A Tate conservator at work

Conservation is a fascinating and important area of Tate’s work that remains relatively hidden from the public eye. The dedication and skill of our conservation team ensure the world-class Tate collection is expertly cared for and the exhibition programme continue to be varied and stimulating.

Conservators at Tate are also engaged in a vibrant programme of research. They take a leading role in establishing international standards of care, display and transport, all of which are pro-actively shared with the wider conservation community. With your support they can care for Tate’s remarkable collection so it can be enjoyed by gallery visitors indefinitely.

Case Studies – supporting conservation at Tate

National Arts Collections Centre

Tate proposes to build a state-of-the-art national collections centre alongside its existing store in Southwark, in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery.

AXA Art Project: Modern Paints

Acrylic paints and primers have been widely used by artists since the early 1960s. Until recently however appropriate conservation techniques have not been researched. This research project, generously supported by AXA Art, aims to find ways in which artworks using modern paints can be conserved before the signs of ageing become apparent; and to explore preventative measures that owners of these works can employ to prolong the life of the work. Tate’s research will be available for public and private collections around the world.

In support of the project, David Hockney said: ‘Oil paint has been used by artists for 600 years, so modern conservators have six centuries of experience to draw on and develop. Acrylics, on the other hand, are little more than half a century old. It is extremely important and very welcome that Tate’s research into the future conservation of these relatively new materials is being done now to ensure these artworks will be kept in good condition for centuries to come.’

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation: Inherent Vice: The Replica and its Implications in Modern Sculpture

Inherent Vice is an ambitious project concerned with the documentation of material changes in twentieth-century sculptures and the questions that result from the possibility of replication as a solution.

The goals of the project are to pioneer new research, to open debate and collaboration with other institutions, and to establish international standards of practice related to the controversial issue of replicas. Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and now in its second year, this research project has brought together international scholars to debate the curatorial and ethical consequences of the unforeseen degradation of works by artists such as Naum Gabo, Marcel Duchamp and László Moholy-Nagy.

John Schaeffer Nevill Keating Project: Eighteenth-century Paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Johan Zoffany

The eighteenth century has been described as England’s ‘golden age’ of painting, yet many of Tate’s paintings from this period were not suitable for display due to the thick layers of ageing varnish clouding their true beauty.

With the support of our generous benefactors this two-year project addressed this issue. A dedicated paintings conservator undertook full restorations of a number of important paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Johan Zoffany while undertaking necessary analytical and research work that can be shared beyond Tate.