Julia Langenbacher and Rachel Rivenc, with contributions from Anna Flavin
Outdoor painted sculptures are exposed to harsh and uncontrolled environments and are thus 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 removing 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 fills the crucial role of protecting the substrate.
Sculptures will often undergo several cycles of repainting in their lifetime. It is therefore of utmost importance to ensure that new paints provide a surface that closely reflects the work’s original appearance (e.g., color, texture, and gloss level).
As a response to this problem, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), in collaboration with a number of artists’ estates, foundations, and studios (EFS), is implementing a system of paint coupons for outdoor painted sculptures to document their original or intended appearance 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 (American Society for Testing and Materials) 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 as references for intended appearance and long-term storage, but they can also 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 repainting or when commissioning a new outdoor painted sculpture.
This publication is available free of charge at: www.getty.edu/conservation/publications_resources/pdf_publications/documenting_painted.html