2005-09-15 - Mount Rushmore

Making-over Mount Rushmore

Beginning on the 4th of July, the famed sculptural monument of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota was cleaned in a matter of weeks, hailed by the press as a “facelift”. Yet is was far more than a cleaning, it was a… pressure washing.

2005-09-15 - Mount Rushmore WashingtonFeaturing the 60-foot high likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, the monument was carved between 1927 and 1941 by sculptor Gutzon Borglum and team of 400 men from twenty-one granite blocks, containing many pre-existing cracks.

In addition to the purely cosmetic motive of removing accumulations of dirt, the project has been billed as preventative maintenance, emphasizing the threat caused by lichens growing on the stone, the roots of which could have eventually exacerbated cracks and destabilized the sculpture. Be that as it may, Mount Rushmore spokesperson Judy Olson has stated that prior to the onset of the recent campaign, there were no plans to clean the monument. This suggests that a) there was no urgent need, and b) that there were no extensive studies done regarding the effects of such a treatment. Olsen said, “When they said they would do it for free, that’s when we started considering having this done.”

“They” are Alfred Karcher GmbH & Co. KG (the Karcher Company), a German company that manufacturers consumer, commercial and industrial cleaning equipment. In a method that has been likened to a car wash, the team of approximately fifteen workers blasted near-boiling water onto the surface of the stone from five gas-powered pressure washers at the rate of 3000 gallons per day.

This is not the first time that the Karcher Company has donated their services. In fact, their world-wide campaign to pressure wash major monuments has been ongoing for two decades, totaling some eighty projects, including the base of the Statue of Liberty, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the Statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro, the Colossi of Memnon in Luxor, and the colonnade of St. Peter’s cathedral in Rome, which they blasted with an “environment-friendly abrasive” for the Jubilee.

Using the tag-line, “Kärcher cleans the world!”, the company’s website promises that “No matter what has to be cleaned, Kärcher has the answer.” Along with their sponsorship of Formula-One cars, Kärcher uses these cleaning projects to promote their company, and to test their equipment on various surfaces. The question must be asked, however, whether the availability of sponsorship dollars should be the determining factor of any intervention.

1997-06-03 Leonardo da Vinco Andrea del Verrochio Baptism of Christ Uffizi

For Immediate Release: Andrea del Verrocchio’s “Baptism of Christ” to be Restored at the Uffizi

ArtWatch International has learned that Andrea del Verrocchio’s most famous painting, the Baptism of Christ, a panel created for the church of San Salvi in Florence around 1475, has been removed from the wall of the Uffizi.

One of the most prized masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance, it was executed by Andrea Verrocchio in collaboration with the young Leonardo da Vinci, who painted the head of one of the angels and probably landscape elements. Another who collaborated on the same painting was Botticelli.

The head of the angel represents the first independent statement in painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Therefore, the Baptism is of prime importance historically as well as aesthetically, being an early indication of the new style which was to emerge during the opening years of the sixteenth century and has been called the High Renaissance, that is, the style practiced by Titian and Michelangelo.

This precious object has come down to us in rather good condition, considering the passage of 500 years, and previous restorations, not always of the most gentle nature.

1997-06-03 Leonardo da Vinco Andrea del Verrochio Baptism of Christ Uffizi

ArtWatch’s worst fears have now been confirmed: the work is in the restoration laboratories of the Uffizi and work is about to begin. Given the complexity, delicacy, and the historical and artistic importance of the work, and in particular its absolute rarity since there are only a handful of works by Leonardo, ArtWatch is extremely concerned about any intervention that goes beyond normal maintenance.

ArtWatch urges that all the pertinent data concerning the state of the work, its condition, and the planned treatment be made public immediately. The Uffizi and its Restoration Department should describe precisely the need for a drastic intervention, the goals it hopes to obtain, the methods of cleaning and restoration that is planned, and the results of all qualitative and quantitative analyses. We believe that second and third opinions should be solicited from independent, disinterested parties.

For the moment ArtWatch is calling for an immediate halt to the restoration of the painting until the secrecy is lifted and information is made available concerning the need as well as a clear statement of goals of the intervention.