Works of art, both two- and three-dimensional, made with modern acrylic paints can present difficult technical problems for conservators if a cleaning treatment is necessary. Because of the physical properties and composition of acrylic paints, dirt or grime can become tenaciously adhered to the surface. Most artists' acrylic paints, even when dried and aged, can be very sensitive to aqueous cleaning solutions, while non-polar organic solvents are often lacking in cleaning efficacy. In addition, there are a number of areas of uncertainty in the field related to the degree and significance of the effect of cleaning treatments on the original paint components.

Within the conservation field, collective practical wisdom related to the cleaning of acrylic painted surfaces and the results of scientific research have yet to properly coalesce into coherent methodologies for problem diagnosis and problem solving.

The GCI is undertaking activities related to the cleaning of acrylic painted surfaces that seek to integrate ongoing scientific research (much of which springs from the GCI's Modern Paints project and from research leaders such as the Tate and the University of Delaware) with the latest perspectives on cleaning technology within art conservation. Through these activities the GCI hopes to stimulate the development of decision-making frameworks, facilitate a dialogue on the application and evaluation of new treatments, and guide future research on acrylic painted surfaces.


Workshop: Cleaning of Acrylic Painted Surfaces (CAPS) held May 23-26, 2011 at Museum of Modern Art , New York

A collaboration of the GCI Education and Science departments and MoMA, New York

conservation image

The New York CAPS workshop included lectures to present new research and a significant amount of directed hands-on work to explore the theory and practice of cleaning approaches and to evaluate their applicability and efficacy. The workshop schedule provides an overview of the subjects covered during the four and a half day workshop. Practical work with custom prepared samples and paint films was supplemented with case studies based on actual paintings. Frequent group discussions provided a forum to explore a diverse range of subjects including personal treatment experiences, outstanding issues and problems for individuals and the field, and useful priorities for future research.

As with all of the activities in the Science Workshop Series, the 2011 CAPS workshop was designed as a specific training vehicle that seeks to integrate scientific research with the latest perspectives in the field of art conservation.

Instructors for the 2011 CAPS Workshop:
Tiarna Doherty (JPGM)
Tom Learner (GCI)
Bronwyn Ormsby (Tate, London)
Alan Phenix (GCI)
Chris Stavroudis, (freelance conservator, Los Angeles)
Richard Wolbers (Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation)

Colloquium Participants:
Cindy Albertson (Museum of Modern Art)
Sandra Amann (Amann + Estabrook Conservation Associates)
Anny Aviram (Museum of Modern Art)
Julie Barten (Guggenheim Museum)
Jim Coddington (Museum of Modern Art)
Daisy Craddock(Craddock Painting Conservation Inc.)
Dana Cranmer (Cranmer Art Group LLC)
Shawn Digney-Peer (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Michael Duffy (Museum of Modern Art)
Elizabeth Estabrook (Amman + Estabrook Conservation Associates)
Mary Gridley (Cranmer Art Group LLC)
Jennifer Hickey (Museum of Modern Art)
melinda Keefe (The Dow Chemical Company)
Daria Keynan (Daria K. Conservation, LLC)
Jay Krueger (National Gallery of Art)
Leni Potoff (Leni Potoff Inc.)
Suzanne Siano (Modern Art Conservation)
Matthew Skopek (Whitney Museum of American Art)
Carol Stringari (Guggenheim Museum)

2011 CAPS workshop


Colloquium: Cleaning of Acrylic Painted Surfaces (CAPS): Research into Practice held July 7-11, 2009 at Getty Center, Los Angeles

A collaboration of the GCI Education and Science departments and the Paintings Conservation department of the J. Paul Getty Museum (JPGM)

During the colloquium eighteen instructors and invited participants—conservation scientists and conservators from institutions and practices in the US and Europe—critically evaluated current ideas and practices relating to the cleaning of acrylic painted surfaces. Lectures presenting new research on the subject were complemented with hands-on cleaning and evaluation exercises applied to a variety of materials (including specially fabricated samples and paint films, and acrylic paintings). Group discussions were used to explore subjects such as current trends in cleaning of acrylic painted surfaces and pressing needs in terms of research and practice.

Conservation image Conservation image
Enlarge Enlarge

The colloquium participants also reflected upon the specific learning needs of paintings conservators dealing with contemporary acrylic painted surfaces and how the subsequent workshop might best address these needs through specific types of learning experiences.

Facilitators for the 2009 CAPS Colloquium:
Tiarna Doherty (JPGM)
Tom Learner (GCI)
Bronwyn Ormsby (Tate, London)
Alan Phenix (GCI)
Chris Stavroudis, (freelance conservator, Los Angeles)
Richard Wolbers (Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation)

Colloquium Participants:
Sandra Amman (freelance conservator, NYC)
Grazia de Cesare (Central Institute for Restoration, Rome)
Michael Duffy (MOMA, New York)
Jay Krueger (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC)
Alison Murray (Queens University, Kingston, Canada)
Barbara Ramsay (ARTEX Fine Art Services, MD)
Stephan Schaefer (conservation educator, Lisbon)
Suzanne Siano (freelance conservator, New York)
Greg Smith (Indianapolis Museum of Art)
Patricia Smithen (Tate, London)
Tatyana Thompson (freelance conservator, Los Angeles)
Philip Young (freelance conservator, London)

Last updated: May 2011