DOCUMENTING PAINTED SURFACES FOR OUTDOOR PAINTED SCULPTURE
A Manual of Laboratory and Field Test Methods
Julia Langenbacher and Rachel Rivenc
with contributions from Anna Flavin
Publicación del Getty Conservation Institute
Outdoor painted sculptures are exposed to harsh and uncontrolled environments and thus are highly prone to rapid deterioration and a wide range of paint coat failures. Treating these objects frequently involves the full repainting of the sculpture, which might be preceded by the removal of all earlier coats of paint, or stripping. This approach, which would be considered extreme or unusual in other areas of conservation, is common for outdoor painted sculptures, not only because there is often an expectation that they should look pristine, but also because the paint also fulfills the crucial role of protecting the substrate.
Sculptures will often undergo several cycles of re-painting in their lifetime. It is therefore of utmost importance to ensure the new paints provide a surface that closely reflects the work’s original appearance (color, texture gloss levels).
As a response to this problem, the Getty Conservation Institute, in collaboration with a number of artists’ estates, foundations and studios, is implementing a system of paint coupons for outdoor painted sculptures to document their original or intended appearance to act as the target appearance for conservators to match when implementing a conservation treatment. Paint swatches or coupons create a reliable physical reference of paint appearance and can be accurately documented for future reference.
To aid in the production of these coupons, the GCI has published, Documenting Painted Surfaces for Outdoor Painted Sculptures. These guidelines are based on ASTM standards, paint industry practices, and consultations with experts in the fields of industrial paints and outdoor painted sculpture conservation, for the production and documentation of paint coupons.
The guidelines were developed with the goal of producing EFS-approved paint coupons to serve as references for intended appearance and for long-term storage but can be used by anyone (conservators, artists and their studios, caretakers, and collectors) wishing to document a paint surface in a reproducible manner, for example, on the occasion of a repainting or when commissioning a new outdoor painted sculpture.