September 1998 Volume 21 Number 1

Articles You May Have Missed

Susana Zubiate, Column Editor

"Italian Vandal Strikes Again", in the Los Angeles Times, Thurs., Feb. 11, 1999.

One of Italy's most persistent art vandals was put in a Rome psychiatric hospital on Wednesday, a day after he was arrested for scribbling with a gray marker on a Jackson Pollock painting at Rome's National Gallery of Modern Art. Museum officials said the damage to Pollock's 1947 painting "Watery Paths" was minor.

At a hearing Wednesday, Pinero Cannata, 52, said he planned to vandalize a painting by Italian Abstract artist Piero Manzoni. "I didn't find one of his, but I found an equally ugly one and damaged it instead," the infamous vandal said, referring to the work by the American artist Pollock.

In 1991, Cannata broke off a toe on the left foot of Michelangelo's famed statue of David in Florence. Two years later, he used a marker to deface a fresco by Renaissance master Filippo Lippi in Prato's cathedral. He spent time in mental hospitals after both incidents.

"Patination and Its Role in the Restoration of Classical Chinese Furniture", by Christopher Cooke, in Orientations, January 1998, Vol. 29, No. 1, pp. 32 - 35.

A British furniture restorer, Christopher Cooke writes about Classical Chinese furniture and the importance of preserving a patina as a means of indicating a piece of furntiture's age and function. Some of the differences between classical Chinese and Western furniture is discussed. He points out that the hidden or undersurfaces of antique Chinese furniture were traditionally covered with lacquer or clay coatings as a means of reducing the effects of humidity and temperature changes to the wood. These coatings can easily conceal modern repairs because they can be reproduced easily. He states that "Show surface " patinas however, are more difficult to reproduce and describes various forms of patination on lacquer including the visual results of over cleaning.

"44 Nations Set Guidelines for Retrieving Nazi Loot", in the Los Angeles Times, Friday, Dec. 4, 1998.

Representatives of 44 nations agreed Thursday on comprehensive guidelines intended to identify artworks looted by Nazis during World War II, locate the prewar owners and settle conflicting claims to property worth billions of dollars on today's market.

The conference also dealt with wartime insurance policies and religious property in Central and Eastern Europe that was seized by the Nazis or subsequent Communist regimes.

Although high-level delegations from every country affected by Nazi atrocities agreed unanimously on the art guidelines, the consensus is not legally binding. At the heart of the art guidelines is a proposed master list of all stolen art. All the participating nations were urged to inventory each work in their museums and galleries, an effort that will probably take years, to determine if it was looted during the war. Every country represented here was also asked to supply any information it may have concerning ownership of artwork, whether or not the art is now in the nation.

"Digital Antiquities", by Seth Shulman, in Computer Graphics World, November 1998, Vol. 21, No. 11, pp. 34 - 38.

Creating solid models of priceless museum pieces adds a new dimension to the study of lost art and archaeological artifacts. An interesting article on the application of non-contact 3D digitizers. This article points out that the technology is currently more feasible than ever before due to the fact that the average entry-level computer is more powerful than ever before. It describes partnerships between computer firms and museums, galleries, and scholars where this technology is used for archiving, studying and sharing artifacts. Both technologies and applications are addressed.

The partnerships discussed are those between an art historian and IBM for the study of Michelangelo's Pieta; the Smithsonian Institute and Synthonics Technologies for an interactive CD-ROM; the Canadian Museum of Civilization working with Hymarc for the creation of virtual exhibits; and an American archaeologists using a system from Real 3D to catalogue objects from an archaeological dig.

The collaboration between art historian Jack Wasserman of Temple University and IBM is working at the Museo del Opera del Duomo with the purpose of creating a high resolution 3D model of Michelangelo's Pieta which would allow the scholar to study the sculpture in a way never done before. It is the most extensive computer graphic study ever undertaken of a single work of art. It is Wasserman's goal to be able to manipulate the individual figures in the sculptural group to see possible flaws which may have led the artist to take a sledgehammer to the sculpture toward the end of its creation.

To merge thousands of pictures into something that gives something the appropriate sense of space shape and contour is very hard to do. And then to make it approachable by anyone who wants it is our goal. This study has already amassed some 2 billion bits of data and is still in progress. The technology used is an adaptation of imaging hardware called the Virtuoso camera which employs an array of six digital cameras for capturing geometric data, color, and texture information.

The partnership between the Smithsonian and Synthonics Technologies (Westlake Village, CA) is using 3D replicas of various objects within collections for an interactive CD ROM which will enable the audience to manipulate and examine the objects in ways not possible in the past. The use of this technology will increase general access to the artifacts since about 90% of the Smithsonian's collection is in storage and seldom, if ever displayed.

The technology used is a Rapid Virtual Reality system which is based on algorithms developed by the company's founder. The company claims that its technology can synthetically render good quality 3D images from as few as two digitized photographs of an object taken from different angles. The software also reads the object's textures from the photographs and applies them to the wireframe.

The partnership between the Canadian Museum of Civilization and Hymarc (Nepean, Ontario) will yield a virtual exhibit of some of the museum's collections. It will be displayed in a mini-theater where visitors will use work stations to view objects through 3D glasses and be able to manipulate the models. Another project will include digitized images from other collections from around the world. "Hymarc's Colorscan digital scanner uses three lasers to affix a definitive color registration to every one of tens of thousands of individual 3D points that the scanner reads." "The result is color fidelity that corrects the vagaries of existing lighting conditions." Hymarc's president says the Colorscan system is so accurate that museum curators have begun using it on paintings to detect subtle fading or degradation of paintings' colors that otherwise would be imperceptible.

The use of a portable RealScan 3D imaging system from Real 3D is used by a Florida State University archaeologist for archiving an entire collection of Etruscan artifacts. The ability to digitize the visual information to make 3D models instead of taking photos or drawings allows for a system of archiving which incorporates a great deal of information which can then be shared easily with both colleagues and the public. The RealScan 3D digitizer suits such applications because it's portable and can capture geometry and texture of an object simultaneously, so it works relatively quickly.

"Ultimate Art Resource", in the Los Angeles Times.

The 34-volume Grove Dictionary of Art, a monumental publishing effort released in 1996, is now on the World Wide Web. The Grove Dictionary of Art Online contains the entire, 30 million-word text -- in 41,000 articles written by 6,802 scholars -- along with 750 maps, diagrams, and drawings. Many pictures in the book are not available but the missing images can be seen by linking to Internet picture libraries and museum collections. The Dictionary's electronic version (at www.groveart.com) offers the advantage of updates to be made quarterly at first, then on a monthly basis.

"Illuminating Van Gogh", in The Wall Street Journal, Fri., Feb. 26, 1999.

Blockbuster attendance isn't the only thing that distinguished the Vincent Van Gogh art exhibition currently traveling the country. For the show, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art used a new kind of lightbulb, called a Solux, that attempts to mimic the effects of the noonday sun.

The Solux bulb, invented by Tailored Lighting Inc., was introduced in 1996 and is targeted to the museum market. It emits rays from the entire spectrum, but concentrates on the blue end. The bulb also eliminates ultraviolet light.

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