Maintenance for Art Conservation

Sculpture Materials

Metals (bronze, brass, steel, stainless, aluminum, etc.), stones (marble, granite, etc.) and synthetic resins (PVC, FRP, Polycarbonate, etc.) have been commonly used as materials in sculpture, and recently sculptors have been combining other kinds of material in their work.

Aging and Damage in Sculpture

Damages in sculpture derive mainly from environmental pollutants, heat, temperature change, humidity, ultraviolet rays, biological factors, corrosive wind, natural disasters, vandalism, and improper restoration treatment. In particular, acid rain and air pollution from industrialization accelerates the damage to the materials and surface of the sculpture. The worst damages occur mainly from breakage during transport or vandalism, as well as from the instability of sculptural materials and structure in the work itself. The blue or black stripes often found in outdoor bronze sculptures are usually caused from sulfuric acid compound and pollution from automobile exhaust in the air and pollution from combusted oil fuels.

Wood sculptures react sensitively to changes in temperature and humidity, contracting, expanding and consequently cracking due to environmental changes. They are prone to attacks by microorganisms like fungus and bamboo borers in high temperature and humid environment. Scratches found from transport are also common. In stone sculptures, it is particularly difficult to remove absorbed dust. Outdoor sculptures are prone to damage through freezing and bursting due to absorbed water, as well as deterioration caused from lichen breeding and acid rain. Because of their sensitivity to the environment, marble sculptures are best kept indoors.

Restoration and Maintenance

Wooden sculptures need to be exhibited in stable temperature and humidity conditions. A protective coating is sometimes required.

<History> by Kim Man Sul
  • Before Restoration Before Restoration
  • After Restoration After Restoration

It is important to pay close attention to sculptures by regularly inspecting and maintaining them in order to extend their life and preserve the beauty in their form. Generally, the restoration of bronze sculptures involves removing rust, and at times conducting blast-cleaning and coating a new layer of artificial patina. The surface coating on patina protects the work from rain, dew, yellow dust, salt and vandalism, while refining the sculpture by giving it the beautiful glossiness that's characteristic of bronze sculptures.

<Mother and Daughter Sculpture> by Yun Hyo Jung
  • Mother and Daughter Sculpture by Yun Hyo Jung
  • Mother and Daughter Sculpture by Yun Hyo Jung

Wooden sculptures need to be exhibited in stable temperature and humidity conditions. A protective coating is sometimes required
ocated in Deoksugung Palace, the bronze sculpture Great King Sejong by Kim Ki-Seoung was cast in sand, welded together, and coated with dark green pigment. In the 40 years since its production, most of the pigment and organic components on the surface have deteriorated. Also, a polluted layer formed when the mixture of remaining mineral pigments and a humus layer, which self-generated from the metal, congealed with smoke pollution, dust and organic matters from surrounding flora.

  • 1. Cleaning Cleaning
    • Parts of dust and pigment layers are removed with CO2 cleaner
    • Detailed parts of the sculpture are cleaned with dental equipment iron brush, nonionic detergent and water
  • 2. Patination Patination
    • Deep brown patination applied by heating the bronze surface and applying ferric nitrate solution
    • light blue patination applied by heating the surface and appiying cupric nitrate solution
    • A mixture of ferric nitrate ad cupric nitrate solution is spread.
  • 3. Wax Coating Wax Coating
    • Wax for outdoor sculpture is spread on the surface after heating
    • Waxed surface is brushed with a brush and cootton flannet to strengthen the wax layer and to give a glossy lister
  • 4. Before and After Restoration Before and After Restoration
    • Dust layer and moss is removed with high pressure cleaner
    • The whitened cement used for drying the pedestal and rust marks from acid rain are removed