Artsy.net / How Conservators Keep Masterworks of Outdoor Sculpture Safe
Outdoor sculptures seem to incite an instinctive invitation to climb, swing, slide, touch. (Playground nostalgia?) As protector of the sculptures, it’s never pleasant to have to ruin the fun by reminding our patrons to look, not touch. We know you adore our sculptures as much as we do, and that the temptation to interact is strong! Which is why we love this piece by artsy.net, in which Laumeier Curator, Dana Turkovic was recently interviewed for, relating to this very topic.
“Beyond the vicissitudes of the weather, external sources of deterioration come from materials both synthetic and natural. Rubbed-off sunscreen from a visitor’s curious hand is a nightmare for conservators; it’s especially difficult to remove. Dana Turkovic, curator at Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis, Missouri, mentioned that bird poop requires a nonionic cleanser (gentler than everyday soaps).”
“Sometimes, however, a certain amount of material corruption is actually integral to a sculpture. At Laumeier, sculpture-artist, Mary Miss incorporated an abandoned 1929 swimming pool into a larger wood, stone, steel, and concrete structure that functions as a meeting place comprised of stairs, a raised platform, and a shaded pavilion.
The functional sculpture, Pool Complex: Orchard Valley (1983–85), hosts poetry readings, cocktails, and special events. Such use has weakened the architecture over the decades, and the park must be cognizant of safety hazards. Miss has visited Laumeier to consult on strategies for upkeep, and the discussion is ongoing. “She really feels strongly about it maintaining its natural life,” said Turkovic. The park may yet have to compromise on aesthetics to ensure visitor safety.”
It’s true, indefinitely preserving, maintaining and restoring outdoor art that may or may not be functional presents a level of challenge unique to most modern art museums, where the “No Touching” rule is dually understood and enforced. Evolution and upkeep of the piece must be constant considerations. However, the hard work pays off through joy and satisfaction of the visitor experience!