IOWA CITY (AP) — A 19-month undertaking to restore an 8-foot-by-19-foot University of Iowa painting by Jackson Pollock is nearly finished, and plans are in place to display the famous piece in California and Iowa this year.
The 1943 painting “Mural” has been in the conservation department of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles since the summer of 2012, according to the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Restoration has included stabilizing the piece's physical structure, which had been sagging, and removing a varnish added in the 1970s. The museum covered the cost of the work.
“The painting started sagging very early in its life, probably as Pollock was painting it, because he probably himself didn't make strong enough of a stretcher for such a large painting,” said Yvonne Szafran, the Getty's senior conservator of paintings.
“That's keeping in mind this was the largest painting he had painted up until this point,” Szafran said, “and maybe the largest painting he ever does paint — it's certainly the widest.”
The restoration work involved examining slivers of paint under a microscope and using imaging technology to virtually see layers of color. The research has dispelled the myth that Pollock created the famed artwork in a 24-hour session and determined that the artist also used some house paint on the piece.
University of Iowa Museum of Art Director Sean O'Harrow called the restoration the most important modern art conservation effort in recent years.
The painting was removed from the University of Iowa Museum of Art before the building was damaged by flooding in 2008. The painting is owned by the university, which received it through a donation in 1951 by art collector Peggy Guggenheim. It is insured for $140 million and is considered one of the most important of modern American paintings.
The painting will go on display at the Getty in March before a 10-month stint at the Sioux City Art Center beginning in June.
Officials hope to take the painting on an international tour with other Pollock works. It would return to Iowa City once a new space is built for the university's 14,000-piece art collection. The touring plans are still in its early stages.
“While we build a new museum, we thought it would be the one great opportunity to engage the world before it comes back to Iowa City,” O'Harrow said.
“While we build a new museum, we thought it would be the one great opportunity to engage the world before it comes back to Iowa City.”
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