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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Protecting Plensa’s Isabella

by Kelly Rectenwald, Conservator of Objects


Jaume Plensa , Isabella , museum grounds

Last week, outdoor sculpture conservators from McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory (based in Oberlin, Ohio) paid a visit to the museum. They have expertise in the treatment and maintenance of large sculptures that must withstand exposure to harsh environmental factors. Our sculpture, Isabella (2014) by Jaume Plensa, showed signs that it needed treatment. Rain lines could be seen running down the face, and a green corrosion covered the chin and neck, altering its normally uniform surface. McKay Lodge addressed these condition issues through cleaning and applying a new protective coating to the surface. This coating acts as a sacrificial barrier, protecting the sculpture from the elements. Eventually it wears away and needs to be applied again. Regular application of these coatings is an important and necessary part of outdoor sculpture maintenance and helps prevent permanent damage in the harsh exterior environment. 

Before treatment:

During treatment, top half with coating, bottom half without coating:

After treatment: 

Jaume Plensa (Spanish, b.1955), Isabella, 2014, cast iron, Gift of Craig and Anne Maier, 2021.82.