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Conserving Harry Bertoia's Sculpture Group Symbolizing World's Communication in the Atomic Age / American Art
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Conservation

Conserving Harry Bertoia's Sculpture Group Symbolizing World's Communication in the Atomic Age

Bertoia Slide Show

Preparing for the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Reopening in 2006

Ever wonder how museums prepare an artwork for exhibition? View our slide show for a sneak peek, as our conservators ready a monumental sculpture and light show for display.

In storage since about 1983, Harry Bertoia's Sculpture Group Symbolizing World's Communication in the Atomic Age is an especially fitting artwork to view online! Specially lighted, each brass unit conveys an abstract conception of electronics communication, with the main unit transmitting impulses of light to the others. Bertoia created this work in 1959 for the electronics company Zenith. He said, "We live in a time dominated by these invisible forces. It is, in a sense, … these elements of the atomic and electronic age, that I am trying to give sculptural shape and form."

Bertoia

Harry Bertoia's Sculpture Group Symbolizing World's Communication in the Atomic Age

Cleaning and treating what Objects Conservator Helen Ingalls affectionately calls a "huge, heavy, fragile puffball made of metal" was no small feat! After our registrars uncrated it—also quite a challenge—our terrific team repaired rods, rewired the lighting, and built a new wall to mount it!

As you look at the slide show, you will hear some background on the artwork and view conservators as they repair and clean the eight-foot diameter central sphere.

Be sure to visit this piece in person in the Smithsonian American Art Museum's third-floor Lincoln Gallery!


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