There has been a thread recently on the Book Arts List discussing some of the horrible things that galleries sometimes do to artist’s books. The inappropriate use of tape seems to feature, but other bad things happen too. My work In Winter was recently returned to me after almost two years on tour.
Given the fragility of the piece, it had not fared too badly but some restoration work was definitely required.
I am extremely careful about the way I pack work for shipping. (The Saskatchewan Craft Council recommends that for touring shows travelling with public carriers work should be packed to survive a 6 foot drop upside-down!) I also provide detailed instructions for handling and displaying the work. The outside of the crate gives instructions for unpacking, beginning with a request that cotton gloves not be worn while dealing with the piece.
Further instructions for installation are inside the crate, beginning with the same request.
Apparently some gallery staff either can’t read or think they know better than I do how to handle fragile works made of paper. There was one small tear and dirty smudges in several places, which I located after doing a square by square examination of the work.
Fortunately the worst marks were on the packing sheets.
The letter that had been torn had also been bent back leaving a couple of dings in the paper. The red pointer in the image below indicates the tear, the black ones point at the dings.
I used a new Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser to remove the smudges. (I consulted Peter Verheyen and Mindy Dubansky before doing this to reassure myself that I was using the best method.)
The lower image shows an area after cleaning and before removing the last of the eraser crumbs. The final stage was the repair of the small tear. I used Japanese tissue paper and wheat starch paste to do this.
After the tissue had been carefully rubbed down and the paste had dried, I trimmed off the excess with a scalpel. I smoothed the dings gently with a bone folder, but as you can see, they are still visible in strong cross lighting.
There was some nasty tape involved as well, though fortunately no one stuck it to the work, only to the packing. The folder holding the work had originally been held shut with green low tack painter’s tape. It came back with shiny scotch tape. Judging by the assorted peeled areas, this solution had been used more than once.
I have re-packed the piece with no tape at all on the folder, as it isn’t really necessary and apparently gives people bad ideas.
I will close with something from The Postal Museum, London, England. It was posted on Twitter tagged #Glovesoff. The rules make good sense for anything made of paper.