McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory recently completed a recoating of Alexander Calder’s Stegosaurus (Intermediate Maquette) 1972 owned by the Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio.
While Alexander Calder might be best known for his mobiles, like Pittsburgh at the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport which was treated last year by McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory, he is also known for his monumental painted stabiles, or stationary sculptures, such as Stegosaurus (Intermediate Maquette).
The sculpture featured a variation on Calder’s signature vermilion red color applied many years ago. The nature and gloss of the red color has been studied by many conservation and museum professionals including, Robert Lodge, Conservator and President of McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory, which you can read more about here.
Stegosaurus (Intermediate Maquette) is composed of 18 major painted steel pieces, 22 attachment tabs and approximately 160 bolts and nuts. All of these components are mechanically fastened together. Most notable, however, is the abstract but striking resemblance to the plates and spiked backbone of the prehistoric Stegosaurus dinosaur.
Before the recoating of Calder’s Stegosaurus (Intermediate Maquette) the paint was fading and lightly chalked on upward facing surfaces. There were corrosion blisters scattered throughout. In addition, as the sculpture had not been disassembled at its last repaint (and possibly not during the last two repaints), there were significant areas of corrosion creep from all flat mating surfaces and around many of the bolts. Permanent pitting of the metal from current or previous corrosion was limited and primarily occurred around flat mating surfaces.
The recoating of Calder’s Stegosaurus (Intermediate Maquette) was completed by Emmett Lodge, a seasoned applicator and NACE Certified Coatings inspector. The first step of treatment, however, was to remove the sculpture from the plaza at the Toledo Museum of Art.
Due to the heavily corroded nature of the bolts, the sculpture was only disassembled enough to permit transportation. Complete disassembly was finished once the sculpture arrived at the McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory facility located just outside of Cleveland, where more substantial bolt removal methods were available. The sculpture was disassembled into its 18 major individual pieces.
All components of the sculpture were abrasive blasted to clean metal. The steel had been blast cleaned in the past so no mill scale was found. The exception to this was the bolts and nuts, which were cleaned with a use of an acid and solvent to avoid damage to the threads. All components were hung on racks in our large climate-controlled spray booth for painting. Paint was spray applied to standards set by the manufacturer with a primer, intermediate coat, and top coat in a new red color specified by the Alexander Calder Foundation.
The recoating of Calder’s Stegosaurus (Intermediate Maquette) was then completed, and the sculpture was transported in pieces for reinstallation, and assembled onsite. The high-performance coating applied to the surface should be relatively maintenance-free, other than occasional wet cleaning to remove environmental soiling or damages caused by public interaction.