Donald Judd, an American sculptor visited Adelaide in 1974 for the exhibition, Recent American Art on tour from New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Judd was commissioned to create a sculpture for a site in Sydney during his visit to Australia, however, the arrangement was cancelled due to the site’s unsuitability.
The Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, expeditiously offered an area of lawn at the back of the Gallery, recognising this was a rare opportunity for a site-specific work to be built by an international artist in their courtyard. Untitled, a concrete sculpture was created by Judd from 1974 – 1975.
In 2019, a curator from the Art Gallery of South Australia approached Artlab’s Conservation Project Manager to discuss a conservation treatment plan for Untitled. Over time, the surface had become soiled with mud spatter and environmental stains, with some localised crayon graffiti, guano, gum and decals. During the discussion, the curator asked if the conservator could contact other art institutions who housed Judd's sculptures in their collections and research how they approached the conservation of their works, to substantiate Artlab’s treatment plan.
The Judd Foundation and Chinati Foundation (Art Museum) in the United States, including other sculpture parks, were contacted by the conservator. From the information gathered, combined with the Artlab’s expertise in conserving outdoor sculptures, a bespoke plan for the future maintenance of Untitled was coordinated by the conservator.
The treatment began by hand-cleaning the surface with deionized water and detergent, using stiff plastic bristle brushes to loosen all the dirt held in the rough surface. The sculpture was then rinsed with water.
Areas with stubborn dirt were cleaned with steam vapour from a dental steam cleaner, as this produced the best result without over cleaning or damaging the surface. The decal adhesive residue, crayon and Texta pen graffiti were removed with solvents and the entire surface given a final rinse.
Donald Judd, United States of America, 1928-1994, Untitled, 1974-75, Adelaide, reinforced concrete, 126.0 x 760.0 x 660.0 cm, (irreg.); South Australian Government Grant in association with Marshall and Brougham Pty Ltd 1974.
Abby Maxwell-Bowen, Artlab’s Conservation Project Manager, wiping the surface of Untitled, post solvent spot cleaning to remove crayon.
Abby Maxwell-Bowen steam cleaning the surface of Untitled by Donald Judd, in the courtyard at the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.