Art at the DIAConservation
The Science and Techniques of Art Preservation
The scope of the DIA Conservation Department includes the technical examination of works of art, treatment of condition issues, investigation of artists’ materials and working methods, specification of appropriate display conditions, scrutiny of potential acquisitions, design and construction of mounts for the safe display of objects, and research related to artists’ materials. In order to care for the encyclopedic collections held by the DIA, the Conservation Department is staffed with a full complement of conservation professionals: conservators with specialization in paintings, objects, works on paper, and textiles; imaging specialist; research scientist; and mounts designer. While each of the conservation laboratories is unique in its specialty, the range of art works treated in each lab is amazingly broad, reflecting centuries of artistic creation and a multitude of techniques and materials. Occasionally, traditional conservation boundaries intersect when a work of art requires the expertise of multiple conservation specialties. Collaboration between labs and sometimes other museums occurs when a work of art requires the expertise of multiple conservation specialists.
DIA Conservation Departments
The paintings section is concerned primarily with easel paintings, encompassing cultural and geographic diversity: from Perugino's tempera on panel Madonna and Child, to Rembrandt's oil on oak panel The Visitation, and from Van Gogh's oil on canvas Self Portrait, to Andy Warhol's screen print on canvas Double Self Portrait.
The objects section is responsible for the care and treatment of all three-dimensional objects in the collection. The objects, representing most of the world's major cultures, range from ancient Mesopotamian artifacts to contemporary twenty-first century monumental outdoor sculpture. The variety of materials the objects are made from is also broad, including stone, metal, wood, ceramic, glass, bone, plant fibers and plastics.
The preservation of art on paper encompasses the care of prints, drawings, watercolors and photographs. These works on paper can range from European Renaissance drawings to contemporary prints, Islamic Qur’an pages and Asian screens and hanging scrolls.
The textiles section treats a variety of art works executed in a wide array of materials, ranging from large flat objects, such as French eighteenth-century tapestries, to multidimensional pieces, like carpets upholstered furniture and costumes.
The department photographer documents the works of art throughout the conservation process using highly specialized equipment that captures different wavelengths of light, including: visible, x-radiography, ultraviolet and infrared imaging.
The scientific research laboratory is equipped with analytical instrumentation for the investigation of the wide range of materials used by artists: pigments, binding media, metal alloys, fibers, photographic processes, glasses, ceramics and more. The information gained informs the art historical understanding, care, and exhibition of objects in the DIA collection.
Mounts Design and Fabrication
The design of mounts needed to display three-dimensional works of art requires careful consideration of the space in which the object is placed and the materials used to create it.
With support from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.
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