Conservation Case Study: Shuttlecocks

Outdoor Sculpture: Shuttlecocks

Shuttlecock #4 being re-assembled

One of the most popular works at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Shuttlecocks (1994) by Claes Oldenburg and Coojse van Bruggen, was recently restored to top-flight condition.

An agreement with the artists stipulates that the white-feathered badminton birdies be treated and repainted every two years. However, concerns that paint build-up eventually would obscure the sculptures’ realistic texture prompted a search for a more effective solution.

In 2002, Museum conservators chose a painting system with a life expectancy of 15 years for Shuttlecocks. The system consists of three layers—an epoxy primer, a polyurethane intermediate layer and a topcoat of thermoset solution fluoropolymer.

In preparation for painting, each of the four Shuttlecocks was disassembled utilizing a variety of lifting devices, including cranes and a giant forklift. These individual pieces then were loaded onto flatbed trucks for transport to the painting contractor.

Worker painting shuttlecock

At the paint shop, the feathers and balls were cleaned, and cracks were sealed before the new paint was applied. The process of researching, treating and repainting all four Shuttlecocks took place over a four-year period.

Today, three of the Shuttlecocks stand reassembled and reinstalled in their original locations. The location of the fourth Shuttlecock shifted by a few feet in order to accommodate the Museum's new parking garage.  

A grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services helped fund the conservation of Shuttlecocks.

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