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Trans Europe Express, study and restoration of a major artwork by Dorothée Selz

Problems related to the conservation-restoration of atypical materials in contemporary art
Marie Courseaux
This article is a translation of:
Trans Europe Express, étude et restauration d’une œuvre de Dorothée Selz

Abstracts

Trans Europe Express, created by Dorothée Selz in 1972, required the restoration of an almost completely unstudied material : ‘royal icing’. It is a preparation develop from egg whites, sugar icing, Flashe® paint and vinyl glue that, over time, has come to show considerable browning. The research determined the phenomena and factors of degradation, established appropriate treatment, respecting and documenting the  intentions of the artist, who has also participated in this restoration.

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Introduction

  • 1  The pastry bag takes the form of a supple cone, able to receive at it’s tip different piping nozzl (...)
  • 2  Indeed, Dorothée Selz modified the composition of the mix for practical reasons. According to her, (...)
  • 3  Flashe®is range of paint manufactured by Lefranc & Bourgeois®. It is created in 1959 by one of the (...)

1Trans Europe Expressrepresents a multi-coloured landscape, criss-crossed by a miniature railroad. It was made by Dorothée Selz in 1972 and was acquired by the National Center of Fine Arts (CNAP) in 1973. The bulk of the scenery consists of royal icing, applied using a pastry bag fitted with a star shaped tip1. In baking, the term "royal icing" refers to a mix prepared from a whipped egg white and icing sugar. Food colorants and lemon juice may also possibly have been added. The composition of the mix made by Dorothée Selz is slightly different2. It is made of egg white, icing sugar, Flashe® acrylic-vinyl paint3 and vinyl glue. Finally, a Sanyo® tape recorder allows the broadcasting of a soundtrack.

Fig. 1 Trans Europe Express before restoration

Fig. 1 Trans Europe Express before restoration

Overview, Registration number : 1525 ; 35 kg ;  H. 20,5 cm, L. 131,5 cm, D. 98,5 cm.

Crédits : © Marie Courseaux

2Trans Europe Express showed a significant browning of undetermined origins. In light of this enigma and magnitude of the phenomenon, Annie Demange (administrator in charge of restorations for the CNAP) and Sébastien Faucon (inspector of artistic creation for the CNAP) decided to entrust the restoration of the artwork with us. Much of this work consisted in determining the cause of degradation of royal icing through the establishment of a study protocol in order to ensure an appropriate treatment.

History of the artwork

3To determine the ins and the outs of a previously unknown material, we started by conducting a series of interviews with the artist. Among other things, this allowed us to trace the history of Trans Europe Express. It’s artist, Dorothée Selz has indicated to us that she kept the art piece in her workshop of the 123 rue de l’Ouest (west 123 street) in Paris until it was delivered safely to the Palais de Tokyo in 1973 (Only one year after its creation). According to her, the artwork was, at this time, in very good condition and did not show any browning at all. The surface browning on Trans Europe Express and other artworks evidently occurred while in the care of the FNAC, probably due to improper storage that exposed the pieces to dust and humidity. According to Dorothée Selz, there could have been "water leakage around walls". In fact, much of her art work made of royal icing incurred moisture damage. The "damages caused by water in this storage" was also the opinion of Annie Demange of the CNAP. On the other hand, they both think that the droppings found on Trans Europe Expressare due to mice from the Palais de Tokyo.

4Documentation provided by FNAC notes that Trans Europe Express had been the subject of two on loan exhibitions in the meantime. The first was an exhibition organized by the Champagne-Argonne association for the castle of Braux in Sainte-Cohière from June 15th to September 15th of 1982. The second one took place in 1998 for the exhibition at the Cité des sciences et de l’industrie (City of Sciences and Industry) in Paris. In 1991 Trans Europe Express moved from the storage place of the Palais de Tokyo to the storage of the CNAP under the Esplanade at La Défense. A report made in 2003 by Annie Demange on the general state of the artwork mentions some "important and occasional brown marks of mold (?) on the surface of the sugar". Except this written document of the FNAC, no other records exist concerning the state of Trans Europe Express since its creation in 1972. The only pictures from this period that we have are in black and white, which make it difficult to observe any browning.

Artistic context

5The use of bright colors and fluted designs are recurring elements of Dorothée Selz's repertoire that she will continue the develop throughout her career. Trans Europe Express, would be one of several pieces that revisit the theme of landscape, and especially the theme of the railway landscape. Trans Europe Express is also an influential crucial artwork that have inspired a similar scenery : Le Temps des gares.

Fig. 2 The eight reliefs that constitute Le Temps des gares of Dorothée Selz

Fig. 2 The eight reliefs that constitute Le Temps des gares of Dorothée Selz

1978 ; Royal icing, wooden base, model objects (miniature railroad, miniature plastic characters, etc.) ; H. 150 cm, L. 175 cm, D. 90 cm, total length of 14 m (the eight pieces) ; Private collection, Paris.

Credits : © Galerie Gabrielle Laroche, 12 rue de Beaune 75007 Paris

6It is composed of eight reliefs with similar dimensions, which placed one after the other form a set of 30 m². Le Temps des gares is based on Trans Europe Express by enhancing the contrasting effects by using bright colors.

7The Trans Europe Express soundtrack is produced from sequential editing of different atmospheres. There are thirty-one in total, that are all put together in a closed-loop. The sounds come from : nature, motors, festivities, mechanical appliances and trains, among other things. Thanks to this large variety of sounds, Dorothée Selz layers the visual narrative with the support of evocative sound. The sound creates an additional means to challenge our imagination to create a "pictorial representation of the sound effects". This practice will be repeated many times, particularly for the Façade series which are photographs covered with royal icing using a piping nozzle. The device is identical, in most cases using a Sanyo® tape recorder, M‑48M model with a magnetic tape. You can also note the similarity of the fixing system.

8The use of edible materials, whether they truly are or only in appearance edible, underpins the work of Dorothée Selz. Trans Europe Express, for example, remind us of Dieter Roth's Insel. It is an island landscape mainly composed of leftover food presented on a similar wooden base and Plexiglas® cover affixed with screws. Dorothée Selz also participated in the Eat Art movement initiated by Daniel Spoerri. She remains committed to the colored, poetic, festive and playful aspect of the gastronomy. This is in part due to the discovery through her travels of offerings made in Bali and Mexico for the day of the dead.

  • 4  "ephemeral edible sculptures" is used by Dorothée Selz as the generic term for all the ephemeral i (...)

9In the case of Trans Europe Express appearances are deceptive. The way Dorothée Selz works with the material suggests that it’s an edible preparation made like any cakes. This is completely untrue due to the presence of vinyl glue and Flashe® paint which are, in fact, inedible. The more colorful scenery however makes it more attractive to the spectator. It's "appetizing" appearance, urges people to leave behind the simple contemplation to not only devour with your eyes. Dorothée Selz likes to create confusion with the play of materials, forms and colors. Thus, it is very important to distinguish two types of artwork that are intended to be considerably different : the "ephemeral edible sculptures"4 (that you can really eat) and the perennial work of art design that are to be preserved.

Fig. 3 Example of "ephemeral edible sculptures"

Fig. 3 Example of "ephemeral edible sculptures"

Expanded polystyrene, royal icing, sweets, salty and sweet food ; H. 4,5 m (others dimensions are variables) ; Installation made in Bogota, Colombie.

Credits : © Oscar Monsalve, Brice & Romain Martenet‑Cuidet, Dorothée Selz

10Trans Europe Express fait partie de la seconde catégorie. Dorothée Selz insiste particulièrement sur la durabilité et la qualité des matériaux employés. Soucieuse de leur pérennité, elle décidera même d’abandonner progressivement le mélange sucre glace, blanc d’œuf, colle vinylique et peinture Flashe®, consciente de sa fragilité, pour le remplacer par un mastic coloré, qu’elle estime plus solide. Pour Trans Europe Express, l’utilisation de matériaux instables ne traduit pas chez Dorothée Selz la volonté d’une œuvre périssable, même si celle‑ci s’avère précaire.

Implementation

11From the observations made on Trans Europe Express and the different interviews with the artist, we were able to reconstitute the manufacturing process in the following steps :

Fig. 4 Positionnement des différents éléments

Fig. 4 Positionnement des différents éléments

Crédit : © Marie Courseaux

  1. Trans Europe Express is made of polystyrene, cork and wood, plus the tape recorder, all mounted on a rectangular plywood base. The polystyrene parts that give the landscape its form are fixed to the support by a metal shaft. The tape recorder is secured on the back by two metal angled brackets. It is wedged in the front by two rubber wheels mounted on two metal handles. This vertical mounting permits direct access to the tape recorder and makes for easy removal through the rectangular opening on the side of the Plexiglas® cover. This opening also allows for effective sound transmission.

  2. Small wooden boards are then fixed on the polystyrene volumes. Some are first covered with roughly applied white acrylic paint that sometimes shows the wood underneath.

  3. The rail road is then fixed on these small wooden boards. The track gauge of the railroad is 9 mm, that correspond to the N scale for train model.

  4. The surface is covered by a first layer of royal icing made with a liquid consistency. It serves as an interface between the support and a second layer of a thicker consistency than the first. Without this first coat, the thicker royal icing wouldn't stick very well to the surface and could separate once dry. This second coat is applied using a pastry bag fitted with a star tip measuring 10 to 22 mm in diameter.

    • 5  During the interviews, the artist mentioned that she also used the Flashe® paints for paint the ed (...)

    A blue acrylic-vinyl paint5 has been employed for retouching the edges of the small wooden boards, polystyrene, plywood, and the royal icing at the periphery. This was done originally to hide all the materials used for building the structure.

  5. At last, white stones and natural lichen tinted in red, green and yellow are set on this scenery.

  6. The whole is surmounted by a cover of boxed Plexiglas® fixed to the plywood edges with screws.

State of preservation

12Trans Europe Express arrived in our workshop with a great deal of obvious damage. The surface area was covered with a deposit of light dust. The Plexiglas® side panels were separated at two angles. The panels also had two cracks close to the tape recorder, as well as several scratches. The blue paint under the railroad was flaking off in certain places exposing the white paint underneath. The decorative lichen had become brittle over time. Some have bleached, while others became a lot darker, some had fallen off.

13As for the relief made of royal icing, it was in a particularly worrying state. It had many signs of wear and the poor upholding of the cover seemed to be a primary cause. Because of missing screws, the cover had moved during transport and created a systematic friction against the royal icing. The royal icing also contacted the cover's face where it brims over the plywood board. This led to increasing damages in the scenery as well as crushing and fractures on the edges of the piece. There are marks on the piece caused by rodents eating away at the royal icing. This was confirmed by the presence of their droppings scattered around the surface.

14The whole scenery of royal icing is spotted with brown marks. They do not all have the same characteristics so they were classified depending on their color, their shape and their aspects :

Fig. 5 Classification of the brown marks

Fig. 5 Classification of the brown marks

Credits : © Marie Courseaux

  • The type n° 1 corresponds to a light discoloration. It is not a mark yet but looks more like a lightening, often grayish. It is about 0,2 cm wide and appears like a staking of the surface.

  • The type n° 2 is similar to a discoloration. The royal icing in contact with the lichen has gradually lost its original color. It forms a ring of 2,5 cm large with a darker border with the same color as the lichen.

  • The type n° 3 contained all the rings whose aspect suggest a solubilization of the royal icing. Their colors has changed very slightly. They are a darker version of the original tint. Their diameter is between 0,3 and 0,8 cm.

  • The type n° 4 is a light browning. All the marks are between 0,1 et 1,5 cm in diameter and are light brown almost orange. They may be accompanied by rodent droppings, that had caused a hollow in the royal icing.

  • The type n° 5 is composed of a central spot with a hollow. Their particular shape of "perfect disc" reminds us the impact of a liquid on a surface. Their size varies but the diameter is generally around 1,5 cm. It could be rodent urine deposited in droplet form.

  • The type n° 6 resemble to a dark orange browning. This type of marks appears in wider area, never as disc. The size of the marks is variable, the bigger one is 20 cm long and 7 cm large.

  • The type n° 7 is the darkest browning on Trans Europe Express. It may extend to 15 cm in length and 7 cm in width. In this particular case, the consistency of the royal icing is modified. It can range from a simple softening to tacky areas. We was also capable to observed a very important dissolution and staking of the surface.

  • Finally, the type n° 8 include all the marks showing amazingly regular die-cuts, within a range from 0,5 to 1 cm. Ultimately, we are not in a position to provide an explanation to this phenomenon.

15The most significant degradation is the considerable browning of the royal icing. This represents a major conservation and restoration issue. The causes and the nature of this deterioration were unknown. In fact, Trans Europe Express represented an atypical and unprecedented case. Consequently, the key to the entire study focused on the understanding of the phenomenon.

Researches

Investigation on the mechanism of degradation of royal icing

  • 6  Analysis carried out by Alexandre François at the research laboratory of historic buildings.

16Firstly, we decided to search for traces of micro‑organisms. The analysis results of brown royal icing samples were negative6 so we can state that the discoloration doesn't come from a fungal or bacterial attack.

  • 7  The main part of Mexican skulls are made by mixing 5 kg of sugar with 1,5 kg of water, the juice o (...)

17The only example of a similar deterioration that we found in the conservation-restoration field, concern Mexican skulls from the British Museum Department of Ethnography. They show the same type of degradation than Trans Europe Express and they too are ornamented with royal icing7.

Fig. 6 Mexican skulls revealing a large browning

Fig. 6 Mexican skulls revealing a large browning

18Chlöe ; Acquisition date : 1969 ; Royal icing ; H. 14,5 cm ; Registration number : Am 1969, 03.1.

Credits © The Trustee of the British Museum

  • 8  DANIELS, LOHNEIS, 1997, p. 17-25.
  • 9  Mr. Vincent Daniels obtained his BSc an PhD in chemistry at University College, Cardiff. He worked (...)
  • 10 Mrs. Guinevere Lohneis obtained a BA in history at London University and a BA in chemistry from the (...)

19These skulls have been studied8 by Mr. Vincent Daniels9 and Mrs. Guinevere Lohneis10. This study in addition to other researches into the food industry helped identify five reactions as a potential cause to the browning of the royal icing :

  1. The enzymatic browning

  2. The Maillard reaction

  3. The caramelization

  4. The lipid oxidation

  5. The lipolysis

  • 11  MATHLOUTHI, REISER,1995.
  • 12  It is the hydrolysis of lipids.
  • 13  PEREGO, 2005, p. 510.

20These reactions each relate to specific ingredients in the royal icing. The ingredient saccharose can produce reaction 1, 2, 3 and egg can produce reaction 4, 5. Three reactions can immediately be rule out. The reaction of caramelization occurs when the saccharose is heated beyond its melting point and in the presence of an acid catalyst. Thus, the artwork would have had to be submitted to a temperature of approximately 190 °C for the structure of the sucrose crystal change and produce the brown discoloration11. Consequently, the caramelization reaction could not be responsible for the browning on Trans Europe Express, because its storage and exposure conditions were inevitably below that temperature. Similarly, the lipolysis12 and lipid oxidation are not possibly the cause because the lipids are mainly found in the egg yolk13 while the royal icing is made of only the egg white. This reaction has been excluded in the absence of lipids in the egg white.

  • 14  It is flavonoids (C6C3C6) contained in sugar.
  • 15  It is aromatic diketone of the formula C6H4O2. Delcroix, PAGNOUX, p. 17.
  • 16 PILIŽOTA, ŠUBARIĆ, 1998, p. 220.
  • 17 Ibid.
  • 18 DELACHARLERIE, DE BIOURGE, CHÈNÉ, SINDIC, DEROANNE, 2008, p. 20.
  • 19  BUREAU, 1992, p.17. 
  • 20  PILIŽOTA, ŠUBARIĆ, 1998, p. 220.
  • 21  BUREAU, 1992, p.17. 
  • 22  Analysis carried out by Gilbert Delcroix, engineer and doctor of physical science, specialized in (...)
  • 23  Analysis made by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and Raman spectrometry at the CICR (...)

21So we focused our research on the enzymatic browning. This process corresponds to the transformation of phenolic compound14 in quinones15 that oxidize into brown‑colored polymers16. This reaction requires oxygen and enzymes17 that are active if the pH is between 6 and 6,518. In the case of Trans Europe Express, this type of reaction could have been set off by the presence of tyrosine in the egg white19. This amino acid is a phenolic compound, that is crucial to enzymatic browning20. But the egg white contains also another amino acid : the cysteine, which is supposed to inhibit this reaction21. Despite that, the tests reveals the presence of quinones22. However, the quinones are just an intermediate step in the process. No evidence can confirm that hypothesis because nothing indicates the presence of the final brown polymers23.

  • 24  The Maillard reactions, was named after the doctor and chemist who discovered it in 1912 : Louis C (...)
  • 25  Indeed, since the middle of the 20th century, works on the Maillard reaction never stopped. They w (...)
  • 26  This reaction is very important in the food chemistry because it happens while food is stored. It (...)
  • 27  The reducing sugars are all the sugars with a ketone and aldehyde function.
  • 28  DANIELS, LOHNEIS, 1997, p. 17-25.
  • 29  The colored molecules (melanoidins) produced during the Maillard reaction are numerous. Thus in Nu (...)
  • 30  The positive test made with Fehling’s solution was carried out by Gilbert Delcroix.

22So we turned to a non‑enzymatic browning reaction : the Maillard reaction24. From a chemical standpoint, this reaction is not yet completely understood and its different stages are still being studied in health25 and food industry sectors26. We can, however, summarize it this way : Maillard reaction is defined as all the interactions resulting from the initial reactions between a reducing sugar27 (glucose, fructose, ribose, etc.) and an amino group28 (amino acids, proteins, peptides, etc.). It is also irreversible and ends in the formation of insoluble polymers, usually brown or black, called "melanoidins"29. In the case of Trans Europe Express, amino acids are found in egg white. On the flip side, the icing sugar is not a reducing sugar but a disaccharide. Nevertheless, it can hydrolyze in the presence of water to form a glucose and fructose molecules which are reducing sugars and tests have confirmed their presence on Trans Europe Express30. Flooding of the storehouse where the artwork was stored became the suspected cause of this phenomenon.

  • 31  Three recipes have been tested. A glacé icing made with 5 ml of water added to 50 g of icing sugar (...)

23The study conducted by Mr. Vincent Daniels and Mrs. Guinevere Lohneis confirms this hypothesis. The results indicate that the browning increased with increasing relative humidity, temperature and acidity. According to their analysis by gas chromatography and by chemical tests, they also attribute the cause of the browning to Maillard reaction. However, the composition of the royal icing used for the study is slightly different31. Therefore we could not use these results directly. A study was conducted in collaboration with the Interdisciplinary Center for Heritage Conservation and Restoration of Marseille (CICRP). Its goal was to verify the hypothesis of a Maillard reaction as well as its causes.

Study protocol

  • 32  So the samples of liquid consistency are equivalent to the first layer on Trans Europe Express whe (...)

24We made first test specimens with a liquid royal icing, then with a thicker royal icing to reconstitute the original stratigraphy32. To do so, we selected the following products :

  • An icing sugar Saint Louis® composed of 97 % of sugar and 3 % of starch. This product is equivalent to the starched icing sugar used by the artist.

    • 33  Knowing that it’s composition may have been different back to the creation of the artwork. Indeed, (...)

    A range of Flashe® paint of different colors33, each corresponding to a color on Trans Europe Express.

    • 34  Cf. Data sheet of the products in the appendix.
    • 35  The tests were measured using pH indicator strips. These measures indicate the pH of the glue befo (...)

    Four vinyl glue34 of different pH because the glue used by Dorothée Selz remains unknown and they can play a significant role in the browning reaction. These are : Vinamul® 3254 (pH = 4), VR 200® (pH = 5), Dalbe Vinyl® (pH = 6), ST® EM 91136D from Stouls (pH = 7)35.

  • 36  Under standardized test conditions.

25In the context of the study, the styrofoam and the plywood do not serve as a support for the royal icing as it is for Trans Europe Express case. These materials can interfere in the artificial aging process thus rendering the results inaccurate. So the tests have been executed on glass slides. This chemically inert material36 makes possible to avoid all interaction with the royal icing.

26The liquid royal icing were made according to the proportions below :

  • 1 egg white

  • 135 g of icing sugar

  • 12 g of paint

  • 37  The samples of this series have been placed long enough in a cage full of mice to get their urine (...)

27Then, the royal icing is divided into four equal parts. To each part is added five grams of one of the four vinyl glue mentioned earlier. The samples of thick consistency are made in the same way. Only the sugar quantity have been modified (180 g). Prior to application of the royal icing, the glass slides are cleaned with an anionic surfactant (Teepol 617). The royal icing, made both liquid and thick, are spread over the glass surface with a stainless steel spatula. Once dry in the open air, the coat of liquid royal icing is 1 to 2 mm thick while the coat of thick royal icing is 3 to 4 mm thick. Independently, a color-free series (without paint) has tested the action of mouse urine and droppings on royal icing and lichen37. The samples have been subjected for twenty-eight days to accelerated aging in a enclosure Vötsch VC4034 at 60° C and 75 % of relative humidity. The assessment of color changing and the chemical modifications have been analyzed by spectrocolorimetry and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) at the CICRP of Marseille.

Study assessment

28On the total amount of samples tested, two cases of browning appeared on the mixture n° 0 and n° 2. Each of them were made with the Vinamul® glue. So the nature of the glue could have made an impact. Its pH factor of 4 may favor or engender a Maillard reaction. This hypothesis needs to be confirmed by a larger series of tests.

Fig. 7 Samples of royal icing before and after artificial accelerated aging

Fig. 7 Samples of royal icing before and after artificial accelerated aging

Credits : © Alain Colombini

29From top to bottom : Test series n° 0, royal icing of thick consistency ; Test series n° 2, royal icing of liquid consistency ; Test series n° 8, royal icing with lichen, urine and droppings of mice ; Test series n° 8, royal icing with urine of mice.

30The test series n° 8 demonstrate that in the presence of rodent urine and droppings, the browning becomes intensified. The morphology of the altered zones is very close to the one observed on Trans Europe Express. So the yellowish and brownish rings obtained by accelerated aging are similar to the type n° 4. It is also possible to distinguish the very dark and small cavities, similar to the type n° 7.

31The browning appeared on royal icing samples of liquid consistency as well as the one of thicker consistency. The consistency of the mixture would therefore have no effect on the reaction. The same holds true for the color. On the other hand, the tests confirmed the action of high relative humidity and high temperature. Now we do know that these two factors are the causes of the degradation and thus the browning.

32First, Trans Europe Express suffered from the hydrolysis of saccharose, which continued by the Maillard reaction. Table and Sans titre, that also belong to the CNAP, are the only artwork to show the same browning phenomena.

Fig. 8 Browning examples on others artworks by Dorothée Selz

Fig. 8 Browning examples on others artworks by Dorothée Selz

On the left : Table ; 1987 ; Royal icing, wood, fine mesh metal screening, plaster, cement, nails, plaster bands, acrylic paint, vinyl glue, glass, earthenware ; H. 116 cm, L. 110 cm, D. 76 cm ; Acquisition date : 1990 ; FNAC ; Registration number : 90558. On the right : Sans titre ; 1980 ; Royal icing, acrylic paint, fine mesh metal screening, fabric, plaster on wood ; H. 15 cm, L. 200 cm, P. 130 cm ; Paris ; FNAC ; Registration number : 1779.

Crédit : © Marie Courseaux

33Tout comme Trans Europe Express, elles ont été conservées dans des réserves ayant subi des inondations. Nous pouvons conclure que leurs conditions de stockage sont un facteur clef de cette dégradation si spécifique. D’autant plus que les lichens présents sur l’œuvre peuvent agir comme des éponges et retenir l’humidité. Les tests effectués lors de cette étude ont mis en évidence les dangers d’une humidité relative et d’une température élevées. De ce fait, il est impératif de respecter certaines conditions de conservation. Nous nous sommes basée pour cela sur les préconisations faites par M. Vincent Daniels et Mme Guinevere Lohneis, qui ont pu tester différents taux d’humidité relative et de température. L’environnement idéal se situe à un taux d’humidité relative inférieure à 30 % et à une température de 15 °C ( ±2 °C).  Nous n’avons malheureusement pas disposé de suffisamment de temps afin d’établir un pronostic quant à l’évolution des taches. Cependant, nous n’avons constaté aucune évolution du brunissement durant les dix‑huit mois consacrés à la restauration de l’œuvre. Selon Annie Demange il en serait de même pour Table, qui n’a pas montré de nouvelles taches depuis sa restauration en avril 2011.

Treatment

34Before any intervention, a vacuum cleaning is provided with a soft brush. The rodent droppings were removed with tweezers and scalpel.

  • 38  The solubilization tests are done on lichen and royal icing samples coming from Trans Europe Expre (...)
  • 39  It is an aliphatic resin with a low molecular weight (1250g/mol).

35The lichen become darkly discolored and are no longer blended discreetly into the landscape. They have also progressively lost their flexibility and became brittle creating the rupture of many ramifications. These lichen cannot be replaced without causing damages to the royal icing where the two elements connect. Furthermore, if we are replacing them, the new lichen will become equally fragile and brittle in the long run. So the remaining lichen are strengthened to prevent the loss of the branches. The solvent used must not result in the dissolving of the colors or the royal icing. After the tests38, the white spirit is the only solvent to be safe for both the lichen and the royal icing. The extreme fragility of lichen forces us to use the airbrush. Airbrushing would allow us to consolidate the lichen deeply without breaking their branches. After many tests, we choose the Regalrez 1126® resin39. It offers in small concentrations the best mechanical resistance and easy use. The royal icing is protected by a plastic wrap stretched over the surface and secured with weights keeping the wrap down during spraying. Under an extractor hood a mixture of 5 % Regalrez® in white spirit is sprayed two times on the fragile branches.

  • 40  They are produced on the basis of Laropal A81®, an urea-aldehyde resin.

36After the consolidation the lichen are retouched so they fit better into the landscape as Dorothée Selz had intended. To achieve this, we decided to use the Gamblin®40 paints which tested the best in terms of covering power, luminosity and application. Besides these paints age well and are compatible with the Regalrez® used for the consolidation. Before any application, a sampling of colors has been made with test lichen. It was used as reference for retouching because we had no visual record to attest to the original lichen colors before the browning. We referenced the colors based on the tips of the existing lichen along with direction from Dorothée Selz. With her help, we identified three colors : a garnet‑red, a green-yellow and a bluish green. The solubilization tests on original lichen have confirmed the existence of those three colors. It also reveals the presence of an orange red. The lichen have been retouched with the participation of Dorothée Selz. From the sampling of colors, we selected four colors that looks like the original colors. New tests of solibilization are made to determine the positioning of each colors. Then the royal icing is protected with a stretch wrap. The lichen are retouched with the Gamblin® colors diluated in isopropanol and sprayed with an airbrush.

Fig. 9 Lichen and royal icing before and after being retouched

Fig. 9 Lichen and royal icing before and after being retouched

Crédit : © Marie Courseaux

  • 41  This is due to the very low molecular weight of the Laropal A81®.
  • 42  DE LA RIE, MARK, GAMBLIN, WHITTEN, 2000, p. 29-33 ; DE LA RIE, QUILLEN LOMAX, PALMER, DEMING GLINS (...)
  • 43 SZMIT-NAUD, 2006, p. 66-75.
  • 44  Tests were done with uncolored royal icing spread over glass slides. Several paints used for retou (...)

37We also decide to retouch the royal icing. The brown marks on the surface interfere with the edible and appetizing aspect desired by Dorothée Selz. Furthermore this reaction is irreversible and the formation of insoluble brown polymers stops all chemical treatment. We have also retained the Gamblin® products for their good spreadability41and high covering power. They also will not damage the royal icing like watercolors or acrylic paints can because the royal icing is water soluble. The different study of René de la Rie42 and an oral communication at the symposium of the SFIIC43, have proved their stability. However, we wanted to verify their innocuousness for the royal icing. The artificial aging tests carried out with the CICRP showed they were, in fact, harmless44. The retouching was executed with a paintbrush under a daylight lamp. The blue paint beneath the railroad is retouched the same way after filling gaps with a Modostuc® putty. These interventions helped to restore the unity of Trans Europe Express along with the reinstatement of the lichen into the landscape.

38Trans Europe Express mobilizes a combination of visual and auditory experiences. That's why it is important to revive the sound dimension. It was possible to reuse the original tape recorder with a new battery. However, with exhibition in mind, we decided to replace it with exactly the same tape recorder that has been entirely dismantled and the electronic components extracted.  They are stored separately with the original tape recorder so it is possible to reuse it if necessary. The electronic components can be used as spares if it breaks down. The plastic outer shell of the substitute tape recorder is kept. A Sony® MP3 player connected to X-mini® speakers are placed inside it and will play the digitized soundtrack.

Fig. 10 The installation protocol of the sound system

Fig. 10 The installation protocol of the sound system

Credits : © Marie Courseaux

39The soundtrack digitization is made using the Audacity® software and a professional digital recorder. It has been recorded from a copy of the tape provided by the FNAC who has been unable to give us the original tape. Each sides of the tape were regrouped together into a WAV file and saved on CD. The original tape label was scanned then printed on a label and applied on the tape copy. According to the artist wishes, this system limits the sound diffusion to Trans Europe Express area and preserved the external appearance of the tape recorder.

40The Plexiglas® cover showed multiple scratches that inhibit the visibility of the landscape and even caused damage to the royal icing. It's only function being to protect the artwork, we decided to replace it with a similar Plexiglas® cover. The dimensions of the new cover are expanded by 6 mm in width and in length. This extra space allowed for the insertion of balsa wood blocks to be screwed in place between the cover and the piece.

Fig. 11 Cushioning system made of balsa wood, before and after retouch

Fig. 11 Cushioning system made of balsa wood, before and after retouch

Credits : © Marie Courseaux

41Leur but est d’empêcher le frottement de la cloche sur la glace royale et donc les pertes de matière. Elles permettent aussi d’éviter un serrage excessif qui pourrait entraîner de nouvelles fentes dans le Plexiglas®. Pour plus de discrétion, elles ont été taillées en biseau et retouchées à l’aide de peinture acrylique. L’ouverture qui constitue une voie d’accès aux rongeurs sera fermée lors du stockage par un opercule en Plexiglas®.

Conclusion

42The issues raised by the restoration of Trans Europe Express have been the opportunity to expand my knowledge to a large variety of materials that are relatively unknown and rarely faced in the conservation-restoration field. The major part of my work consisted in studying the royal icing, the main component of the artwork, to understand the browning process and identify the principal factors of degradation. Given the irreversible nature of the deterioration, the implementation of preventive measures is essential. Appropriate storage conditions (low relative humidity and temperature) will minimize the degradation of royal icing. These recommendations will also prevent the deterioration of other artworks made of royal icing or similar materials. This particular case highlights the limits reached by the conservation-restoration of contemporary art when it comes to direct intervention on fundamentally unstable materials.

43The collaboration with Dorothée Selz was extremely rewarding in artistic as well as technical and personal terms. The result is a substantial documentation, fruit of a productive exchange. This intervention restored the unity of Trans Europe Express, respecting the intentions of the artist and what constitute the very essence of this artwork.

Fig. 12 Trans Europe Express before and after restoration

Fig. 12 Trans Europe Express before and after restoration

Credits : © Marie Courseaux

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Bibliography

ASHOOR, S.H., ZENT, J.B, "Maillard Browning of Common Amino Acids and Sugars", dans Journal of Food and science, vol. 49, 1984, p. 1206-1207.

BUREAU, C., Les analyses physicochimiques appliquées à la restauration et à la conservation des oeuvres d'art, INFORMA Études, Recherches, Traitements. Conservation‑Restauration du Patrimoine Culturel, 1992.

CARMICHAEL, E., SAYER, C., The Skeleton at the Feast, The Day of the Dead in Mexico, London, British Museum Press, 1991.

COURSEAUX, M., Trans Europe Express, Étude et restauration d'une œuvre de Dorothée Selz, mémoire de diplôme en conservation‑restauration des œuvres sculptées, Tours, Esba TALM, 2012.

COUTEAU, J., DAMIENS, L., GIRARD‑FASSIER, G., Offrandes, Dorothée Selz, Clermont‑Ferrand, Un, deux... Quatre, 2003.

CRISCI, G. M., LA RUSSA, M. F., MALAGODI, M., RUFFOLO, S. A., "Consolidating properties of Regalrez 1126® and Paraloid B72® applied to wood", dans Journal of Cultural Heritage, 2010, Vol. 11, p. 304‑308.

DANIELS, V., LOHNEIS, G., "Deterioration of sugar artifacts", dans Studies in conservation, 1997, vol. 42, n° 1, p. 17‑25.

DE LA RIE, E. R., MARK, L., GAMBLIN, R., WHITTEN, J., "Development of a New Material for Retouching", dans Tradition and Innovation : Advances in Conservation, IIC 2000 Melbourne Congress, London, International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, 2000, p. 29‑33.

DE LA RIE, E. R., QUILLEN LOMAX, S., PALMER, M., DEMING GLINSMAN, L., MAINES, C.A., "An investigation of the photochemical stability of urea‑aldehyde resin retouching paints", dans Tradition and Innovation: Advances in Conservation, IIC 2000 Melbourne Congress, London, International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, 2000 p. 51‑59.

DELCROIX, G., PAGNOUX, M., Matière à peindre, Dictionnaire technique et critique de la substance picturale, de l’œuvre peinte & de ses composants matériels et immatériels, à paraître.

ELARBI, S., CLOUTEAU, I., « Exposer et pérenniser l’œuvre contemporaine », Penser autrement l’art contemporain, dans Techné, n° 24, 2006, p. 69‑73.

ELLIS, G. P., "The Maillard reaction", dans Advances in Carbohydrate Chemistry and Biochemistry, vol. 14, 1959, p. 63‑134.

DELACHARLERIE, S., DE BIOURGE, S., CHÈNÉ, C., SINDIC, M ., DEROANNE, C., HACCP organoleptique, guide pratique, Gembloux, Presse agronomiques de Gembloux, 2008.

HODGE, J.E., "The Amadori Rearrangement", dans Advances in Carbohydrate Chemistry and Biochemistry, vol. 10, 1955, p. 169‑205.

MAILLARD, L‑C., Action de la glycérine et des sucres sur les acides grasaminés : cycloglycylglycines et polypeptides; mélanoïdines et matières humiques, Laval, L. Barnéoud, 1913.

MAILLARD, L‑C., Genèse des matières protéiques et des matières humiques : action de la glycérine et des sucres sur les acides aminés, Paris, Masson, 1913.

MATHLOUTHI, M., REISER, P., Le saccharose : propriétés et applications, Paris, Polytechnica, 1995.

NURSTEN, H., The Maillard Reaction, Chemistry, Biology and Implications, Londres, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2005.

PEREGO, F., Dictionnaire des matériaux du peintre, Paris, Belin, 2005.

PILIŽOTA, V., ŠUBARIĆ, D., « Control of Enzymatic Browning of Foods », dans Food Technology and Biotechnology, 1998, vol. 36, n° 3, p. 219‑227.

SZMITNAUD, E., « Stabilité de la couleur et réversibilité des matériaux contemporains pour retouches des peintures » dans Couleur & temps, La couleur en conservationrestauration, 12es journées d’étude de la SFICC, Paris, 21‑23 juin 2006, Champs‑sur‑Marne, SFIIC, 2006, p. 66‑75.

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Notes

1  The pastry bag takes the form of a supple cone, able to receive at it’s tip different piping nozzles that make it possible to create different shapes. These utensils, normally used in pastry, give the landscape it’s particular look.

2  Indeed, Dorothée Selz modified the composition of the mix for practical reasons. According to her, the food colorants lose their intensity over time. That is why she uses Flashe® paints as an alternative to food colorants to color her royal icing. She also removed the lemon juice because it accelerates the drying period. This way she has enough time to make the scenery. As for the vinyl glue, she added it, according to her, to give "consistence, hardness, durability" to the mix. COURSEAUX, 2012, p. 326.

3  Flashe®is range of paint manufactured by Lefranc & Bourgeois®. It is created in 1959 by one of their engineers : Marc Havel. The blinder is a copolymer of vinyl acetate and acrylic ester.

4  "ephemeral edible sculptures" is used by Dorothée Selz as the generic term for all the ephemeral installations made of edible materials.

5  During the interviews, the artist mentioned that she also used the Flashe® paints for paint the edge of the artwork. This information have been corroborated through positive acetone and ethanol solubilization tests at the School. COURSEAUX, 2012, p.257.

6  Analysis carried out by Alexandre François at the research laboratory of historic buildings.

7  The main part of Mexican skulls are made by mixing 5 kg of sugar with 1,5 kg of water, the juice of a lemon and a level teaspoon of cream of tartar. Then the mix is heated in a pan and poured in a mold. Some used a mixture made of icing sugar, egg white, few drops of lemon juice and a powder from a root called Chault (Prophyllum coloratum). CARMICHAEL, SAYER, 1991.

8  DANIELS, LOHNEIS, 1997, p. 17-25.

9  Mr. Vincent Daniels obtained his BSc an PhD in chemistry at University College, Cardiff. He worked for the British Museum from 1974 to 2003. Since then, he is a consultant in conservation science and works part-time as a Research Fellow at the Royal College of Art.

10 Mrs. Guinevere Lohneis obtained a BA in history at London University and a BA in chemistry from the Open University of the United Kingdom.

11  MATHLOUTHI, REISER,1995.

12  It is the hydrolysis of lipids.

13  PEREGO, 2005, p. 510.

14  It is flavonoids (C6C3C6) contained in sugar.

15  It is aromatic diketone of the formula C6H4O2. Delcroix, PAGNOUX, p. 17.

16 PILIŽOTA, ŠUBARIĆ, 1998, p. 220.

17 Ibid.

18 DELACHARLERIE, DE BIOURGE, CHÈNÉ, SINDIC, DEROANNE, 2008, p. 20.

19  BUREAU, 1992, p.17. 

20  PILIŽOTA, ŠUBARIĆ, 1998, p. 220.

21  BUREAU, 1992, p.17. 

22  Analysis carried out by Gilbert Delcroix, engineer and doctor of physical science, specialized in conservation-restoration of cultural property. The first test made with ammonia water reveals to be positive, as well as a second one made with sodium bromhydrure.

23  Analysis made by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and Raman spectrometry at the CICRP of Marseille by Alain Colombini.

24  The Maillard reactions, was named after the doctor and chemist who discovered it in 1912 : Louis Camille Maillard (Pont-à-Mousson, 1878 ; Paris, 1936). While he was working on the synthesis of proteins by heating glucose-glycine mixtures, he obtained by chance aromatic and colored compounds whom he identifies as the brown polymers responsible for the color and the flavor of many foods. He will publish his discovery on November 27th 1911 under the title of : Action of sugars on amino acids and will develop it in a book entitled Genesis of the humic materials and  the protein substances in 1913. MAILLARD, 1913.

25  Indeed, since the middle of the 20th century, works on the Maillard reaction never stopped. They was even restarted when it was highlighted that their development inside the cells and will be partly the causes of cellular ageing.

26  This reaction is very important in the food chemistry because it happens while food is stored. It is the main thing responsible for the production of fragrances, flavors and pigments characteristics of cooked foods.

27  The reducing sugars are all the sugars with a ketone and aldehyde function.

28  DANIELS, LOHNEIS, 1997, p. 17-25.

29  The colored molecules (melanoidins) produced during the Maillard reaction are numerous. Thus in Nursten's article, it is about forty molecules that are listed. In general, it is high molecular weight polymers which contains furans and nitrogen. They also can contain such groups as carbonyl, carboxyl, amino, amide, pyrrole, indole, esther, anhydride, ether, methyl et hydroxyl. NURSTEN, 2005, p. 53-61.

30  The positive test made with Fehling’s solution was carried out by Gilbert Delcroix.

31  Three recipes have been tested. A glacé icing made with 5 ml of water added to 50 g of icing sugar. A royal icing made with an egg white and 250 g of icing sugar. A royal icing made as above but with 2 % and 4 % of lemon juice added.

32  So the samples of liquid consistency are equivalent to the first layer on Trans Europe Express whereas the samples of thick consistency correspond to the second layer.

33  Knowing that it’s composition may have been different back to the creation of the artwork. Indeed, the first Flashe® paint, called "vinyl gouaches" were plasticized with 16 % of dibutyl phthalate (an external plasticizer). Starting in 1970, they are plasticized by copolymerization with internal plasticizer instead of an external plasticizer added to the mix and fade away.

34  Cf. Data sheet of the products in the appendix.

35  The tests were measured using pH indicator strips. These measures indicate the pH of the glue before drying. The apparent pH measurements, made on the glue after drying, are equal to 7.

36  Under standardized test conditions.

37  The samples of this series have been placed long enough in a cage full of mice to get their urine and droppings on the specimens.

38  The solubilization tests are done on lichen and royal icing samples coming from Trans Europe Express. The samples are immerse in various solvents during 24 hours.

39  It is an aliphatic resin with a low molecular weight (1250g/mol).

40  They are produced on the basis of Laropal A81®, an urea-aldehyde resin.

41  This is due to the very low molecular weight of the Laropal A81®.

42  DE LA RIE, MARK, GAMBLIN, WHITTEN, 2000, p. 29-33 ; DE LA RIE, QUILLEN LOMAX, PALMER, DEMING GLINSMAN, MAINES, 2000, p. 51-59.

43 SZMIT-NAUD, 2006, p. 66-75.

44  Tests were done with uncolored royal icing spread over glass slides. Several paints used for retouching of which Gamblin® products were applied with a pincil. The specimens have been subjected for 15 days to accelerated aging in a enclosure Vötsch VC4034 at 60° C and 75 % of relative humidity. After a first look by naked-eyes and analysis by spectrocolorimetry and FTIR, no changes were visible for the Gamblin® paints.

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List of illustrations

Title Fig. 1 Trans Europe Express before restoration
Caption Overview, Registration number : 1525 ; 35 kg ;  H. 20,5 cm, L. 131,5 cm, D. 98,5 cm.
Credits Crédits : © Marie Courseaux
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/3268/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 784k
Title Fig. 2 The eight reliefs that constitute Le Temps des gares of Dorothée Selz
Caption 1978 ; Royal icing, wooden base, model objects (miniature railroad, miniature plastic characters, etc.) ; H. 150 cm, L. 175 cm, D. 90 cm, total length of 14 m (the eight pieces) ; Private collection, Paris.
Credits Credits : © Galerie Gabrielle Laroche, 12 rue de Beaune 75007 Paris
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/3268/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 1.0M
Title Fig. 3 Example of "ephemeral edible sculptures"
Caption Expanded polystyrene, royal icing, sweets, salty and sweet food ; H. 4,5 m (others dimensions are variables) ; Installation made in Bogota, Colombie.
Credits Credits : © Oscar Monsalve, Brice & Romain Martenet‑Cuidet, Dorothée Selz
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/3268/img-3.jpg
File image/jpeg, 916k
Title Fig. 4 Positionnement des différents éléments
Credits Crédit : © Marie Courseaux
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/3268/img-4.jpg
File image/jpeg, 1004k
Title Fig. 5 Classification of the brown marks
Credits Credits : © Marie Courseaux
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/3268/img-5.jpg
File image/jpeg, 1020k
Title Fig. 6 Mexican skulls revealing a large browning
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/3268/img-6.jpg
File image/jpeg, 596k
Title Fig. 7 Samples of royal icing before and after artificial accelerated aging
Credits Credits : © Alain Colombini
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/3268/img-7.jpg
File image/jpeg, 968k
Title Fig. 8 Browning examples on others artworks by Dorothée Selz
Caption On the left : Table ; 1987 ; Royal icing, wood, fine mesh metal screening, plaster, cement, nails, plaster bands, acrylic paint, vinyl glue, glass, earthenware ; H. 116 cm, L. 110 cm, D. 76 cm ; Acquisition date : 1990 ; FNAC ; Registration number : 90558. On the right : Sans titre ; 1980 ; Royal icing, acrylic paint, fine mesh metal screening, fabric, plaster on wood ; H. 15 cm, L. 200 cm, P. 130 cm ; Paris ; FNAC ; Registration number : 1779.
Credits Crédit : © Marie Courseaux
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/3268/img-8.jpg
File image/jpeg, 912k
Title Fig. 9 Lichen and royal icing before and after being retouched
Credits Crédit : © Marie Courseaux
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/3268/img-9.jpg
File image/jpeg, 964k
Title Fig. 10 The installation protocol of the sound system
Credits Credits : © Marie Courseaux
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/3268/img-10.jpg
File image/jpeg, 1008k
Title Fig. 11 Cushioning system made of balsa wood, before and after retouch
Credits Credits : © Marie Courseaux
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/3268/img-11.jpg
File image/jpeg, 556k
Title Fig. 12 Trans Europe Express before and after restoration
Credits Credits : © Marie Courseaux
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/3268/img-12.jpg
File image/jpeg, 943k
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References

Electronic reference

Marie Courseaux, « Trans Europe Express, study and restoration of a major artwork by Dorothée Selz », CeROArt [Online], EGG 3 | 2013, Online since 12 May 2013, connection on 18 August 2017. URL : http://ceroart.revues.org/3268

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About the author

Marie Courseaux

After a year of a foundation courses at the ‘Villa Thiole’ Municipal Art School of Nice in France, Marie Courseaux studied conservation-restoration of paintings at the Fine Art School of Avignon in France then the conservation-restoration of sculptures at the Fine Art School of Tours in France (Bachelors degree of conservation-restoration of sculptures, obtained in 2012). She has also trained in mold making and casting processes during her different internships and she operates in both the United States and in France. Contact: mariecourseaux@gmail.com

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Copyright

Licence Creative Commons
CeROArt – Conservation, exposition, restauration d'objets d'arts est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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