Detroit museum workers spend 100-plus hours moving painting

DETROIT (AP) — Conservators at the Detroit Institute of Arts have spent dozens of hours preparing to move an enormous three-dimensional painting into storage to create space for a new display.

Anselm Kiefer’s “Das Geviert,” which was completed in 1997, is so deeply textured that conservators set aside more than 100 hours to ensure it can be safely moved and stored, The Detroit News reported.

The 24-foot-by-9-foot (730-centimeter-by-270-centimeter) artwork was installed in the institute in 2004. It’s being moved to make room for the car design exhibit “Detroit Style: Car Design in the Motor City, 1950-2020,” which is slated to open June 13.

“Das Geviert” was inspired by an ancient brick wall the German artist saw in India. Kiefer used acrylic paint, shellac, burnt clay, regular clay, charcoal, wire, straw, sand and other elements to form a complex texture.

The conservation work is essential to ensure the wall-sized painting is stable enough for an art handler to move it, said Becca Goodman, painting conservator at the Detroit Art Institute.

“First, we dust it because dust can cause cracking if it remains on the surface,” Goodman said. “And now we’re adding an archival grade adhesive in certain places with a syringe and brush to keep the materials together.”

Goodman and Blair Bailey, a conservation fellow, spent two full days dusting the painting.

Goodman said Kiefer was apparently OK with the idea that the artwork could evolve in transit, telling the museum during installation: “If something falls off, it’s off. If it’s loose, glue it on.”

All 13 contemporary galleries will be cleared out by the end of next month, which is when the installation of the car design exhibit is set to begin.

Most of the contents of those galleries will be stored. The contemporary African American galleries will remain in place and a limited number of the collection’s greatest contemporary hits will be exhibited elsewhere,.

“It’s always a challenge to have visitors’ favorite artworks off view,” museum Director Salvador Salort-Pons said. “Several contemporary works that are important for our guided field trips will continue to be on display in other locations.”