Chapel of the Good Shepherd benefits from forty years of good-faith efforts to follow Nevelson’s maintenance guidelines. Countless layers of water-soluble paint have been applied atop her original alkyd paint. No one — certainly not Nevelson — could foresee the near-ruinous consequences of this approach over the long-term. Damage includes a chemical reaction between the two paints, tenting and flaking of paint, deterioration, and discoloration. All this damage, as well as the problems arising from Nevelson’s working techniques, is exacerbated by poor environmental conditioning typical of the era.
While other caretakers of public Nevelson works have responded to deterioration by sanding down to the wood substrate and essentially starting over, for decades Saint Peter’s continued to follow Nevelson’s guidelines. The unintended but happy consequence has been the preservation of Nevelson’s original paint, important not only for its lustrous finish, but its value for research and artistic preservation.
A four-phase campaign to restore Louise Nevelson's Chapel of the Good Shepherd is now underway.
- Stabilize tenting and flaking paint using funori adhesive
- Protect areas most sensitive to HVAC damage
- Reduce the use of heat-producing artificial light
- Secure the sculptures in advance of renovation work
- Remove existing ceiling, ductwork, lighting system
- Modernize window and skylight
- Probe each sculpture’s structural support/wall mounting
- Install properly-directed ductwork and lighting
- Replace ceiling
- Install dedicated HVAC/humidification unit outside Chapel isolation zone
- Address paint damaged or de-stabilized in prior phase
- Remove non-Nevelson paint and conserve original
- Fill wood losses
- Provide for future conservation and research
- Develop cultural and educational programming
- Endow the Chapel to provide funds for its upkeep
- Serve as an example of responsible and faithful conservancy
- Educate the general public about Louise Nevelson's boundary-breaking work
- Provide opportunities for contemporary artists