In 2005, AXA ART Research Grant was awarded to the Vitra Museum in Germany for a study on the material qualities and life expectancy of design objects made of plastic.
Beginning in the middle of the 20th century, more and more artists and designers had turned to the newly manufactured families of plastic as the material for their work. Subsequently, as objects made of plastic gained popularity, aged, and found their way into museum and private collections, their maintenance and care became a challenge to museum and private conservators. Objects made of plastics generally degrade more rapidly than those of traditional materials such as wood or stone. Our research confirmed that as they aged, some types of plastic materials released chemicals (a process called off-gassing) that can damage other items in their immediate vicinity.
The Plastic Art project focused on the study of four objects including the Panton Chair, Gaetano Pesce’s Il Piede (1969) and his Pratt Chair. Findings of this study are documented in the publication, Plastic Art - A Precarious Success Story. The studies showed that many plastic works were constructed using multiple types of plastic materials, which degraded at different rates. Another outcome of the project was the formation of a set of basic rules to mitigate damage to plastic art from sunlight and other external sources.
In 2006, the AXA ART Research Grant was awarded first place by the German Federal Association for Industry for its commitment to preserving culture.
For more information, visit The Plastic Art Project.
Above: Image Courtesy of Kathrin Kessler and Vitra Design Museum.