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Under the weather

As Cor-Ten becomes ever more popular for outdoor sculpture, conservators are playing catch-up on preservation techniques

You know that Cor-Ten has come of age as a legitimate material for sculptors when US museum conservators write learned articles about its preservation and maintenance.

Like ordinary steel, the way it is used in sculpture is conditional on the forms in which it is produced - which are mainly plate, rod, flats and structural sections.

One exception, and probably the only major example worldwide, is Antony Donaldson's giant inhabitable sculpture Master of Suspense at the Munkenbeck + Marshalldesigned Gainsborough Studios, currently going up in Hackney in east London. It was cast using standard steel, to which the special elements were added.

Ordinary steel surfaces can be treated after the work has been completed, and sculptors have used everything from powder coating through paint to acid etching. CorTen, on the other hand, is normally used out of the mill because of the rough, purplebrown surface that is eventually revealed when its rusting stabilises.

That means that most Cor-Ten sculpture is found out of doors. It also means that, in the making, sculptors have to take a great deal of care when they are welding and grinding and mixing with other materials.

When they don't, the conservators eventually get interested - although British sculptors are amused by the idea of needing to conserve an essentially found material.

Visit http: //aic. stanford. edu/conspec/osg/ abstracts /ab1989/ab1989_10. htm

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