Art restoration efforts are often better known for the controversy and arguments they generate than for successfully preserving the original artists’ intents. Everything from cleaning to repainting can alter original details, subtly change colors, or, in the hands of amateurs, turn out absolutely tragic.
What if restoration didn’t require retouching a single element of the artist’s original paint strokes and carvings? MIT’s Media Lab, in partnership with Swiss researchers and the Harvard Art Museums, found a perfect art restoration situation that could benefit from a no-touch solution: the university’s long-hidden murals made by modern art legend Mark Rothko.
In a report from NPR affiliate WBUR, museum and MIT staff discussed a unique light projector solution to restoring the Rothko series. The five-mural collection was originally installed in 1963 in a particularly sunny dining room with a view of the Charles River, and Rothko donated the pieces under the condition that they’d remain in that room with the curtains drawn. That didn’t happen, leading to a wealth of sun damage, not to mention stains from dining room partiers. The university chose to put the murals into hiding to preserve what little of the faded details—and the original “deep crimson, plum” color scheme—remained.