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Lydia Beerkens, Go With the Flow – Scientific Research and Conservation Options for a Floating Glass Fibre Polyester Sculpture and Considerations of Artist’s Intent

Further information on Plastics: Looking at the Future & Learning from the Past, Victoria & Albert Museum, London 23–25 May 2007 10.15–17.30

Date: May 24, 2007

Marta Pan’s ‘Sculpture flottante, Otterlo – Otterlo’ was commissioned by the Kröller-Müller Museum for a pond at the entrance of the new sculpture garden that opened June 1961. The floating sculpture is made out of glass fibre reinforced polyester resin and is now coated with white paint layers. The top is connected to the base by a joint with a ball bearing enabling the top to turn around 360 degrees independently from the bottom part when activated by the wind. This smoothly shaped lightweight white water figure it is a landmark to the public and an icon for the sculpture garden and for generations of visitors of the Kröller-Müller Museum. In 2004 a research into the condition of the artwork started because the turning of the upper part failed partly, the floating position proved to be wrong and the surface of the sculpture was covered with numerous paint layers. This article deals with the investigation of the condition and research into specific topics and practicalities with a heavy and large scale floating object. The interview and contact with the artist are discussed as well as the conclusions for treatment and maintenance. Key element is the focus on the artwork as a whole which implies that moving, floating and turning in combination with water and the outdoor environment, are of equal importance as the material elements, the paint layer and the volume of the sculpture itself.