CONSERVATION PERSPECTIVES
FALL 2018
CONSERVATION PERSPECTIVES
GCI News
CONSERVATION OF LOUISE NEVELSON'S CITY ON THE HIGH MOUNTAIN

Louise Nevelson's City on the High Mountain (1983)—a complex, large-scale assemblage of found metal pieces painted black, in the collection of the Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, New York—is the first case study resulting from a six-year partnership between the GCI and the US Army Research Lab (ARL) to develop a new generation of outdoor coatings with enhanced performance suitable for outdoor sculpture. This case study is part of the GCI's Outdoor Sculpture project.

Low-gloss, or matte, coatings have been extensively used by artists since the 1960s. For outdoor painted sculpture, however, matte coatings are problematic in terms of durability. Unavoidably overloaded with pigments and flattening agents, they contain a minimal amount of resin, resulting rapidly in degradation phenomena such as fading, streaking, marring, and overall disfiguration. Because the US Army also has a strong interest in developing durable matte black coatings for use on military assets, the GCI has been collaborating with the ARL, working with a range of artists' estates and foundations to tailor ARL's latest coating

The Louise Nevelson Foundation was the first to approve the paint to replicate Nevelson's signature black matte paint. City on the High Mountain, which had exhibited signs of paint coatings failure, was selected for the case study after a series of application tests. In November 2017 City on the High Mountain was deinstalled from Storm King and taken to American Stripping Company (ASCo), a paint application facility in Virginia. The treatment included stripping the previous coats of paints, surface preparation, and repainting. At each step of the treatment, the team—which included a private conservator, a paint applicator from ASCo, the paint formulator from ARL, and GCI and Storm King staff— deliberated on the best treatment options and methods. The team is pleased with the aesthetic appeal of the new paint and optimistic about its performance and durability. The sculpture was reinstalled at Storm King in early fall 2018, and its performance will be monitored over the next few years. The project's long-term goal is to expand the color and gloss palette available to fit the requirements of other artists.