Launched in 1982, our conservation program is one of the longest continuously operating programs of its kind in the country.
The Association for Public Art’s conservation work this year for outdoor sculptures in Philadelphia involved a little bit of everything: laser treatments, power washing, new wood slats, fresh paint, the classic bronze waxing – even lipstick and gum removal. Each spring, we provide conservation treatment for 30+ artworks and take on special projects as needed – i.e., a part or material needs repair or replacing, or the area needs maintenance for aesthetic or safety reasons. Launched in 1982, our conservation program is one of the longest continuously operating programs of its kind in the country.
Conservation projects we took on this year include The Labor Monument: Philadelphia’s Tribute to the American Worker (2010) by John Kindness, Sleeping Woman (1991) by Stephen Berg and Tom Chimes, The Wedges (1970) by Robert Morris, and Maja (1942) by Gerhard Marcks.
The Labor Monument: Philadelphia’s Tribute to the American Worker (2010) by John Kindness
For The Labor Monument in Southwest Philadelphia’s Elmwood Park, the bronze work button tables were cleaned and protected with a special wax coating, and the old wood slats on the nearby benches were replaced with brand new ones. This work was performed by Fairmount Park Conservancy (benches) and Tatti Art Conservation (bronze buttons).
The Labor Monument was commissioned as part of the Association’s New•Land•Marks program, and made possible through the efforts of Cathy Brady, a leader in Philadelphia’s labor community.
Sleeping Woman (1991) by Tom Chimes and Stephen Berg
The 1,125′-long Sleeping Woman poem atop the Schuylkill River retaining wall had become obscured by layers of of dirt and weeds, hiding much of the painted text by Tom Chimes and Stephen Berg. The Association engaged All Seasons Landscaping Co to power wash the stone, making the words much clearer.
The artists intended for this work to be ephemeral – fading and wearing away over time as in nature – but now we can fully see and appreciate the bits of text that remain and how the work has aged.
The Wedges (1970) by Robert Morris
The Wedges by Robert Morris, one of the founders of minimalism, is a painted steel sculpture on Kelly Drive that was installed by the Association for Public Art in 1985. The eight steel wedges were in need of a paint job, which was carried out by Tatti Art Conservation. You can hear our interview with Robert Morris (1931-2018) here.
Maja (1942) by Gerhard Marcks
After many years in storage, Gerhard Marcks’ bronze Maja sculpture – which stood atop the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps for decades – was reinstalled on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway by the Association for Public Art, which purchased the sculpture in 1949. But before it could return to public view, Maja required special conservation to tackle corrosion and protect the work from further deterioration.
Performed by Adam Jenkins Conservation Services, LLC, a state-of-the-art laser treatment was used to delicately and meticulously remove green streaks of corrosion on the bronze, creating a more even surface coloration. Then a special wax coating was applied, which saturates and darkens the bronze and provides a more unified surface appearance. The wax will also protect the artwork while it’s installed outdoors. The goal was to restore the work while still showing the color variation the bronze had acquired over time – signaling that this is not a contemporary sculpture.
Other Works Receiving Treatment
• Sculptures along Kelly Drive, including Augustus Saint-Gauden’s James A. Garfield Monument, John J. Boyle’s Stone Age in America, Randolph Rogers’ Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Chester French’s General Ulysses S. Grant, Frederic Remington’s Cowboy, and sculptures in the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial
• Sculptures on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, including Sylvia Shaw Judson’s Mary Dyer, Henry Moore’s Three-Way Piece Number One: Points, Barbara Hepworth’s Rock Form (Porthcurno), and Alexander Stirling Calder’s Shakespeare Memorial
• Sculptures around the Philadelphia Museum of Art, including August Kiss’s Mounted Amazon Attacked by a Panther and Albert Wolff’s The Lion Fighter
• Sculptures in Rittenhouse Square, including Antoine-Louis Barye’s Lion Crushing a Serpent and Paul Manship’s Duck Girl
• Sculptures around the Fairmount Park Horticulture Center, including Martin Puryear’s Pavilion in the Trees, Edward Stauch’s Night, Alexander Milne Calder’s Major General George Gordon Meade, and Alexander Stirling Calder’s Sundial
• Sculptures in West Philadelphia, including Frank Edwin Elwell’s Dickens and Little Nell and Jacob Epstein’s Social Consciousness
• Other locations: Jody Pinto’s Fingerspan in the Wissahickon, Jo Davidson’s Walt Whitman in South Philadelphia, Daniel Chester French’s Law, Prosperity and Power at the Mann Center in West Fairmount Park, and Ed Levine’s Embodying Thoreau: dwelling, sitting, watching