From May 16 through 19, 2006, Tate Modern in London hosted "Modern Paints Uncovered," a symposium co-organized by Tate, the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., and the Getty Conservation Institute. The symposium was the first to ever focus exclusively on conservation issues surrounding modern paints and marked a milestone for the organizing institutions—principal partners in the ongoing collaborative research project Contemporary Art Research: Modern Paints.

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Tom Learner, senior conservation scientist at Tate, delivered the opening day keynote address, speaking about modern paint formulations and the way artists explored and exploited the distinct optical and handling characteristics of these paints. On the second day, an overview of the ways recent developments in polymer science, pigment development, and analytical instrumentation have contributed to the current state of paint technology was provided by Stuart Croll, professor of coating and polymeric materials at North Dakota State University in Fargo, in his keynote address. The proceedings on the third day began with an address by Jim Coddington, chief conservator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, on the practical and ethical challenges faced by conservators of modern painted surfaces.

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Symposium presentation topics varied widely, from recent advances in analytical techniques and protocols, to experimentation with novel practical treatments. A number of presentations focused on research into the effects of cleaning acrylic emulsion paints, the most widely used synthetic paint since the early 1960s. A dedicated poster session was held on the final day.

A series of supplemental tours to the Winsor and Newton paint factory, Cornelissen paint shop, and the Russell and Chapple canvas suppliers offered participants additional information on artists materials, paint formulations, and manufacturing techniques. Wrapping up the symposium were a series of public events including a panel discussion between artists, curators, and conservators on how each considers the surface of a painting or painted object, and a discussion between British pop artist Sir Peter Blake and newscaster and Tate trustee Jon Snow.

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With more than two hundred and fifty participants from over thirty-five countries in attendance, including conservation scientists, conservators, paint formulators and manufacturers, art historians, museum curators and artists, "Modern Paints Uncovered" provided a unique forum for discussing the latest analytical, scientific, practical, and historical research. This sharing of information and ensuing dialogue generated ideas that will help shape future scientific research. The symposium proceedings will be published by the Getty Conservation Institute.

Last updated: July 2006