Art Conservation: Stretching a Very Large Gene Davis Painting

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In this video you can see Smithsonian American Art Museum paintings conservator Amber Kerr sewing strips of canvas onto the tacking margins of a Gene Davis painting so that it can be restretched. Learn more about SAAM's art conservation work by going to Lunder Conservation Center's page on Facebook.


As often as art conservators do a standard treatment on a work of art in our collection, there is always an opportunity to learn a new approach to solving a challenging task. In the case of Gene Davis: Hot Beat (closing April 2, 2017), paintings conservator Amber Kerr coordinated with staff members from our design and registrar teams to manage the conservation treatments for several extremely large canvas paintings. Each had been rolled in storage for years.

From the construction of a "secret room" in the gallery in which they treated these oversized canvases, to designing a custom-built portable, yet lightweight "table" to treat them on, to calling sail makers for tips on stitching canvases, Amber found there was a lot to consider. And she had to come up with some new approaches for cleaning, stretching, and displaying Davis' canvases. In the video above, you can see Amber along with an intern, a fellow, and a contractor sewing new edge-lining strips to the tacking margins of Davis' painting so the canvas could be stretched.

To learn more about the behind-the-scenes work for Gene Davis: Hot Beat, join Amber for a gallery talk on Friday, March 24 at 4 p.m. The talk is free and starts at SAAM's G Street lobby.