Installing Julian Opie

I am now two months in to the internship, and have just about recovered from the various tours of the building and the collections, meeting all the myriad of very friendly and helpful staff that keep the museum running smoothly (I am sorry if I still can’t quite remember everyone’s name), and getting to grips with retouching a painting dubbed ‘Nelly’. Now seems a good time to sit down and share a little of my experience so far, and how we, as conservators, go about helping during the installation process.

My first few weeks coincided with a busy time at the museum, with the installation of Julian Opie: Collected Works; Birds of Paradise: Plumes & Feathers in Fashion and Six Masterpieces of the Spanish Golden Age exhibitions. This afforded me the chance to assist with the logistics of handling and hanging a wide variety of works, as well as specifically offering the chance to condition check the incoming Julian Opie pieces.

Felicia 1 – after uncrating. Copyright Julian Opie

Condition checking in basic terms (as it says on the tin), is where the artwork is examined in order to ascertain its current physical state. In this instance, as an incoming loan, the artwork is examined against a pre-written condition report, supplied by the lending institution. The report consists of both a detailed written description,  which details the structure and condition of the piece, and an accompanying photographic record.

Condition checking Felicia 1
Condition checking Felicia 1

My job was to examine the artwork against the existing record using tools such as magnification (Optivisers) and raking light (a light source directed at an oblique angle across the surface) to determine if any conditional changes had occurred, such as new instances of damage or the furtherance of any pre-existing conditions. Any changes that I observed where then added to the pre-existing condition report, in order to enable an accurate record to be kept tracking the state of the artwork at both specific times and locations.

An example of the condition reports
An example of the format of a condition report (text removed). Copyright Julian Opie

I will be sad to have to repeat the process again towards the end of February, when these fantastic artworks are due to leave the museum, so please make sure to see them while you can.

Julian Opie: Collected Works, showing now until 22nd February 2015.

By, Paul Turner, Painting Conservation Intern

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