Art restoration worth $100,000 is a major task

May 13, 2004, vol. 30 no. 2
By Carol Thorbes

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Like a plastic surgeon deftly wielding a laser beam over a human face, art conservators peeled back layers of time and restored B.C. Pageant to its original beauty.

Fraser Spafford Ricci art and archival conservation and Andrew Todd of AT conservators worked 72 person days cleaning, infilling, mounting and installing the mammoth Charles Comfort mural at SFU.

Fraser Spafford Ricci, a five-person company in South Surrey, is known for impressive restoration projects, such as the original indenture signed by U.S. President George Washington.

Todd is a private art conservator on Bowen Island.

The sheer size of Comfort's panoramic ode to B.C. history made its $100,000 restoration a unique challenge and the largest project to date for the conservators.

B.C. Pageant had to be carved into 10 panels before it could be transported in long tubes from TD Bank to the conservators.

Using a small brush and cotton swabs, similar to long Q-tips, the conservators took 400 hours to clean the Comfort mural with a specially designed gel.

Sarah Spafford-Ricci, one of the principal conservators at Fraser Spafford Ricci, credits SFU with having the foresight to make some progressive choices to conserve the Comfort mural.

One was having the canvas sections affixed to custom-made aluminum honeycomb mounting panels constructed in California.

The mounting panels can be easily removed and re-installed because of their interlocking design. They also provide seismic protection because they isolate the mural from the building's walls.

“Conservators are conserving the past, but always looking to the future, attempting to preserve artistic integrity and make the artwork last longer,” says Spafford-Ricci.

Perched on scaffolding, a team of nine hoisted B.C. Pageant's 10 panel-backed canvas pieces into position in a custom-made frame that hangs nine metres above ground.

Conservators (left to right) Sarah Spafford-Ricci, Tracey Klein and Tara Fraser stand on scaffolding to guide one of 10 three-metre-high panels into place to form B.C. Pageant.

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