Developing the Australian Survey of Sculpture, Monuments and Outdoor Cultural Material

Donna Midwinter

Abstract

I will review collaborative treatments carried out on five major sculptures at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, including: William Tucker, Prometheus, Yves Klein, Portrait Relief PR3, Anselm Kiefer, Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe, Brett Whiteley, Almost Once, Gilbert Bayes, The Offerings of War and The Offerings of Peace.

Through the questioning process associated with the treatment of these sculptures and others, the Australian Institute for Conservation of Cultural Material’s (AICCM) special interest group “Sculpture, Monuments and Outdoor Cultural Material” (SMOCM), developed. In 1990 conservators began meeting informally to discuss problems associated with outdoor artworks. Our network rapidly grew to include artists, founders, curators, architects and managers of sculpture collections. Due to expanded interests, SMOCM has shifted its emphasis from technical meetings pertaining to scientific and practical methods of conservation, to discussions regarding the value of SMOCM an historical resource and present day influence.

In 1994 Susan Nichols, Director of Save Outdoor Sculpture! participated in AICCM’s 1994 conference “Public Art – Who’s Responsible?”. Mr. Nichols’ enthusiasm inspired the conference delegates to agree to develop strategies to establish an inventory, to care and promote awareness of all publicly accessible outdoor artworks and monuments in Australia.

Institutions and individuals are collaborating to develop an extensive and ongoing database of SMOCM and public awareness program. We have secured funding to employ project co-ordinators in New South Wales and Victoria and have received a seed grant to establish our computerized database.

Although inspired by SOS! and continuing to draw from the American experience, AICCM’s Australian Survey of SMOCM differs in that it includes selected historical artifacts. Also an important component of our survey will be to record information concerning significance in accordance with the Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter.

AICCM is committed to developing this database as a resource for conservators, custodians, artists and students. As part of the documentation process we will involve communities in surveying their local material. The information gathered will become an essential conservation management tool.

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