Ellsworth Kelly The Courthouse Panels (1998), painted aluminum panels

John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse, Boston, MA

The John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston, MA called Rika Smith McNally & Associates shortly after vandalism was discovered on all 12 large painted panels installed in the East and West wings of the courthouse.  The clear, dried fluid on each of the panels was analyzed and identified as sorbitan manooleate, a viscous liquid used as a surfactant and emulsifying agent in the food and cosmetics industries.  Because Kelly’s panels had a satin finish, great care had to be taken in removing the material.  

 

In addition, the courthouse had Rika Smith McNally & Associates clean the additional 9 panels in the courthouse rotunda in situ, which had not been cleaned since the installation in 1998.  Because RSM & Associates had been the consulting conservators shortly after installation, the firm already had small actual samples of the paint used by Kelly’s studio, and these were used for test cleanings. The upper panels were 80’ up, accessed by rigging usually used for cleaning windows on the exterior of tall buildings.

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