Authenticating Pieces Of The Berlin Wall

Fifty one years ago today, communist officials in East Germany erected the Berlin Wall to stop the exodus of their citizens to capitalist West Berlin. The 155-km barricade came down 28 years later in 1989, and since then, every self-respecting tourist shop in town sells chunks of spray-painted concrete to anyone seeking a piece of 20th century history. Today’s price for a chunk of the Wall, as determined during my lunch-time walk to...

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Figuring Out Copper Corrosion To Fight Artifact Forgery

The green corrosion on copper artifacts, sculptures and buildings is so aesthetically pleasing that countless recipes exist in books and online so that do-it-yourselfers can create the same look on anything made from the metal. But depending on the recipe or the environmental conditions, that pretty green color could be any one of a handful of different corroded copper chemicals, such as nantokite (CuCl) or paratacamite (Cu2(OH)3Cl)....

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Bringing A Controversial Mural in LA Back To Life

In 1932, David Alfaro Siqueiros got kicked out of Mexico for his political leanings so the artist spent six months in Los Angeles, California, where he produced a controversial mural called América Tropical. Siqueiros may not be as well-known as his teacher and contemporary Diego Rivera, but these two, along with José Orozco, formed “Los Tres Grandes,” the big three Mexican muralists of the early 20th century. During his stint in LA,...

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Christians Artists Embellished Spain’s Muslim Paintings

For nearly 800 years, the Islamic Moors occupied Spain, building extraordinary buildings that still draw hordes of tourists today. Case in point: the Alhambra. Less well known is the Madrasah Yusufiyya of Granada, the only Islamic university from the Moorish era left standing in Spain. It was built in 1349 and operated for about 150 years, until the Christians conquered the region in the late 1400s. The lovely Madrasah Yusufiyya was...

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Conserving Mosaics: A Nod To The Chemistry Nobel Prize

In honor of today’s Nobel Prize in chemistry to Dan Shechtman for the discovery of quasicrystals, I thought I’d write a little post on the world of mosaic art conservation. Bear with me–there is a connection. (This is precisely what I said when Paula Artal-Isbrand, a mosaics conservator at the Worcester Art Museum, answered the phone. Luckily, she didn’t deem me a random freak and then hang up.) OK. So back to the Nobel Prize....

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A Visit To The Opificio, Italy’s Primary Restoration Lab

Italy has no shortage of art, and when that art needs a face-lift, it takes a trip to the Opificio delle Pietre Dure e Laboratori di Restauro, the country’s national restoration laboratory. Located in an elegant old stable in Florence, the Opificio is like a spa for cultural heritage artifacts, where paintings, frescoes and sculptures go for age-extending treatments. When I visited, Cecilia Frosinini, an art historian and the...

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