Artist Research Project: Tony Smith Roundtable

Tony Smith's Smug

                               Tony Smith’s Smug at Glenstone in Potomac, MD

On September 27th and 28th, the second component of The Artist Research Project: Tony Smith was launched when a select group of experts from around the country gathered in Washington D.C. to discuss specific conservation issues related to Tony Smith’s outdoor painted sculpture.  The group of 15 included a representative of the artist’s estate, an art historian, a collector, a paint scientist, a conservation scientist, metal fabricators, and conservators. We began the first day with looking at several sculptures on the mall, including Throwback, Moondog and Wandering Rocks – three sculptures that have been treated — and ending with Smug, an enormous sculpture located at Glenstone, in Potomac, MD that is in need of conservation. It was incredibly useful to see them in their different environments and how they interacted with the surrounding landscape of plants, buildings, other sculptures, and were received by people.

These sculptures were chosen to be particular case studies that were used to generate focused discussion at a roundtable the following day. That day began by putting the works into historical context with a short lecture, viewing several videos documenting the fabrication and siting of several of Smith’s works along with a documented interview with Smith. This was followed by a lively discussion surrounding the history and past treatments of the works. Topics ranged from technical (gloss levels) to the practical (application methods).  There was also discussion of ongoing research on developing paint systems and other research needs. This was all weighed against the preferences of the artist and how he might define a successful treatment.

The meeting ended by a presentation of the crowd-sourcing component of the project already underway, as well as examples of artist-centered web platforms for sharing information.  We wrapped up the day having a sense of direction for how Smug can best be conserved and for moving toward creating a collaborative conservation resource.

To learn more about the Artist Research Project, click here.

To learn more about the Tony Smith Wiki Project, click here.

Kendra Roth

Objects Conservator, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Program Committee Chair, VoCA

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