To clean or not to clean - cleaning of works of art on show

From March 10 until May 10 2009 the daily work of conservators and preventive conservation specialists is literally transported from the conservation studio and the storage facilities into the Quist gallery. Approximately 150 artworks, mostly sculptures, have been examined and conserved as part of an exhibition highlighting the work of conservators and the dilemma’s with which they are faced. For three months the public had the opportunity to watch the conservation process at first hand.








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The title of the exhibition To clean or not to clean draws attention to a central problem that conservators are faced with when deciding how to best care for art objects. A small informative display provides insight into specific aspects of conservation practice. Questions will be considered such as: What is dirt? Why should it be removed? When is the decision made not to clean an object? What does one have to know about an artwork before making the decision whether and how to proceed with treatment? Before actively treating the artworks, the conservators will be occupied with the initial process of study and documentation of the works.








While the conservator’s task would seem to consist of active treatment of the artworks, the central activity of caring for collections involves the prevention of the contamination and damage of objects. Visitors will actively see how objects are stored, handled and transported. What are the ideal climate conditions for certain materials in storage facilities? Why does one see staff wearing different types of gloves when handling objects? Why are certain wood or packing materials never used in a storage area? How are storage mounts designed to support and safeguard the object during storage and transport? How does one prevent beetles from wandering into the museum and what damage could they do?
This exhibition provided the opportunity to see art objects from all sides – figuratively and literally. The exhibition is a dynamic and ever changing experience. Visitors witnessed museum practice and gained an insight into the thought, expertise and attention that goes into caring for collections - the art of caring for Art.

















Photography: Sanneke Stigter/KMM
Short film

Duration: Mar 10, 2009 - May 10, 2009