Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Conservator David Graves talks about Princely Treasures

David Graves in his studio at the Art Gallery of WA
David Graves has been the Object Conservator at the Art Gallery of Western Australia for the past 4 years. When it comes to the State’s Collection, David is one of the people ensuring that our Collection is protected and preserved for future generations to enjoy. His skills and expertise are also called upon for big traveling exhibitions and items on loan in the Gallery’s care. I sat down with David over coffee to see if I could get some sort of insight and understanding of the conservation work involved for Princely Treasures.

David’s experience and expertise are extensive and the Gallery is extremely fortunate to have someone with his skill base on staff. Prior to his position at the Gallery, David worked on archeological digs in Australia and overseas, stabilising items after they were extracted from the ground. Pretty cool stuff if you ask me!

On a Princely Treasures specific note, David’s explanation was clear and informative and I found the conservation requirements for big exhibitions, such as the following, to be most interesting. Here is what I learnt…

When the discussions and negotiations first started taking place between the Gallery and the lending institution, in this case the Victoria and Albert Museum; conservation is on board from the get go. In the context of Princely Treasures it was essential that David was aware of any specific conservation requirements relating to these delicate pieces; for example the enormous tapestry hanging in the concourse. Due to the size of the artwork, much discussion surrounded the installation of this tapestry called The March. This piece could not be hung in its usual way, which typically involved unrolling the tapestry on the floor and then raising it into position. Due to the space constraints our team (pictured below) needed to unroll the tapestry and then re-roll in on its long edge so it could be raised directly from the roll. It is requirements such as this that are considered when art works are chosen for display and also in the design of the exhibition space.

The team preparing to hang the tapestry next to the exhibition entrance

(image credit)
Possibly designed by Philipp De Hondt (1683 - 1741); made by judocus de Vos (1661 - 1734) 
The March
Brussels, 1718-19Tapestry woven in wool
V&A: T.283-1972
Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

There are several tapestries on display including the Bed-Cover, Woven Silk and Vincennes’ or ‘July’ from the tapestry series known as ‘The Royal Residences’ or ‘The Months’ all of which are equally as delicate and difficult to install. David also revealed that the two fans on display were so delicate that they required installation by a specialist from the V&A .Which doesn’t surprise me at all as they are so intricate and so old; I would be terrified that I’d damage them just by breathing to close to them.

As eager as I was for a story about a scandal surrounding the exhibition’s installation, I was assured that in large traveling exhibitions, such as this, the conservator works in a more preventative capacity. His role is to ensure nothing happens to the pieces, which I guess does make sense. One could only imagine the ensuing backlash if a piece arrived in pristine condition but was returned missing its lid.

If you have any questions or comments please send them through and I’ll pass them over to our all knowing Object Conservator.

Coromandel Coast, 1725
Resist- and mordant-dyed cotton, quilted
V&A: IS.17-1976
Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1 comment:

  1. So nice..
    The gallery is composed of four major sections, the main gallery with its general selection of art work, a separate featured artist exhibit area and two business sections for building frames and art restoration.