By Naomi Patterson
Two Louise Nevelson painted sculptures, Dream House XLIII (1973) and Untitled (c. early 1980s), both gifts of the American Art Foundation to the Miami Art Museum, were the first works to be accessioned to the Museum’s collection in 1996. These significant works hold an important place for us because they were the first works to arrive at the Miami Art Museum and heralded a strong foundation from which the Museum could grow. As they are readied to move and be displayed at the Museum’s Herzog and de Meuron-designed home on Biscayne Bay, the Pérez Art Museum Miami, they also highlight the collection’s journey to its new home.
The Museum’s primary concern in caring for and conserving these works is to abide by the highest standards of the field. To ensure this, we hired the finest team of conservators—Stephanie Hornbeck, a sculpture conservator with Caryatid Conservation Services, Inc., who will be working closely with Rustin Levenson, a painting conservator from Art Conservation Associates. Over the course of several months, I worked with both the sculpture and painting conservators, as they devised the most appropriate treatment proposal for the two sculptures. This project is a unique opportunity for two prestigious conservators to collaborate—deliberating over different materials and working to create concerted conservation techniques.
In addition to contracting these two conservators, the Museum’s registration department conducted intense research on the pieces and worked in tandem with the development department to apply for the Bank of America Art Conservation Project Grant, to finance the conservation treatment and the production of a documentary film about the project.
After several months of compiling information through research and careful observation of the sculptures at the Museum, it was time to move the two fragile works to the Caryatid Conservation Services studio in Miami. Artex Fine Art Services, a fine-arts packing and shipping company based in Davie, Florida, was hired to design and build the crates, and transport them to Caryatid Conservation. The works required special attention to ensure that their journey from the Museum to the conservation studio would not further compromise their delicate condition. Both works arrived at the studio in mid-May, to be unpacked and allow conservation to begin.
It will take Stephanie and Rustin four months to restore the sculptures, treating both the structure and surface of the works. Once restored, Dream House XLIII and Untitled will be installed at the Pérez Art Museum Miami for the inaugural opening, which is slated for December.
This weekly blog will run on Wednesdays this summer and feature guest bloggers from the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), Caryatid Conservation Services, Inc., The M Network and ARTEX Fine Art Services. Next week, look forward to painting conservator Rustin Levenson’s blog post about the importance of testing in developing conservation treatment protocol.
Naomi Patterson is Senior Registrar at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, formerly the Miami Art Museum.
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