Project includes conservation of Robert Murray’s Duet (Homage to David Smith) (1965) and other works from the 1965 California International Sculpture Symposium
LOS ANGELES – The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) has announced a collaboration with the University Art Museum at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), to develop and implement conservation strategies for selected works from the university’s celebrated Monumental Sculpture Collection. The project includes the conservation of artist Robert Murray’s Duet (Homage to David Smith) (1965), which after 50 years has been restored to its original color.
The announcement comes as the university celebrates the 50th anniversary of its landmark 1965 California International Sculpture Symposium – the first international sculpture symposium held in the United States. As part of the collaboration, the international conference “Far-Sited: Creating and Conserving Art in Public Places,” will be held at CSULB October 16-18, 2015. The conference is held in partnership with the University Art Museum, Getty Conservation Institute, and Museum of Latin American Art.
“This project with CSULB allows the GCI to apply some of the research and tools it is currently developing to address the challenges of conserving outdoor sculpture,” says Tom Learner, Head of Science at the Getty Conservation Institute. “Murray’s work Duet exemplifies many of the conservation issues posed by outdoor sculpture, offering a unique challenge and serving as an excellent case study for the GCI’s ongoing work in this area.”
Born in 1936 in Vancouver, Canada, Robert Murray is a sculptor best known for his monumental outdoor works made of steel and aluminum. Duet (Homage to David Smith) is typical of Murray’s sculpture in the early 1960s, with its abstract, carefully balanced geometric composition. The work, made of three sheets of one-inch thick steel and painted, was fabricated at the Bethlehem Steel shipyard in San Pedro, CA, the only facility in the area equipped to handle and form metal at the weight and dimensions Murray required. When the project was completed, a worker, newly won over to the cause of art, described it as “an honest use of steel.”
Although the formal characteristics of his work have changed over the years, color is an important and constant component of Murray’s sculptures. The work was repainted shortly after its initial fabrication because the color had rapidly faded, and was subsequently repainted many times. This eventually led to a strong shift in color, the later paints being markedly darker and redder. Deciding upon a treatment course meant identifying the different paints applied, especially the initial layer, deciding on the best way to retrieve and document the original color, and deciding on whether to revert to the original color. GCI scientist and project lead Rachel Rivenc frequently consulted with Murray throughout the process to enlist his help in identifying the original color. Rosa Lowinger and Associates completed the conservation work on the sculpture with the participation of the GCI.
“When Joseph Hirshhorn bought a piece of my sculpture in the mid-60s, he wanted me to send a can of paint to his conservator for touch-up and color matching,” says Robert Murray. “This demonstrates how paint color is just as important as maintaining the structural integrity of sculpture, which makes it all the more gratifying when a fifty year old piece such as Duet is restored to its original appearance. I am pleased that Rachel Rivenc and her staff at the GCI along with Brian Trimble at CSULB and Maria Coltharp of the UAM are working together to have Duet refurbished and repainted.”
The 1965 California International Sculpture Symposium was a significant experiment and major milestone in the formal collaboration of art and technology, and also gave birth to CSULB’s Monumental Sculpture Collection, part of the CSULB Outdoor Sculpture Collection. The event, organized by CSULB sculpture professor Kenneth Glenn and artist Kosso Eloul, built partnerships with industry to create innovative sculptures using new industrial materials and new technologies. Internationally recognized artists worked with industrial partners, such as Bethlehem Steel, Fellows and Stewart Shipyard, and North American Aviation in the creation of these landmark works.
Nine sculptures were realized on campus during the summer of 1965, and became the nucleus of the sculpture collection. Since that time, seventeen additional pieces have been sited throughout the campus. The collection includes works by Piotr Kowalski, Guy Dill, Claire Falkenstein, Robert Irwin, Kengiro Azuma, Rita Letendre, and Eugenia Butler, among others.
The 2015 conference will examine new trends in public art, the use of new technologies and alternative practices, and the role of conservation for art in the public realm.
“The CSULB community is fortunate to have these important works of outdoor sculpture across campus. The 1965 California International Sculpture Symposium was an extraordinary undertaking that opened the doors to new technology in public art,” says Brian Trimble, Interim Director of the University Art Museum at CSULB. “This partnership with the GCI has sparked new interest and scholarship around the works and it is an honor to work with the GCI on this initiative to ensure that these works continue to be protected and enjoyed for many years to come.”
For more information about the project, visit
The project is part of the GCI’s Outdoor Sculpture research and Modern and Contemporary Art Research Initiative. For more information, visit
For more on the Far-Sited initiative, including an overview of CSULB’s outdoor sculpture collection, visit www.far-sited.org
About the University Art Museum
The mission of the University Art Museum is to present education and exhibition programs that blur the boundaries between visual arts and design, technology, music, and contemporary culture. The UAM curatorial vision focuses on tension and interplay at the nexus of contemporary art and society, offering innovative programs that showcase the most creative minds of our time, with a focus on multidisciplinary education that serves the university and public. The UAM also plays a vital role in training future museum and arts professionals. Through dedication to scholarly and artistic excellence, the UAM has earned a reputation for its high-quality exhibitions and award-winning publications, and maintains a permanent collection of site-specific outdoor sculpture, works of art on paper, and the Gordon F. Hampton Collection of American painting and prints.
About California State University, Long Beach
California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) is a teaching-intensive, research-driven university committed to providing highly-valued undergraduate and graduate degrees critical for success in the globally-minded 21st century. Annually ranked among the best universities in the West and among the best values in the entire nation, the university’s eight colleges serve more than 35,000 students. CSULB values and is recognized for rich educational opportunities provided by excellent faculty and staff, exceptional degree programs, diversity of its student body, fiduciary and administrative responsibility and the positive contributions faculty, staff, students and nearly 300,000 alumni make on society.
The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.
The Getty Conservation Institute works internationally to advance conservation practice in the visual arts—broadly interpreted to include objects, collections, architecture, and sites. The Institute serves the conservation community through scientific research, education and training, model field projects, and the dissemination of the results of both its own work and the work of others in the field. In all its endeavors, the GCI focuses on the creation and delivery of knowledge that will benefit the professional conservation community through scientific research, education and training, model field projects, and the dissemination of the results of both its own work and the work of others in the field. In all its endeavors, the GCI focuses on the creation and delivery of knowledge that will benefit the professionals and organizations responsible for the conservation of the world's cultural heritage.