The talk was about research that began for the MoMA exhibition in 2013 Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary 1926-1938 that led to the rediscovery of one of Rene Magritte's paintings of 1927 that had long thought to be lost.
Michael Duffy has a B.A. in Art History and a Masters in Art Conservation from the University of Delaware / Winterthur program. But he is best known as a paintings conservator at the MoMA in New York where he has been since 1993 where he specialises in the treatment of modern and contemporary paintings. He has the enviable task of working on some of the most iconic modernist painting in the world and he is known as the conservator who cleaned Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon for the reinstallation of the MoMA galleries. And, the Art Newspaper tells us, during the lockdown he walked about 5 miles round each and every gallery in MoMA in the dark aided by a flashlight checking there were no plumbing disasters or thefts!
Icon members may remember Michael from the Icon Paintings Group Artists Varnish conference some years ago when together with his colleague, Anny Aviram, he gave an inspiring talk on Henri Matisse's The Red Studio centring on Matisse’s use of selective varnishing to enhance his colours, a theme, Michael has said that MoMA will be revisiting in the next two years.
However, when we first discussed him giving us a talk on zoom we decided against asking him to speak on Les demoiselles or on Matisse in favour of a more surreal artist and painting, in keeping with the surreal times we are now living in.
Find out more about the project on the MMA website.
Picture credit: Conservators Cindy Albertson and Michael Duffy examine an x-ray of René Magritte’s The Portrait [© The Museum of Modern Art 2020, The David Booth Conservation Department]