Lather, rinse, repeat

The American Art Museum conservation staff cleans Roy Lichtenstein's "Modern Head." Photos © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

The American Art Museum conservation staff cleans Roy Lichtenstein’s “Modern Head.” Photos © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

The conservation department at the American Art Museum makes sure the collection is always in great condition, whether it is inside the galleries or outside on the grounds. Last week, the staff tackled cleanup for Roy Lichtenstein’s Modern Head. The iconic sculpture, originally installed in New York’s Battery Park in 1996, one block from the World Trade Center, was a gift from Jeffrey H. Loria (in memory of his sister, Harriet Loria Popowitz) in 2008.

But how do you scrub down accumulated street grime from a 31-ft.-high work of art? The conservation department carefully chooses cleaning solutions that are effective for cleaning and also safe for the art objects, people and the environment.

For Modern Head, conservators chose a solution of Dawn dishwashing liquid—yes, regular old Dawn, just like you use on your greasy pots and pans. According to conservator Hugh Shockey, “Dawn is what we would call a broad spectrum detergent and is excellent at solubilizing a wide range of soiling types, from bird droppings to diesel exhaust soot. It is also environmentally safe since our rinse water ends up in the Potomac River and therefore the Chesapeake Bay.”

If you’re in town, come by the southwest corner of American Art’s building on F Street and 9th Street, NW. You’ll be impressed by our squeaky-clean Modern Head!

This is an edited version of of a post that was originally published by the American Art Museum’s blog, Eye Level.

Posted: 11 June 2014
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