The DAI exhibition shows how fine art is preserved

But if those paintings, sculptures or photographs could talk, they would tell a very different story.

Exactly what happens to a work of art when it is not seen is usually not known to the public. But the folks at the Dayton Art Institute came up with a great idea: Why not demonstrate to visitors exactly what goes into preserving art so it can be enjoyed for generations to come?

“Art for the Ages: Conservation at DAI” will be on display until September 11 and offers a whole new way of looking at art. If you’re looking for an unusual outing for family or friends this summer, this unique exhibit is a great way to entertain and educate.

“It’s really no different than taking care of our bodies,” says Peter Doebler, the Kettering Museum’s curator of Asian art who served as lead curator for the exhibit. He says that over the years art is susceptible to aging, wear and tear and accidents just like we are.

The various arrangements are described and illustrated throughout the galleries. You’ll see a wide variety of art from the museum’s permanent collection – 50 examples in all, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, ceramics, furniture, and even a mask and lace. They come from a wide variety of cultures and time periods.

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Many of the objects have not been seen for years due to their fragile state.

But thanks to generous donors and grants, a number of different conservation projects have been completed in recent years, including a large Korean screen that was sent to South Korea for conservation. Other examples? “The Joy of Water,” one of DAI’s most popular sculptures, and a Japanese scroll that was rolled up and had wrinkles in it.

Those “fixes” became the inspiration for the current special exhibit.

“Bottle with Chrysanthemum Design” is one of 50 works on display in the Dayton Art Institute’s Art for the Ages: Conservation at DAI exhibit. The conservation work on this part involved removing previous repair work and applying new techniques to repair cracks in the building. CONTRIBUTE

“Bottle with Chrysanthemum Design” is one of 50 works on display in the Dayton Art Institute’s Art for the Ages: Conservation at DAI exhibit. The conservation work on this part involved removing previous repair work and applying new techniques to repair cracks in the building. CONTRIBUTE

Each of the objects in this show is analyzed – not by the art movement it represents – but by the materials that were used to create it and how it can best be preserved. You’ll see this demonstrated through videos, photos and gallery demos. The museum is also planning a number of special programs.

Doebler says it’s important to distinguish between “restoration” and “conservation.” When a work of art is “repaired”, the idea is to make it look like new again. In contrast, “conservation” art is designed to alter it as little as possible in order to stabilize damage and deterioration and, at the same time, make it visually presentable. The process used for conservation must be able to be restored in the future, therefore different materials from the original are usually used. The emphasis in the art world these days, Doebler says, is definitely on conservation rather than restoration.

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As you can imagine, repairing any type of artwork requires different training and specialization. Although larger museums—such as those in Cincinnati and Cleveland—often have conservatories or conservation laboratories on their premises, the DAI consults and hires experts from around the world to work on its treasures. A conservator may focus on paintings, for example, or on textiles, stone, ceramics or wood. Each specialty requires training and knowledge of traditional as well as newer technology—microscopes, ultraviolet and X-ray fluorescence, and even CT scans. The object may require treatment with everything from adhesives to fillers and varnishes. Along the way, the entire process is documented and photographed for future reference.

How is art damaged?

You can probably guess some of the ways in which a work of art can be damaged, even unintentionally. Perhaps a visitor comes too close; perhaps light or temperature affects it; insects may also be responsible or may be damaged when moving. It may be moldy or it may have been originally mounted on something that isn’t as good for it.

Serena Urry, Chief Conservator of the Cincinnati Art Museum, has worked on a number of paintings for the Dayton Art Institute. She will speak at DAI on July 24. CONTRIBUTE

Serena Urry, Chief Conservator of the Cincinnati Art Museum, has worked on a number of paintings for the Dayton Art Institute.  She will speak at DAI on July 24.  CONTRIBUTE

Serena Urry, Chief Conservator of the Cincinnati Art Museum, has worked on a number of paintings for the Dayton Art Institute. She will speak at DAI on July 24. CONTRIBUTE

I can relate. After putting our family photos in boxes for many years, I was determined to get organized and put them into scrapbooks. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that the sticky pages of the notebook were ruining the photos and that they would have been much better in their own shoe boxes. The same things can happen with works of art.

This is why we are asked not to eat or drink in the galleries. Wherever I start to take notes with a pen in a museum, a guard or curator immediately reminds me that only pencils can be used.

Step by step

It is worth taking the time to read the wall text which guides you through the process of preserving each item on display. A good example is “Dayton From Steel’s Hill. ” It’s one of the earliest known Dayton paintings and was painted in 1844. You’ll learn about the damage the poor painting suffered over the years and the magic it took to bring it back to life. A termite infestation had damaged a chest of 19th century gifted by Virginia Kettering with much of the wood being eaten away; it now looks beautiful.

Conservation work on “Dayton from Steele’s Hill” by Thomas Worthington Whittredge included cleaning the painting, repairing damaged areas, and correcting previous improper repairs. It is part of the exhibition “Art for the Ages: Conservation at DAI”. CONTRIBUTE

Conservation work in

Conservation work on “Dayton from Steele’s Hill” by Thomas Worthington Whittredge included cleaning the painting, repairing damaged areas, and correcting previous improper repairs. It is part of the exhibition “Art for the Ages: Conservation at DAI”. CONTRIBUTE

You may remember how amazing it was when DAI’s painting of an old man’s head dating from around 1612 was examined under UV light, revealing a second head under the paint! The theory is that it was painted much later by someone other than the artist to change it to a portrait and make it more salable. DAI decided to return the painting to the artist’s original composition.

Conservation work on Pier Francesco Bissolo’s The Holy Family with a Donor in a Landscape included removing yellowed varnish, cleaning the painting, painting over details that appear to have been added at a later time, and applying a new varnish . The painting will be exhibited in the Art for the Ages: Conservation at DAI exhibition. CONTRIBUTE

Conservation work at Pier Francesco Bissolo's

Conservation work on Pier Francesco Bissolo’s The Holy Family with a Donor in a Landscape included removing yellowed varnish, cleaning the painting, painting over details that appear to have been added at a later time, and applying a new varnish . The painting will be exhibited in the Art for the Ages: Conservation at DAI exhibition. CONTRIBUTE

Serena Urry, Chief Conservator at the Cincinnati Art Museum, will speak at DAI on July 24. Since taking up the post in 2012, she has curated a number of paintings for Dayton, many of which are on display. “It’s been a real pleasure to work so closely with some of DAI’s great paintings,” she says. “It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of my job, being able to spend quality time with a painting and helping each work look its best for museum visitors.”

While Urry congratulates the DAI for creating such an interesting exhibition, she admits that it is a strange experience to see her work on display like this. “Painting conservators usually work so hard,” she says, “to make sure our efforts aren’t so obvious!”

Pier Francesco Bissolo’s “Holy Family with a Donor in a Landscape” as it appeared during the conservation process. CONTRIBUTE

Pier Francesco Bissolo's

Pier Francesco Bissolo’s “Holy Family with a Donor in a Landscape” as it appeared during the conservation process. CONTRIBUTE

HOW CAN I GO:

What: “Art for the Ages: Conservation at DAI”

Where: Art Institute of Dayton, 456 Belmonte Park, N. Dayton

When: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Wednesday; Thursday from 11 am to 8 pm; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 5 p.m. · Until September 11, 2022

Acceptance: $15 for adults; $10 for seniors, active military and groups of 10 or more; $5 for college students and youth, free for children 6 and under and members

Parking: free

For more information: www. daytonartinstitute.org (937) 223-4278

Similar programs:

  • Gallery Demo: Katie Patton Bell, Conservative. Saturday, July 9, 1-4 p.m.; Friday, July 15, 1-4 p.m.; Thursday, July 21, 5-8 p.m
  • Curatorial conversation Through Zoom: Thursday, July 14, 1:30–2:30 p.m. In Person: Saturday, August 13, 1:30–2:30 p.m.
  • Language of Art Through Zoom: Saturday, July 16, 12–1 p.m. In Person: Thursday, July 28, 12–1 p.m.
  • Speaker Series: Serena Urry, Chief Curator, Cincinnati Art Museum Sunday, July 24, 2-3 p.m.
  • Kintsugi Community Workshops Saturday, July 30, 10:30-12:00 Thursday, August 25, 4:30-6:00 p.m.

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