26 September 2010

sydney statues project

As conservators, we receive a wide range of requests to assist with many unusual activities associated with cultural and heritage objects.  The Sydney Statues Project which comprises part of Art and About Sydney 2010 was one of these unusual requests.

"We want to dress some of the bronzes in the City", said the voice on the phone,  "Can you help us make sure we don't accidentally cause any damage to the statues?".  And so we became involved in this unusual project to make us look anew at the historic statues dotted around the City of Sydney.

We've worked on many of these statues at various times over the past two decades, undertaking a variety of conservation and maintenance works to the bronze statues and to the stone plinths they rest on.  We've treated corrosion, we've cleaned them and we've rewaxed them.  We've repaired vandalism, removed graffiti, and had small portions of the statues recast after they'd been damaged or stolen.  We've even temporarily relocated some of them, whether to permit other works to occur in the area, or so that the statue could be incorporated in an exhibition of the sculptor's work.  And so we have a pretty good understanding of the issues associated with care of these bronzes. 

So we agreed to work with Michelle McCosker, Imogen Semmler and Alasdair Nicol to help them with their daring Sydney Statues Project.  We worked through a risk analysis and assessment process with them, to identify the most significant risks to the statues.  We developed a methodology for testing and treating the many different fabrics selected by the individual artists so as to minimise risks arising from the colour fastness or flammability of the fabrics.  We advised on methods of installing the costumes, and reviewed the artists' designs to identify any particular risks arising from the design concepts.

And today, I visited the city and saw the statues in their new (albeit temporary) finery.  I chanced upon one of the organised tours - involving performers as tour guides - I'm looking forward to taking one of the tours to get yet another perspective on the statues!!

One of the things I most love about this project is the intent behind it.  We know that one of the essential components of conserving our heritage is communicating the stories about the objects to the public.  And the  Sydney Statues Project does this in a new and fresh way, giving us all the opportunity to experience the significance embodied in these statues froma different perspective.  Or simply to reconnect with something we had taken for granted.  International Conservation Services is proud to be associated with this creative approach to sharing the stories of our cultural heritage.

David West

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