Event offers public chance to try their hand at art conservation

Tuesday 28 February 2023
Five bright artworks on easels.
Argyll African artworks on easels in Lochgilphead High School, Spring 2019

Members of the public are being offered a rare chance to try their hand at art conservation at a new event coordinated by an art historian at the University of St Andrews.

Dr Kate Cowcher, Lecturer in the University’s School of Art History, has partnered with Madeleine Conn, Cultural Coordinator at Argyll and Bute Council, to bring the Art Conservation Open Day to Dunoon Burgh Hall this weekend (Saturday 4 March).

Visitors will have the chance to learn about conservation techniques and priorities, sustainable collections, and Argyll’s internationally significant collection of African modern art. Twelve artworks will be available for public investigation and discussion, with visitors invited to try out ‘condition checking’ and share ideas about the artworks’ future.

There will be talks and demonstrations from two guest experts – Christina Young, Professor of Technical Art History and Conservation at the University of Glasgow and Nancy Dantas, Art Historian and C-MAP Africa Fellow at the Museum of Modern Art (New York).

The event follows on from a project that started in 2018, led by Dr Cowcher, that rediscovered the collection of African art by some of the continent’s most notable modernist artists in Argyll and Bute schools. The paintings were acquired for the Argyll Collection in the 1960s but, in the years since their purchase, the historical significance of the works had been overlooked, with many misattributed and their stories untold.

Dr Cowcher worked with the Cultural Coordinator for Argyll and Bute Council, Madeleine Conn, to uncover their histories, share their stories and bring together the 12 artworks in an exhibition entitled ‘Dar to Dunoon: Modern African Art from the Argyll Collection’.

Dr Cowcher said: “Argyll and Bute is home to one of the finest public authority-owned art collections in the UK, established in 1960 by Naomi Mitchison for educational use. Living in schools and libraries in the county, these artworks have not had the conservation attention that artworks in museum collections are typically afforded. We organised this day to invite a conversation about how this wonderful collection can be best sustained by the community that it was bought for, and to give people the chance to try out practices that typically take place in the backstage area of museums.”

The Art Conservation Open Day is a collaboration between the University of St Andrews School of Art History and the Argyll Collection, Argyll and Bute Council. It runs from 10am to 4pm on Saturday 4 March and is free.

The team from the University’s Access for Rural Communities (ARC) project will also be at the event, which aims to support and enable young learners on their journey into university.

Support for initial conservation work and outreach on this collection has been provided by the University of St Andrews’ Impact and Innovation Fund and CHARTS Argyll & Isles through Argyll Aspires, funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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