Whilst putting together an article about art conservation for Chemistry World, I spoke to Paul Whitmore, Director of the Art Conservation Research Center at Carnegie Mellon. We got to talking about his work on some Mark Rothko paintings - if you remember, Rothko was in the news recently because of this. Some of it got a bit off-topic (the article was really a careers piece) but I was so interested in the story behind the paintings that I decided to post a few minutes of our chat here, with permission from the magazine.
I did the interview before the Rothko vandalism news broke, without any intention of publishing the audio, so that explains both my ignorance about Rothko and the slightly dodgy sound quality. The faded paintings Paul talks about are murals that were created for the Holyoke Center at Harvard University in the 1960s. The Harvard Art Museums wanted put them on display after a period in storage so it was Paul's job to work out why they had faded so badly in the first place and whether exhibiting them again would extinguish what little colour was left.
Paul also talks about how modern artists use all kinds of odd materials to create their artworks, and the problems this causes for the conservators who are trying to look after them.
Perhaps I should also mention that I've known James White, who is featured in the same article, for many years. We're both self-employed so we've often talked about what life is like as a freelancer. But it was great to find out more about his conservation work and see his pictures in print.