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Painted Outdoor Sculpture Conservation:

A review of our re-painting Alexander Calder’s Flamingo, of five years ago was recently published in the online periodical Durability + Design.

Read the review here.

In this published review, founder and owner of the Chicago Corrosion Group, Warren Brand, emphasizes the importance of strongly written specifications for coatings work hand-in-hand with diligent inspections during the course of the work.

Conservators of outdoor painted public sculpture need to be competent in both specifications writing and coatings inspections, or else be sufficiently aware of what is involved to properly hire these tasks for their coatings projects. Well-written specifications for a coatings project for outdoor painted sculpture conservation can eliminate most, if not all, ambiguities and thus prevent disagreements of what exactly is to be done, and exactly what methods and products are to be used.

Specifications can be written to great lengths and covering the work to be done in great detail, as was done by conservator of painted outdoor sculpture Robert Lodge with the assistance of (now retired) coatings expert Tim Race. Specification details can even direct, for example, how many degrees from a potential reach of ambient atmospheric dew point that coatings applications must cease. Although outdoor sculpture coatings expert Robert Lodge was trained in coatings specifications writing through SSPC (The Society for Protective Coatings, formerly The Steel Structures Painting Council) and industry services leader KTA-Tator, the enormous responsibilities and technical matters involved in recoating Alexander Calder’s FLAMINGO required the more seasoned expertise of Tim Race.

Inspections during coatings work on painted outdoor sculpture are only as effective as the specifications are detailed and unambiguous. In a perfect relationship between project specifications and industry-standard inspections with the aid of industry-standard inspection instruments, there should be no debate about what, when, how and with what products the work was to be performed.

A critically important component of coatings inspections is documentation. This can include maintaining a daily log of events, times, workers performing tasks, the weather and all factors that could affect the future performance of the coatings. To document coatings work sufficiently, the conservator of painted outdoor sculpture must possess and be capable of expertly using a series of inspection instruments. When inspections and documentation are in sufficient detail and the coatings specifications are detailed and unambiguous, then any faults or failures of the coatings should have a discernible cause.

While McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory has its own in-house certified coatings inspector in employee Emmett Lodge (NACE Certified Coatings Inspector No. 33447), the enormous responsibilities and highly technical matters involved in recoating Alexander Calder’s FLAMINGO required the more seasoned expertise of an inspector from Warren Brand’s Chicago Corrosion Group.

No significant painted outdoor sculpture should be coated without the hand-in-hand protection of unambiguously written industry-standard specifications and diligent industry-standard inspections with documentation. McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory provides these important services through its in-house, trained and certified personnel and, at times, coupled with outside expertise.

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