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Gabriel Albert Sculpture Garden Undergoes Restoration

Posted in Gardens, Preservation News, Self-Taught Arts in the News

 

 

Gabriel Albert’s garden in Nantillé  (Charente-Maritime), after 25 years of being largely unoccupied, has experienced a swell of visitors since the recent launch of a regional restoration project. It had been unoccupied, that is, with the exception of over 400 resident statues!  

 

free-entry-manThis statue, recently cleaned, greets visitors at the entrance of the garden.

As a youngster, Gabriel Albert dreamt of becoming a sculptor, but became a carpenter to earn a regular livelihood. It was not until he retired in 1969 at age 65 that he was finally able to give way to his passion.

Albert began making figurative sculptures and busts, applying cement to iron frame infrastructures. Most of the 420 sculptures he eventually created, which he placed in the garden surrounding his hand-built house, represented anonymous people going about everyday tasks. However, some depicted political personalities, celebrities, and characters from fairy tales, which he based on photographs he saw in magazines.

 

1Concrete is porous, which makes it an ideal place for moss and lichen to grow. Conservators often use biocide to combat this common ailment of art environments.

 

nantille

 

Around 1989 Albert became ill and decided to reserve his energy to maintain the site rather than to create new works. Before his death, he sold all of his work for a symbolic amount to the community of Nantillé. In spring 2011, an association of friends actively promoted protected status for the garden, so that it could be opened for visits by the general public. Now, in 2017, preservationists, using brushes and other small tools, are carefully scraping lichen and moss from the sculptures in the first phase of conservation. Sculptures with more extensive damage have been fitted with frames to protect their fragile limbs until the conservationists can explore options and decide on long term solutions to strengthen the concrete forms. As of this writing, fifty-nine figures have been taken to an offsite workshop for conservation. 

 

biocide-half-n-halfHalf of the statue has undergone biocide treatment, which shows the effectiveness of removing microorganisms that have nestled in the concrete.

 

The timeline for this project is November 2017 to June 2018. The most urgent task was to pack, transport and shelter those fifty-nine statues at risk, but emergency measures will also include filling cracks in the statues and the restoration of Gabriel Albert’s studio. The first stage of restoration, estimated to cost 252,602€, is 100% financed by the Region of New Aquitaine under the scientific and technical control of the Regional Conservation of Historical Monuments (Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs [DRAC] New Aquitaine - Ministry of Culture). They have done a truly fantastic job of documenting the history of the site and will surely continue the good work through conservation. 

 

4Splints, polyurethane foam, and plastic film help keep damaged limbs in check.

 

supported bustsAfter supporting the ground beneath and creating a protective structure, these busts that were formerly leaning are safe.

 

Learn more about the Gabriel Albert Sculpture Garden on SPACES here

 

All images: © Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine, General Inventory of Cultural Heritage. Christian Rome, 2017. 

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