The Frames and Furniture Conservation section conserves picture frames and furniture in the collection, as well as Asian lacquer and related works of contemporary art and design. Another area of focus is reproduction frame making based on historical research, technical examination and traditional woodworking, ornamentation and gilding. As works of decorative art and design, a distinctive aspect for both frames and furniture is their functional nature, which impacts treatment and preservation strategies. Frames continue to remain functional as protective and visual borders for the works within them. Most furniture is no longer used in a functional sense once part of the collection, with the exception of lamps and other light fixtures that are often displayed illuminated following appropriate testing and preparation.
Traditionally frames and furniture are made from timber with various surface finishes, including gilding whereby incredibly thin sheets of beaten metal, such as gold, silver and copper are adhered to a surface. Furniture also often incorporates metal hardware, glass, stone and upholstery fabrics. Modern and contemporary furniture extend the materials cared for by the section, to include a variety of plastics including bioplastics and 3D printed works. Collection treatment highlights include items of furniture such as the c.1840’s Victorian/South Australian Sofa and Zaha Hadid’s Wave sofa, Asian art including a Japanese early Edo-period lacquered suit of armour, and the picture frames for Nicolas Poussin’s The Crossing of the Red Sea and John Herbert’s Moses bringing down the Tables of the Law.
The NGV Centre for Frame Research builds upon the NGV’s work in this area over the last 30 years. The Centre promotes excellence in picture frame research, frame reproduction and preservation, recognising the significance of frames as works of cultural material in their own right and in relation to the artworks that they house. The development of the Centre has been generously supported by the Professor AGL Shaw OA Bequest. With the establishment of the NGV Frame maker role and mentoring program, rare and specialist frame making skills continue to be developed. Historical research is undertaken to inform frame making projects for both the Australian and International collections, with a particular focus on 19th century Melbourne frame makers.