Jannis Kounellis after conservationJannis Kounellis after conservation
Detail of flaking paint on artwork by Jannis KounellisDetail of flaking paint on artwork by Jannis Kounellis
Picasso ceramic with minor damage from transport on the basePicasso ceramic with minor damage from transport on the base
Detail of damage to the base of a Picasso ceramicDetail of damage to the base of a Picasso ceramic
Detail of Picasso ceramic base after restorationDetail of Picasso ceramic base after restoration
Picasso ceramic after restorationPicasso ceramic after restoration
Detail sculpture and the broken eggs caused by mishandlingDetail sculpture and the broken eggs caused by mishandling
Detail of eggs after restorationDetail of eggs after restoration
Stencil on canvasStencil on canvas
This beautiful powdery blue pigment on Yves Klein sculpture is easily damagedThis beautiful powdery blue pigment on Yves Klein sculpture is easily damaged
Detail base from a Yves Klein sculpture before restorationDetail base from a Yves Klein sculpture before restoration
Detail of a Yves Klein sculpture after restorationDetail of a Yves Klein sculpture after restoration
Yves Klein sculpture after restorationYves Klein sculpture after restoration
Detail of bubble wrap marks in the varnishDetail of bubble wrap marks in the varnish
Painting by Alexander Zakharov after removal of disfigured varnish and varnish replacementPainting by Alexander Zakharov after removal of disfigured varnish and varnish replacement
  • Jannis Kounellis after conservation
  • Detail of flaking paint on artwork by Jannis Kounellis
  • Picasso ceramic with minor damage from transport on the base
  • Detail of damage to the base of a Picasso ceramic
  • Detail of Picasso ceramic base after restoration
  • Picasso ceramic after restoration
  • Detail sculpture and the broken eggs caused by mishandling
  • Detail of eggs after restoration
  • Stencil on canvas
  • This beautiful powdery blue pigment on Yves Klein sculpture is easily damaged
  • Detail base from a Yves Klein sculpture before restoration
  • Detail of a Yves Klein sculpture after restoration
  • Yves Klein sculpture after restoration
  • Detail of bubble wrap marks in the varnish
  • Painting by Alexander Zakharov after removal of disfigured varnish and varnish replacement

The relatively recent use of ‘non-traditional’ art materials pose challenges for conservators. They are often completely unconventional and cover everything from monochrome paintings, glossy or mirror-like surfaces, mixed media compositions, supports of any sort – both rigid and soft, smooth or porous, to name but a few. However, contemporary art is a statement of our time, a dialogue with ourselves and a record for future generations, yet its survival depends not only on our understanding of the properties of all these different materials, but their agents of deterioration as well. As a result, contemporary art requires a much wider scope of technical knowledge than that required by traditional conservation.

At Plowden and Smith we have been privileged to work on contemporary art for the past 50 years and are one of the first organisations to conserve contemporary art and to appreciate the diversity of the skills required. In that time, our breath of knowledge has grown and we now conserve the work of some of the greatest artists of our time. We have conserved and restored works by Dame Barbara Hepworth, Yves Klein, Dan Flavin, Henry Moore, Naum Gabo, Eduardo Chillida, Alberto Giacometti, Duchamp, Giuseppe Penone, Kusame and Sol Le Witt.

When conserving contemporary art we make sure that our treatments satisfy some fundamentals:

-  Identifying all the constituent materials and understanding how they were applied or mixed

- Gathering detailed information as to their alteration over time

- Preserving the artists intent with discussions with the artist, if possible, or carrying out detailed research

We also believe that the best way of limiting degradation and extending the life expectancy of intrinsically fragile, unstable or incompatible materials is to maintain the best possibly conditions during storage and display. To help with this, we also offer a range of services including; condition checking with reports, advice on environmental control, scheduled maintenance work and collection surveys.

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