Tate Modern in London was host to "Modern Paints Uncovered," a four-day symposium in May 2006 coorganized by the GCI, Tate, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. It was the first symposium ever to be focused exclusively on conservation issues of modern paints, including recent analytical, scientific, practical, and historical research in this area. Over two hundred fifty people attended, including conservation scientists, conservators, paint formulators, art historians, and artists from over thirty-five countries.
"Modern Paints Uncovered" was presented under the auspices of Contemporary Art Research: Modern Paints, a collaborative project among Tate, the National Gallery of Art, and the GCI to address questions regarding the character of modern paint materials through the development of analytical techniques for identifying modern paint media and the evaluation of cleaning methods and techniques for modern paintings.
Keynote addresses began each day's proceedings and included presentations by Tom Learner, senior conservation scientist at Tate; Stuart Croll, professor of coatings and polymeric materials at North Dakota State University in Fargo; and Jim Coddington, chief conservator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Symposium sessions ranged from talks describing recent advances in analytical techniques and protocols, to reporting on experimentation with novel practical treatments. Presentations on the second day focused on research conducted into the effects of cleaning acrylic emulsion paints, the synthetic paint most widely used by artists since the early 1960s.
The final day included poster presentations and tours of local artists' materials suppliers, including the Winsor and Newton paint factory, Cornelissen paint shop, and Russell and Chapple canvas suppliers. "Modern Paints Uncovered" concluded with two public events: a panel discussion among artists, curators, and conservators on how each considers the surface of a painting or painted object, and a discussion between British pop artist Sir Peter Blake and newscaster and Tate trustee Jon Snow.
"Modern Paints Uncovered" enabled cutting-edge research to be openly discussed and shared within the profession. It served as a useful overview of the substantial amount of work conducted over the last several years. The ideas generated from the symposium and the ensuing dialogue will help shape the future directions of the Getty's scientific research commitment to modern and contemporary art.
For more information on the project, Contemporary Art Research: Modern Paints, visit the Getty Web site.