Keeping the circle unbroken: Treatment of David Smith’s 2 Circle IV

Suzanne Hargrove

Abstract

David Smith’s sculpture 2 Circle IV was prominently displayed at the front of the Toledo Museum of Art when acquired in 2001. Since its creation in 1962 the sculpture was mainly displayed in an outdoor setting. The harsh outdoor environment took its toll on the original yellow, blue, and black paints that Smith hand-applied by brush. Over the years the sculpture was treated in three separate conservation campaigns by three different conservation businesses. In each campaign the conservators treated the sculpture employing the best practice of the time to preserve the remaining original paint. A conservation review of the sculpture in 2005 showed continued surface deterioration of original paint to the extent where it was deemed necessary to treat the sculpture again with the notable decision to move it permanently indoors. This presentation will discuss the co-operation and discussion with the David Smith estate regarding Smith’s working techniques and his paint systems. It will include discussions with the conservators that performed the previous conservation treatments regarding their materials and rationale in treatment of 2 Circle IV.

A new conservation strategy was developed for treating the sculpture with specially formulated paints and techniques to preserve and maintain David Smith’s original paintwork. The latest grant-funded conservation work done by contract paintings conservators working with the museum’s director, curator, and conservator will be reviewed.