Nevelson’s Night Wall I Returns

May 16, 2013
Louise Nevelson, Night Wall I, 1972. Painted steel. Fogg Museum, Gift of Mildred and Arnold Glimcher in memory of Sumner Z. Cooper, Class of 1932, 1985.24. © 2013 Estate of Louise Nevelson / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Louise Nevelson’s steel sculpture, Night Wall I (1972), had stood outside Harvard’s Pound Hall for 25 years, and it showed. Last year, Harvard Art Museums conservators decided it was time to repair the damage the outdoor elements had caused, and we are pleased to report that it returned to its home this past February.

To treat the work’s significant structural and surface corrosion, the Harvard Art Museums’ Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies enlisted the help of restorer Gregory Curci, who disassembled the main parts of the sculpture and transported them to his nearby studio in a flatbed truck.

Curci stripped and blasted all of the sculpture’s surfaces, repaired weak welds, and applied a zincrich primer and catalyzed urethane paint to match the sculpture’s original flat black color and impede future corrosion. During its reinstallation, he also added a slab of black granite below the sculpture’s steel base to prevent exposure to ground moisture.

Longtime project supporter Fred Abernathy, Harvard’s Gordon McKay Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Abbott and James Lawrence Research Professor of Engineering, said of the restored sculpture, “If you have a chance to take a close look you will see that much has changed with the surface and that it now looks the way it should . . . It’s nice to have it back.”

Night Wall I was given to the Harvard Art Museums by Mildred and Arnold Glimcher in 1985 in memory of Sumner Z. Cooper, Class of 1932. Funding for its restoration was provided by the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Harvard Law School.