paper

In 2007 the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam bought a 1973 installation by Croatian artist David Maljkovic. The work consists of a video projection and twelve drawings.

COLLAGE: A CASE STUDY

One of the twelve drawings, Serie for new heritage II, serie A (2006), is a collage comprising six sheets of paper attached to each other by masking tape applied on the back. The top image is a pencil drawing of a winding road and six little cars heading towards a distant building. The artist wrote something next to the building and in the foreground. The cars are cutouts painted with gray paint and covered in silver foil, then attached to the paper with glue. The drawing is signed “D. Maljkovic” in pencil on the back and dated 2006.

MASKING TAPE SHOW-THROUGH

In 2010, the paper conservators examined the condition of Serie for new heritage II for possible treatment. The examination was necessary because in only four years, the adhesive of the masking tape had yellowed completely and penetrated the paper so that it was visible from the front. The diamond-shaped pattern of the pieces of tape was showing through and had altered the image. Moreover, the tape had lost its adhesive properties, and the sheets of paper were coming apart. The adhesive used to glue on the cars was also yellowing and clearly visible along the cars’ edges.

GEL

In their preliminary examination, conservators explored the best ways of removing the aging glue that had seeped into the fibers of the paper and concluded that the discolored glue could only be removed by using solvents. But applying solvents, and the corresponding friction of applying them with cotton buds, would damage the pencil drawing and the cutout cars. So conservators experimented with spot-cleaning using a gel solvent, which would avoid friction and pose little risk of bleeding into the paper or causing blotches. Even so, removing yellowed glue that has permeated paper fiber remains tricky, with results that are often aesthetically unpleasing. In other words, in most cases, the glue would still be visible.

THE ARTIST’S OPINION

During the preliminary examination, conservators asked the artist what he thought about the tape residue showing through the front of the drawing and the yellowing glue of the collage elements. Despite the staining and discoloration, the artist felt that the drawing was still in keeping with the rest of the installation.

After consulting the artist and museum curators, the conservators decided to remove the tape and the remaining adhesive residue on the back and to rejoin the individual sheets using thin strips of Japanese paper and paste on the rear. Traces of the original glue were not removed and are still present in the paper. They are not expected to discolor further.