I bet most people would not have the patience to be an art conservator. I’ll go even further to say that almost no one would want to embark on the journey of restoring a Jackson Pollock. But an adventurous soul, Nicholas Dorman, the Seattle Art Museum’s chief conservator, has done just that. While the Seattle Art Museum gears up to get the work back on display, Dorman reveals a bit about what needed to be done and how it impacts the viewing experience.
Back in 2010, Bank of America launched the Art Conservation Project which has gone on to fund the conservation of 57 historically or culturally significant works around the world. Pollock’s Sea Change was the first U.S. project to be funded by the program and the museum announced on March 6th, 2012 that work would begin on the painting.
Dorman spent over one year working on the project and estimates from start to finish, more than 200 man-hours went into restoring the painting. Using a swab the size of a Q-tip, Dorman removed a layer of synthetic resin varnish which was applied in the 1970’s. If untreated, the varnish could destroy the painting over time and had already begun to dull the appearance of the work. So inch by inch, day by day, more and more of the true colors were revealed.
Dorman discusses the importance of this piece, as it reflects a period in the artist’s life where the “drip technique” was first employed. There were two stages in the painting process, one a more traditional approach and the other more innovative and radical. Pollock would brush paint on a canvas then would lay the work down on the floor and drip and pour thick layers of paint on top. While Dorman says removing the varnish had very little effect visually, it does allow the viewer to easily see the separation of these two distinct application processes. Nevertheless, Nicholas Dorman is doing what it takes to ensure the long-term survival of the work.
On a final (side)note, Sea Change only made it to the Seattle Art Museum’s collection since it failed to find a buyer when it was offered by Peggy Guggenheim back in the late 40s/early 50s… the asking price: $650! Today, Pollock’s works sell for millions as his No. 5, 1948 sold for $140 million in 2006 (Private) and earlier this year No. 19, 1948 set a new auction record for the artist when it surpassed $58 million at Christie’s.
See original article here.