Cultural Collections: The art of cleaning

View of staff member in a cherry picker cleaning the upper part of the Chevron sculpture.

A cherry picker was needed to help clean Neil Dawson’s Chevron

This summer, we’re taking you behind the scenes to see the work that goes into caring for our Cultural Collections and giving you access to them. This is the second of four stories.

A crane, a cherry picker, small brushes and new frames are just some of the specialist equipment and tools that were used to help conserve artworks in the University of Auckland Art Collection last year. This work was done under a new maintenance schedule but we found that it also helped in our mission to enhance the visibility of the Collection.

On a busy campus, our artworks are susceptible to damage. Some of the worst culprits are birds, whose droppings can erode the surfaces of outdoor sculptures. We brought in art restoration specialists ObjektCare to do some work on two outdoor pieces: Kapa Haka, the bronze statue by Michael Parekowhai that stands near the General Library, and Neil Dawson’s towering Chevron sculpture, near Shaky Isles. Kapa Haka was cleaned and polished; giving Chevron a spruce-up required everything from a crane to lift a cherry picker into the courtyard down to small brushes to clean the detailed latticework on the upper half of the sculpture.

Before and after cleaning: Michael Parekowhai’s Kapa Haka

Maintaining our artworks presents them in their ‘best dress’ and ensures they can be appreciated for many years to come. We have also discovered that carrying out projects such as cleaning the sculptures, reframing works or writing new labels can attract the attention of people who have walked past them for years without really noticing. Moving works to new locations also keeps them in the spotlight as each piece brings its unique characteristics to the space it inhabits. Most importantly, keeping our artworks in good condition helps us fulfil our responsibilities as kaitiaki of this valuable resource.

Visit the Art Collection website

Sam Melser and Lara Thomas,
Art Collection Assistants, Cultural Collections