Trevis Race Car (Sal Gambler Special),” 1985. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. “Trevis Race Car (Sal Gambler Special)” is a gift of Stella Alba Cartaino and Gregory O’Neill, 2014. Photo: Lee Stalsworth
Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler is made possible in part by the generous support of the Estate of Frank B. Gettings in memory of Nancy Kirkpatrick and Frank Gettings, C.P. Beler, the Holenia Trust, and the Hirshhorn Exhibition Fund. The exhibition brochure is generously underwritten by Kristin and Howard Johnson and the Italian Cultural Institute on the occasion of Italy’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union from July 1 through December 31, 2014.

Join us on the Plaza for a free public opening Thursday, July 17, 7–10:30 pm. Galleries open at 7:30 pm. A competitive sprint car will be parked on site, and Scarpitta driver Greg O’Neill talks about racing at 8 pm. Exhibition curator Melissa Ho leads a gallery tour at 9 pm. “Art & Racing: The Work and Life of Salvatore Scarpitta” screens continuously throughout the evening. Rocklands Real Barbecue and beer will be available for purchase.

Salvatore Scarpitta, “Sal Cragar,” 1969 and “Trevis Race Car (Sal Gambler Special),” 1985. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. “Trevis Race Car (Sal Gambler Special)” is a gift of Stella Alba Cartaino and Gregory O’Neill, 2014. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler is made possible in part by the generous support of the Estate of Frank B. Gettings in memory of Nancy Kirkpatrick and Frank Gettings, C.P. Beler, the Holenia Trust, and the Hirshhorn Exhibition Fund. The exhibition brochure is generously underwritten by Kristin and Howard Johnson and the Italian Cultural Institute on the occasion of Italy’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union from July 1 through December 31, 2014.

Posted on Wednesday, July 16th 2014

Tags smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum salvatore scarpitta traveler

SALVATORE SCARPITTA: TRAVELER EXHIBITION OPENING
Thursday, July 17, 20147 to 10:30 pmMuseum PlazaFree public event
Galleries open at 7:30 pm, providing the public their first opportunity to view “Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler.” A competitive sprint car will be parked on the Plaza, where Scarpitta driver Greg O’Neill talks about racing at 8 pm. Hirshhorn assistant curator Melissa Ho leads an exhibition tour at 9 pm. The documentary “Art & Racing: The Work and Life of Salvatore Scarpitta” screens continuously throughout the evening. Barbecue and beer will be available for purchase on the Plaza. The other exhibitions on the museum’s Lower Level, “Black Box: Oliver Laric” and “Directions: Jeremy Deller,” will also be open.
Salvatore Scarpitta, “Sal Cragar,” 1969. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

SALVATORE SCARPITTA: TRAVELER EXHIBITION OPENING

Thursday, July 17, 2014
7 to 10:30 pm
Museum Plaza
Free public event

Galleries open at 7:30 pm, providing the public their first opportunity to view “Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler.” A competitive sprint car will be parked on the Plaza, where Scarpitta driver Greg O’Neill talks about racing at 8 pm. Hirshhorn assistant curator Melissa Ho leads an exhibition tour at 9 pm. The documentary “Art & Racing: The Work and Life of Salvatore Scarpitta” screens continuously throughout the evening. Barbecue and beer will be available for purchase on the Plaza. The other exhibitions on the museum’s Lower Level, “Black Box: Oliver Laric and “Directions: Jeremy Deller,” will also be open.

Salvatore Scarpitta, “Sal Cragar,” 1969. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Posted on Monday, July 7th 2014

Tags smithsonian hirshhorn museum salvatore scarpitta sal cragar greg oneill

Reblogged from Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler Opening Event 

All sculptures begin to change from the moment the object leaves the artist’s studio. In the case of outdoor works, natural aging and the physical impact of light, temperature, humidity, air pollution, and handling all take their toll. Nonetheless, there are many benefits to viewing works of art outdoors; visitors can experience the works in a unique context in combination with foliage, architecture and even the weather. While viewing sculpture in an outdoor context can bring new meaning and depth to the visitors’ experience, these benefits must be navigated relative to the risks the works face from the effects of the elements, animals, and human interactions. Much of the Hirshhorn Museum’s outdoor sculpture conservation internship may at first sight appear to be routine, but the preventative measures that we carry out are essential in minimizing deterioration.
It may be surprising that massive sculptures made of steel or bronze are vulnerable to the elements. Yet, when bare metals are exposed to moisture and air pollution, corrosion can begin, gradually weakening and degrading the metal and putting the sculpture at risk from structural failure. Rain water can also pool in low areas and crevices and, as pools evaporate, they leave behind crusty areas of mineral deposits that are aesthetically disfiguring and difficult to remove. This is why a major part of the intern’s role is to ensure that these vulnerable works are suitably protected when on display. Regular cleanings of all of the sculptures and the application of thin, protective layers of wax to the bronze sculptures has become an essential part of the annual maintenance program of outdoors sculptures at the Hirshhorn. In some cases it is not necessary for us to apply the protective wax coating because an element of the artwork, such as a layer of paint, acts as the protective surface.
Figure 1. Corrosion, grime, and spider-webs on the underside of a painted steel sculpture
Figure 2. Corrosion on a painted steel sculpture
Although it is a delight to see creatures roaming throughout the sculpture garden, birds are rapidly becoming an unbeatable foe for this summer’s sculpture conservation interns. It seems just as quickly as a sculpture is cleaned of droppings; more birds come along to replace what has been removed. As aesthetically disrupting as bird droppings can be, they also pose a significant risk to the sculptures. Bird droppings are acidic and when left in place too long, they can etch into the metal, creating areas of uneven corrosion thus making the sculpture more difficult and complicated to treat. Bird droppings can also stain or etch painted surfaces, leaving disfiguring marks that are tough if not impossible to remove.
Figure 3. Bird droppings on a painted steel sculpture
The public also can erode sculptures, even if unwittingly. Despite explicit signage and a diligent security staff, sculptures can prove so enticing that some visitors are tempted to touch and even climb on them. While the sculptures are meant to be enjoyed by the public, human interactions can be very damaging. The cumulative impact of thousands of finger and hand prints can rub away the artist’s finish. Natural oils, sunscreen, and lotions react poorly with paints and waxes, and jewelry and clothing can easily scratch a sculpture’s delicate surface. Less common, but often more damaging is vandalism such as graffiti which can result in the need for major treatment. When these types of incidents occur they can penetrate the protective layer (wax or painted surface) which will allow the elements to interact with the underlying metal causing corrosion and possibly structural damage. Public outreach is proving to be a rewarding aspect of our time in the sculpture garden as we speak to inquiring visitors about our work. These conversations help educate visitors about the importance of conservation and the negative impacts of physical interactions with artwork.
Figure 4. Graffiti scratched into the surface of a painted steel sculpture
Figure 5. Scratches on the surface of a painted steel sculpture caused by the abrasive clothing of climbing visitors
With each sculpture we examine, document, and clean, as interns we are witnessing how each of these risks can be manifested in different ways, and how the work of past interns has successfully prevented damage and helped maintain the beauty of the Hirshhorn Museum sculpture garden.
More blog posts available on the Conservation Laboratory Tumblr
Top: Alexander Calder, “Sky Hooks,” 1962

All sculptures begin to change from the moment the object leaves the artist’s studio. In the case of outdoor works, natural aging and the physical impact of light, temperature, humidity, air pollution, and handling all take their toll. Nonetheless, there are many benefits to viewing works of art outdoors; visitors can experience the works in a unique context in combination with foliage, architecture and even the weather. While viewing sculpture in an outdoor context can bring new meaning and depth to the visitors’ experience, these benefits must be navigated relative to the risks the works face from the effects of the elements, animals, and human interactions. Much of the Hirshhorn Museum’s outdoor sculpture conservation internship may at first sight appear to be routine, but the preventative measures that we carry out are essential in minimizing deterioration.

It may be surprising that massive sculptures made of steel or bronze are vulnerable to the elements. Yet, when bare metals are exposed to moisture and air pollution, corrosion can begin, gradually weakening and degrading the metal and putting the sculpture at risk from structural failure. Rain water can also pool in low areas and crevices and, as pools evaporate, they leave behind crusty areas of mineral deposits that are aesthetically disfiguring and difficult to remove. This is why a major part of the intern’s role is to ensure that these vulnerable works are suitably protected when on display. Regular cleanings of all of the sculptures and the application of thin, protective layers of wax to the bronze sculptures has become an essential part of the annual maintenance program of outdoors sculptures at the Hirshhorn. In some cases it is not necessary for us to apply the protective wax coating because an element of the artwork, such as a layer of paint, acts as the protective surface.

Figure 1. Corrosion, grime, and spider-webs on the underside of a painted steel sculpture

Figure 2. Corrosion on a painted steel sculpture

Although it is a delight to see creatures roaming throughout the sculpture garden, birds are rapidly becoming an unbeatable foe for this summer’s sculpture conservation interns. It seems just as quickly as a sculpture is cleaned of droppings; more birds come along to replace what has been removed. As aesthetically disrupting as bird droppings can be, they also pose a significant risk to the sculptures. Bird droppings are acidic and when left in place too long, they can etch into the metal, creating areas of uneven corrosion thus making the sculpture more difficult and complicated to treat. Bird droppings can also stain or etch painted surfaces, leaving disfiguring marks that are tough if not impossible to remove.

Figure 3. Bird droppings on a painted steel sculpture

The public also can erode sculptures, even if unwittingly. Despite explicit signage and a diligent security staff, sculptures can prove so enticing that some visitors are tempted to touch and even climb on them. While the sculptures are meant to be enjoyed by the public, human interactions can be very damaging. The cumulative impact of thousands of finger and hand prints can rub away the artist’s finish. Natural oils, sunscreen, and lotions react poorly with paints and waxes, and jewelry and clothing can easily scratch a sculpture’s delicate surface. Less common, but often more damaging is vandalism such as graffiti which can result in the need for major treatment. When these types of incidents occur they can penetrate the protective layer (wax or painted surface) which will allow the elements to interact with the underlying metal causing corrosion and possibly structural damage. Public outreach is proving to be a rewarding aspect of our time in the sculpture garden as we speak to inquiring visitors about our work. These conversations help educate visitors about the importance of conservation and the negative impacts of physical interactions with artwork.

Figure 4. Graffiti scratched into the surface of a painted steel sculpture

Figure 5. Scratches on the surface of a painted steel sculpture caused by the abrasive clothing of climbing visitors

With each sculpture we examine, document, and clean, as interns we are witnessing how each of these risks can be manifested in different ways, and how the work of past interns has successfully prevented damage and helped maintain the beauty of the Hirshhorn Museum sculpture garden.

More blog posts available on the Conservation Laboratory Tumblr

Top: Alexander Calder, “Sky Hooks,” 1962

Posted on Wednesday, July 2nd 2014

Tags smithsonian hirshhorn conservation laboratory

Reblogged from Conservation at the Hirshhorn 

SALVATORE SCARPITTA: TRAVELER EXHIBITION OPENING
Thursday, July 17, 2014 7 to 10:30 pm Museum Plaza Free public event
Galleries open at 7:30 pm, providing the public their first opportunity to view “Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler.” A competitive sprint car will be parked on the Plaza, where Scarpitta driver Greg O’Neill talks about racing at 8 pm. Hirshhorn assistant curator Melissa Ho leads an exhibition tour at 9 pm. The documentary “Art & Racing: The Work and Life of Salvatore Scarpitta” screens continuously throughout the evening. Barbecue and beer will be available for purchase on the Plaza. The other exhibitions on the museum’s Lower Level, “Black Box: Oliver Laric” and “Directions: Jeremy Deller,” will also be open.
Salvatore Scarpitta, “Sundial for Racing,” 1962. Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Festival of Art Purchase Fund. Photo: Chris Brown Photography

SALVATORE SCARPITTA: TRAVELER EXHIBITION OPENING

Thursday, July 17, 2014
7 to 10:30 pm
Museum Plaza
Free public event

Galleries open at 7:30 pm, providing the public their first opportunity to view “Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler.” A competitive sprint car will be parked on the Plaza, where Scarpitta driver Greg O’Neill talks about racing at 8 pm. Hirshhorn assistant curator Melissa Ho leads an exhibition tour at 9 pm. The documentary “Art & Racing: The Work and Life of Salvatore Scarpitta” screens continuously throughout the evening. Barbecue and beer will be available for purchase on the Plaza. The other exhibitions on the museum’s Lower Level, “Black Box: Oliver Laric and “Directions: Jeremy Deller,” will also be open.

Salvatore Scarpitta, “Sundial for Racing,” 1962. Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Festival of Art Purchase Fund. Photo: Chris Brown Photography

Posted on Monday, June 30th 2014

Tags smithsonian hirshhorn salvatore scarpitta sundial for racing

Reblogged from Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler Opening Event 

A free public opening takes place Thursday, July 17, from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Galleries open at 7:30 pm, providing the public their first opportunity to view Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler. A competitive sprint car will be parked on the Plaza, where Scarpitta driver Greg O’Neill talks about racing at 8 pm. Hirshhorn assistant curator Melissa Ho leads an exhibition tour at 9 pm. The documentary “Art & Racing: The Work and Life of Salvatore Scarpitta” screens continuously throughout the evening. Barbecue and beer will be available for purchase on the Plaza. The other exhibitions on the museum’s Lower Level, Black Box: Oliver Laric and Directions: Jeremy Deller, will also be open.
Visit the Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler Tumblr page for all event details.
Salvatore Scarpitta, “Snowshoe Sled,” 1974. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. Gift of the Estate of Pat M. Dandignac, 2012. Photo: Cathy Carver


A free public opening takes place Thursday, July 17, from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Galleries open at 7:30 pm, providing the public their first opportunity to view Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler. A competitive sprint car will be parked on the Plaza, where Scarpitta driver Greg O’Neill talks about racing at 8 pm. Hirshhorn assistant curator Melissa Ho leads an exhibition tour at 9 pm. The documentary “Art & Racing: The Work and Life of Salvatore Scarpitta” screens continuously throughout the evening. Barbecue and beer will be available for purchase on the Plaza. The other exhibitions on the museum’s Lower Level, Black Box: Oliver Laric and Directions: Jeremy Deller, will also be open.

Visit the Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler Tumblr page for all event details.

Salvatore Scarpitta, “Snowshoe Sled,” 1974. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. Gift of the Estate of Pat M. Dandignac, 2012. Photo: Cathy Carver

Posted on Friday, June 27th 2014

Tags smithsonian hirshhorn salvatore scarpitta traveler

Reblogged from Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler Opening Event 

Visit the Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler Tumblr page for all event details.
July 17, 2014 to January 11, 2015 (Lower Level)AA fascinating and singular figure in postwar art, Salvatore Scarpitta (1919–2007) created a powerful body of work that ranges from nonobjective abstraction to radical realism. Scarpitta’s career linked the worlds of art and car racing, moving from the avant-garde cultural circles of postwar Rome to the banked dirt oval speedways of rural Maryland and Pennsylvania. Focusing on his shaped and wrapped canvases, race cars, and sleds, “Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler” illuminates themes that occupied the artist throughout his life: risk, movement, death, and rebirth. Deeply admired in Europe where he began his career, Scarpitta has yet to be fully recognized in his native United States. This will be the first solo presentation of his work at an American museum in over a decade, and the first ever on the East Coast.
A free public opening takes place Thursday, July 17, from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Galleries open at 7:30 pm, providing the public their first opportunity to view “Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler.” A competitive sprint car will be parked on the Plaza, where Scarpitta driver Greg O’Neill talks about racing at 8 pm. Hirshhorn assistant curator Melissa Ho leads an exhibition tour at 9 pm. The documentary “Art & Racing: The Work and Life of Salvatore Scarpitta” screens continuously throughout the evening. Barbecue and beer will be available for purchase on the Plaza. The other exhibitions on the museum’s Lower Level, “Black Box: Oliver Laric” and “Directions: Jeremy Deller,” will also be open.
"Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler" is made possible in part with the generous support of the Estate of Frank B. Gettings, in memory of Nancy Kirkpatrick and Frank Gettings; C.P. Beler, the Holenia Trust, and the Hirshhorn Exhibition Fund. The exhibition brochure is generously underwritten by Kristin and Howard Johnson and the Italian Cultural Institute on the occasion of Italy’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union from July 1 through December 31, 2014.

Visit the Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler Tumblr page for all event details.

July 17, 2014 to January 11, 2015 (Lower Level)
AA fascinating and singular figure in postwar art, Salvatore Scarpitta (1919–2007) created a powerful body of work that ranges from nonobjective abstraction to radical realism. Scarpitta’s career linked the worlds of art and car racing, moving from the avant-garde cultural circles of postwar Rome to the banked dirt oval speedways of rural Maryland and Pennsylvania. Focusing on his shaped and wrapped canvases, race cars, and sleds, “Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler” illuminates themes that occupied the artist throughout his life: risk, movement, death, and rebirth. Deeply admired in Europe where he began his career, Scarpitta has yet to be fully recognized in his native United States. This will be the first solo presentation of his work at an American museum in over a decade, and the first ever on the East Coast.

A free public opening takes place Thursday, July 17, from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Galleries open at 7:30 pm, providing the public their first opportunity to view “Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler.” A competitive sprint car will be parked on the Plaza, where Scarpitta driver Greg O’Neill talks about racing at 8 pm. Hirshhorn assistant curator Melissa Ho leads an exhibition tour at 9 pm. The documentary “Art & Racing: The Work and Life of Salvatore Scarpitta” screens continuously throughout the evening. Barbecue and beer will be available for purchase on the Plaza. The other exhibitions on the museum’s Lower Level, “Black Box: Oliver Laric and “Directions: Jeremy Deller,” will also be open.

"Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler" is made possible in part with the generous support of the Estate of Frank B. Gettings, in memory of Nancy Kirkpatrick and Frank Gettings; C.P. Beler, the Holenia Trust, and the Hirshhorn Exhibition Fund. The exhibition brochure is generously underwritten by Kristin and Howard Johnson and the Italian Cultural Institute on the occasion of Italy’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union from July 1 through December 31, 2014.

Posted on Friday, June 27th 2014

Tags smithsonian hirshhorn salvatore scarpitta traveler

Reblogged from Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler Opening Event 

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden displays approximately 46 outdoor sculptures on the Plaza and in the Garden made of various materials, most predominantly bronze, but also painted steel, chrome-plated metals, and even glass. Although many of these sculptures were intended to be displayed outdoors, the materials are still susceptible to damage from the weather, wildlife and visitors. As a result, each object requires annual maintenance to protect the materials from their environment. In 1983, the Museum created an internship program with the dual goals of caring for the outdoor collection and educating pre-program conservation students about the specific needs of outdoor sculpture (Pre-program interns qualify as students who are working to fulfill the rigorous pre-requisites in chemistry, art history, and studio art and the required experience hours in conservation prior to their acceptance into graduate school for conservation). Each summer, interns work closely with staff conservators to address the annual maintenance of the collection on-site as well as at off-site locations such as Anne-Marie Gardens in Solomons Island, Maryland, where 23 sculptures are on long-term loan.
These labor-intensive treatments begin with photographic documentation of each sculpture in order to assess changes that have occurred to the artwork throughout the year. In the case of metal-alloy sculptures—the bulk of the collection—it is necessary to protect their surfaces from a wide range of damaging elements. Dust can scratch and abrade the metal; handling by visitors leaves behind aggressive oils that etch the metal surfaces over time; and atmospheric pollutants which, when combined with moisture, cause corrosion.   The first step in caring for these works is to wash them with a non-ionic surfactant to remove any surface accumulations. The sculptures are next heated and a layer of micro-crystalline wax is applied. The heating helps the wax layer to penetrate more deeply into the pores of the metal.  This wax layer must then be buffed in order to create an even and thin protective barrier against moisture and aggressive elements.
While the wax treatment is effective for approximately one year and needs to be conducted annually, the protective layer of wax can be severely compromised by constant touching  by  visitors which accelerates the degradation of the protective wax barrier. This is why interns frequently take the opportunity to communicate and educate the public both about conservation and the importance of the “no touching” rule.
Figure 1. Interns Leah and Tim wash a painted steel sculpture.
This year, the internship program is separated into two 12-week sessions. This blog will document many of the interesting treatments and conservation topics approached by the interns. The first session welcomes Caitlin Richeson, Leah Bright, and Tim Linden. 
Caitlin graduated in 2012 from the Maryland Institute College of Art with a BFA in Art History, Criticism and Theory with a concentration in Curatorial Studies. She has previously completed pre-program internships with the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Archaeological Artifacts Conservation Lab as well as with the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. After this year she hopes to enter into a graduate program in art conservation. 
Originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, Leah, graduated from the University of Oregon in 2010 with degrees in Art History and Spanish, and she has completed several pre-program conservation internships throughout the Smithsonian Institute since 2011.  This fall she will begin a master’s program in art conservation at the Winterthur University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. 
Tim is originally from California where he graduated from the University of Southern California with a BFA in studio arts and a BA in interdisciplinary archaeology. He recently worked for a private conservation company and with artist Liz Larner, and  also worked in both Guatemala and Peru on archaeological excavations. After this year, he also hopes to obtain a graduate degree in art conservation.
Figure 2. Interns Caitlin, Leah and Tim buff a recently applied wax barrier layer.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden displays approximately 46 outdoor sculptures on the Plaza and in the Garden made of various materials, most predominantly bronze, but also painted steel, chrome-plated metals, and even glass. Although many of these sculptures were intended to be displayed outdoors, the materials are still susceptible to damage from the weather, wildlife and visitors. As a result, each object requires annual maintenance to protect the materials from their environment. In 1983, the Museum created an internship program with the dual goals of caring for the outdoor collection and educating pre-program conservation students about the specific needs of outdoor sculpture (Pre-program interns qualify as students who are working to fulfill the rigorous pre-requisites in chemistry, art history, and studio art and the required experience hours in conservation prior to their acceptance into graduate school for conservation). Each summer, interns work closely with staff conservators to address the annual maintenance of the collection on-site as well as at off-site locations such as Anne-Marie Gardens in Solomons Island, Maryland, where 23 sculptures are on long-term loan.

These labor-intensive treatments begin with photographic documentation of each sculpture in order to assess changes that have occurred to the artwork throughout the year. In the case of metal-alloy sculptures—the bulk of the collection—it is necessary to protect their surfaces from a wide range of damaging elements. Dust can scratch and abrade the metal; handling by visitors leaves behind aggressive oils that etch the metal surfaces over time; and atmospheric pollutants which, when combined with moisture, cause corrosion.   The first step in caring for these works is to wash them with a non-ionic surfactant to remove any surface accumulations. The sculptures are next heated and a layer of micro-crystalline wax is applied. The heating helps the wax layer to penetrate more deeply into the pores of the metal.  This wax layer must then be buffed in order to create an even and thin protective barrier against moisture and aggressive elements.

While the wax treatment is effective for approximately one year and needs to be conducted annually, the protective layer of wax can be severely compromised by constant touching  by  visitors which accelerates the degradation of the protective wax barrier. This is why interns frequently take the opportunity to communicate and educate the public both about conservation and the importance of the “no touching” rule.

Figure 1. Interns Leah and Tim wash a painted steel sculpture.Figure 1. Interns Leah and Tim wash a painted steel sculpture.

This year, the internship program is separated into two 12-week sessions. This blog will document many of the interesting treatments and conservation topics approached by the interns. The first session welcomes Caitlin Richeson, Leah Bright, and Tim Linden

Caitlin graduated in 2012 from the Maryland Institute College of Art with a BFA in Art History, Criticism and Theory with a concentration in Curatorial Studies. She has previously completed pre-program internships with the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Archaeological Artifacts Conservation Lab as well as with the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. After this year she hopes to enter into a graduate program in art conservation. 

Originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, Leah, graduated from the University of Oregon in 2010 with degrees in Art History and Spanish, and she has completed several pre-program conservation internships throughout the Smithsonian Institute since 2011.  This fall she will begin a master’s program in art conservation at the Winterthur University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. 

Tim is originally from California where he graduated from the University of Southern California with a BFA in studio arts and a BA in interdisciplinary archaeology. He recently worked for a private conservation company and with artist Liz Larner, and  also worked in both Guatemala and Peru on archaeological excavations. After this year, he also hopes to obtain a graduate degree in art conservation.

Figure 2. Interns Caitlin, Leah and Tim buff a recently applied wax barrier layer.
Figure 2. Interns Caitlin, Leah and Tim buff a recently applied wax barrier layer.

Posted on Monday, June 23rd 2014

Tags smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum conservation conservation laboratory

Reblogged from Conservation at the Hirshhorn 

Opening June 16, 2014 (Second Level)Drawn from the Hirshhorn’s expansive collection, “Speculative Forms” reconsiders the historical development of sculpture since the early twentieth century and its critique of the autonomy of the object. Including more than fifty works, this two-floor exhibition collapses conventional art historical divisions such as figurative vs. abstract; still vs. kinetic; representational vs. simplified geometric; and planar (having a modeled or carved surface) vs. stereometric (exposing the internal structure). The objects oscillate between these dichotomies, thus turning one’s preconceived notions of sculpture inside out. 
Inspired by the philosophical notion of “Speculative Realism,” which emphasizes an equal relationship between subject, object, and space, the exhibition highlights the importance of installation and the viewer’s eye and body in relation to the object. The selected works—ranging from the well-known to the rarely exhibited—challenge the modernist notion that sculptures exist isolated from their surroundings. The exhibition follows these threads through Surrealism, Constructivism, Assemblage, Op and Kinetic Art, Minimalism, and Post-Minimalism. The materiality and physicality of the sculptures, on the one hand, and their more intangible, phenomenological aspects on the other, raise intriguing questions about the potential and limits of the perception of objects and the larger world.
Top: Julie MacDonald, “Ocean Creature #2,” 1961

Opening June 16, 2014 (Second Level)
Drawn from the Hirshhorn’s expansive collection, “Speculative Forms” reconsiders the historical development of sculpture since the early twentieth century and its critique of the autonomy of the object. Including more than fifty works, this two-floor exhibition collapses conventional art historical divisions such as figurative vs. abstract; still vs. kinetic; representational vs. simplified geometric; and planar (having a modeled or carved surface) vs. stereometric (exposing the internal structure). The objects oscillate between these dichotomies, thus turning one’s preconceived notions of sculpture inside out. 

Inspired by the philosophical notion of “Speculative Realism,” which emphasizes an equal relationship between subject, object, and space, the exhibition highlights the importance of installation and the viewer’s eye and body in relation to the object. The selected works—ranging from the well-known to the rarely exhibited—challenge the modernist notion that sculptures exist isolated from their surroundings. The exhibition follows these threads through Surrealism, Constructivism, Assemblage, Op and Kinetic Art, Minimalism, and Post-Minimalism. The materiality and physicality of the sculptures, on the one hand, and their more intangible, phenomenological aspects on the other, raise intriguing questions about the potential and limits of the perception of objects and the larger world.

Top: Julie MacDonald, “Ocean Creature #2,” 1961

Posted on Monday, June 16th 2014

Tags smithsonian hirshhorn speculative forms julie macdonald

Opening June 16, 2014 (Second Level)"Sitebound" invites viewers to consider the distinct qualities of a physical or temporal site through the supposedly objective means of photography. The works presented, which include several recent acquisitions, explore a wide range of themes, including leisure, landscape, shifting city infrastructures, genetic relations, and memory—both historical and personal, real and imagined.
"Cinema, Anaheim, California"—part of a series created by Thomas Struth at Disneyland—captures a normally active space at a still moment, laying bare the physical mechanisms behind a virtual-reality experience. Catherine Opie’s “Inauguration” series documents Washington, DC, before, during, and after the swearing-in of the nation’s first African-American president. Each of the photographs in Laurel Nakadate’s “Relations” series depicts a distant relative that the artist tracked down on genealogical websites and arranged to photograph at a remote location at night. Together, the images constitute both an indirect form of self-portraiture and a uniquely American family album. In “Chapter V, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII,” Taryn Simon also explores bloodlines, recording the incidents of chance and fate that surround a South Korean citizen abducted by North Korea.
Each of these works extends the concept of documentary photography in ways that allow for imagination and conjecture, and the sites that are at the core of these images emphasize identification and investigation.
Top: Laurel Nakadate, “Tyler, Texas #1,” 2013

Opening June 16, 2014 (Second Level)
"Sitebound"
invites viewers to consider the distinct qualities of a physical or temporal site through the supposedly objective means of photography. The works presented, which include several recent acquisitions, explore a wide range of themes, including leisure, landscape, shifting city infrastructures, genetic relations, and memory—both historical and personal, real and imagined.

"Cinema, Anaheim, California"—part of a series created by Thomas Struth at Disneyland—captures a normally active space at a still moment, laying bare the physical mechanisms behind a virtual-reality experience. Catherine Opie’s “Inauguration” series documents Washington, DC, before, during, and after the swearing-in of the nation’s first African-American president. Each of the photographs in Laurel Nakadate’s “Relations” series depicts a distant relative that the artist tracked down on genealogical websites and arranged to photograph at a remote location at night. Together, the images constitute both an indirect form of self-portraiture and a uniquely American family album. In “Chapter V, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII,” Taryn Simon also explores bloodlines, recording the incidents of chance and fate that surround a South Korean citizen abducted by North Korea.

Each of these works extends the concept of documentary photography in ways that allow for imagination and conjecture, and the sites that are at the core of these images emphasize identification and investigation.

Top: Laurel Nakadate, “Tyler, Texas #1,” 2013

Posted on Monday, June 16th 2014

Tags smithsonian hirshhorn sitebound laurel nakadate

July 17, 2014 to January 11, 2015 (Lower Level)A fascinating and singular figure in postwar art, Salvatore Scarpitta (1919–2007) created a powerful body of work that ranges from non-objective abstraction to radical realism. Deeply admired in Europe where he began his career, the artist has yet to be fully recognized in his native United States. Featuring key recent additions to the Hirshhorn’s collection, this will be the first solo presentation of Scarpitta’s work at an American museum in over a decade, and the first ever on the East Coast.
Image: Salvatore Scarpitta, “Trevis Race Car (Sal Gambler Special)” (detail), 1985. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. Gift of Stella Alba Cartaino and Gregory O’Neill, 2014. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

July 17, 2014 to January 11, 2015 (Lower Level)
A fascinating and singular figure in postwar art, Salvatore Scarpitta (1919–2007) created a powerful body of work that ranges from non-objective abstraction to radical realism. Deeply admired in Europe where he began his career, the artist has yet to be fully recognized in his native United States. Featuring key recent additions to the Hirshhorn’s collection, this will be the first solo presentation of Scarpitta’s work at an American museum in over a decade, and the first ever on the East Coast.

Image: Salvatore Scarpitta, “Trevis Race Car (Sal Gambler Special)” (detail), 1985. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. Gift of Stella Alba Cartaino and Gregory O’Neill, 2014. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Posted on Tuesday, June 10th 2014

Tags smithsonian hirshhorn salvatore scarpitta traveler