Ask the Art Nurse: A crumbling work on drywall

DEAR ART NURSE:

I’m an avid follower of C-Monster and have an art conservation query: Before shuttering their doors for good, my favorite street art gallery in Brooklyn invited the public to help demolish some of their walls. As the walls were painted with murals by notable artists, this was an attractive proposition.

Happily, I am now in possession of a heavy, largish chunk of painted drywall. However, the drywall is awfully fragile – the piece was not so delicately hammered out of the wall – and I’m wondering how best to stabilize it and prevent further crumbling. It goes without saying that I do not have a museum-scale art conservation budget.

Your advice, please?

Best,
Luna

DEAR LUNA:

My two favorite things on earth are hunks of concrete buildings and graffiti, so you are talking about restoring something quite dear to my heart. It would be helpful to know if the damage you are talking about consists of fragmenting edges or wholesale cracking of the piece itself. If it’s the former, what we conservators would do would be to consolidate the edges of the fragment. This means applying some kind of adhesive in thinned down form that would solidify the edge and keep if from crumbling. The trick is to do this using something that will not stain or damage the original and — most importantly — could be removed and redone. In other words, making it reversible, in case you screw it up.

If you are talking about big breaks in the piece, however, then you are looking at something called a structural repair — and that requires a bit more thinking through. So first tell me which it is. Also tell me if the area to be repaired has paint on it or not. (Or feel free to send me a link to a photo.) And then I can give the patient a proper diagnosis.

Rx,
San Suzie

Have a question for the Art Nurse? E-mail her at suzie [at] c-monster [dot] net.

One comment

  1. Jim Linderman

    I once purchased a group of paintings by young art brut genius Chuckie Williams directly from the artist in Louisiana. He was so thrilled, he insisted on gifting me a 6 foot painting of Dolly Parton on a wall of sheetrock drywall, which I loaded on the top of the rented auto. It started raining. My only preservation solution was to pull behind a Piggly Wiggly Supermarket and leave it sagging against the wall. A picture of the artist holding another of his iconic expressionist paintings of his heros is found at http://dulltooldimbulb.blogspot.com/2009/02/chuckie-williams.html