Volume 10, Number 1, Jan. 1988, pp.25-27

Conferences in Review

Chris Stavroudis, column editor

On November 9th, 1987, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, held a symposium on the art of Cycladic marble sculpture of the early Bronze Age titled, "Mastery in Marble: Approaches to Early Cycladic Art." The symposium presented talks by geologists Dr. Stanley Margoulis and Dr. Norman Herz, Conservation Scientist John Twilley, and Art Historians Dr. Patricia Getz-Preziosi and Elizabeth Oustinoff to mark the opening of the exhibition "Early Cycladic Art in North American Collections", a landmark assemblage of works by Cycladic craftsmen. The primary focus of the talks was the persistent problem of authentication of these works most of which lack a documented provenance. The morning session, moderated by Jerry Podany of the Getty Museum, opened with a presentation by John Twilley on the ways in which x-ray diffraction of the marble, its inclusions and surface alterations can provide evidence of the stone's origin and history. Evidence was presented which raises questions about the broad applicability of certain assumptions that have been used to judge the authenticity of surface accretions over the past 15 years. Examples drawn from work at the LACMA Conservation Center illustrated this talk. Dr. Margoulis, well known for his work on the Getty's Archaic Kouros, confined most of his remarks to his first authentication conducted upon the Richmond Museum's own Cycladic harp player. He put forward the evidence gathered in that somewhat preliminary study and outlined a proposal for further study of this piece in the light of what had been learned subsequently on other marbles. Dr. Herz presented an overview of the role of carbon and oxygen isotope studies in marble and limestone provenancing with examples from his own work on Roman and Greek pieces. The morning concluded with a panel discussion by the three technical speakers joined by Tom Chase of the Freer Gallery, Dr. Lambertus van Zelst of the Smithsonian's Conservation Analytical Laboratory, and Dr. Edward Sayre, most recently of the C.A.L. They posed questions to the speakers on the reliability of the physical-chemical tests as authenticity tools. Questions from the audience were fielded. The afternoon opened with a presentation by Elizabeth Oustinoff of her attempt at reproduction of Cycladic figures by means of implements and materials available to the Bronze Age artisan and her observations on mechanical features of the surface gained through this experience. Ms. Oustinoff (whose dissertation area is in Attic vase painting) referred stylistic judgments to Dr. Getz- Preziosi, generally accepted as the world's foremost authority on stylistic and art historical aspects of figurative art of this period and author of the show's beautiful catalogue. Dr. Patricia Getz-Preziosi described the characteristic features of marble figures and the criteria by which she has assigned certain of them to several specific hands. She described stylistically what she felt characterized the majority of the pieces which she considers to be spurious and warned of a possible new round of better reproductions based upon the additional interest and documentation surrounding this exhibition. Unfortunately she allowed no public questions, choosing instead to take questions individually in the gallery during the subsequent previewing of the exhibition by the symposium participants. Curator, Margaret (Maggie) Mayo had managed to bring together an extraordinary group of more than 100 sculptures from North American collections for the exhibition (which is not likely to be emulated again). For the symposium only, she had also managed to bring together seven figures from both public and private collections which are believed by Dr. Getz-Preziosi to be forgeries. These seven, like prisoners on trial, mutely observed the proceedings from a vitrine at the side of the auditorium. Significantly, the Richmond Museum's own harp player remains among this group despite Dr. Margoulis' preliminary opinion that it is authentic. Although the symposium offered something less than a dialogue on the merging of stylistic and technical criteria, it was clear that the presentations along with the unprecedented opportunity to observe and compare such a large body of Cycladic art will contribute to significant review of what constitutes conventional wisdom about Cycladic sculpture. The interest was high and the meeting was attended by representatives of most of the country's major museums as well as the N.E.A. (which provided part of its funding). After Richmond, the exhibition will travel to Fort Worth and San Francisco.

John Twilley
Los Angeles County Museum of Art

On 10 November 1987 a panel of specialists addressed a museum group on the subject of "HALON: Friend or Foe of the Museum Environment?" The seminar was sponsored by the Health & Safety Committee of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The panelists included Dr. Lee Wugofski from the Center for Occupational Safety & Health; Captain Jerry Grey, San Francisco Fire Department; Mr. James Hartman, Building Engineer at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; and Marvin Charney from Fenwal, Inc., suppliers of HALON. The combined experience and expertise of the speakers made for a very informative and complete program. The main issues centered around the hazards of inhalation of HALON. Two different kinds of HALON were distinguished. The gas in the hand held canisters is hazardous and breathing apparatus is recommended. The HALON in mounted tanks that automatically discharge has not been proven to be a hazard to humans. All of the panelists agreed on this point. HALON was touted by all panelists to be the most effective and desirable of fire suppression systems if it is used in an appropriate and controlled environment. Open doors, open windows or room reconfigurations can all diminish the effectiveness of HALON. HALON emission comes out in a highly pressurized blast. If objects are not secured, there can be substantial damage and risk to employees. If HALON is emitted in a dusty environment, the air can become so clouded that efficient evacuation can be obscured. However, the most important element of a HALON installation is the awareness of staff. Their knowledge about the procedures and capabilities of the system are essential to a successful HALON installation. A videotape was produced and is available, free of charge. Please contact Kathy Weston, Health & Safety Committee of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Kittu Gates, Senior Registrar
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
from: The Newsletter of the Registrar's Committee of the AAM
Western Region, December 1987

"The Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee Flag Symposium" was held at the capitol complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on October 29 and 30, 1987. The Symposium covered many topics related to flags such as vexillogical terminology, preservation of flags and banners, and considerations in private funding. A course in the analysis of early synthetic dyes was presented by Mr. Helmut Schweppe at the Smithsonian Museum Support Center on November 2 to 6, 1987. The week long course focused on the analysis of early synthetic dyes using thin layer chromatography and included the dyeing of reference sample materials. The course was sponsored by the Conservation Analytical Laboratory (CAL) of the Smithsonian Institution.

Rosanna Zubiate Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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