Installing the Mirage Bird by E. Frink

McMaster Museum of Art acquired Mirage Bird around 1993, displaying and storing the sculpture indoors.  The museum wished to move the aluminum sculpture outdoors by the end of November 2013, in keeping with the artist’s original intent.  In consultation with CSMO, McMaster Museum of Art decided to anchor the sculpture to an elevated concrete pad, which was cast in place as per CSMO’s specifications.

Mirage bird dimensions5

The cast aluminum sculpture varies in thickness, with a minimum depth of 3 cm.

The sculpture is in excellent condition and during XRF testing by our friend H.F. (Gus) Shurvell @ Art Conservation Program, Queen’s University the metal was determined to be an aluminum alloy from the 6000 series (99.8% aluminum), common in foundry aluminum castings.

Due to the nature of the aluminum sculpture, it was important that the sculpture’s outer surface was protected from the elements prior to its relocation outdoors and that the sculpture was well anchored.

High density foam washers and stainless steel nuts were used to secure the sculpture’s base down (Fig.2.5).  The washers ensure there is no contact between the SS steel bolts and the aluminum artwork.


The concrete footing was realized by Bravo Cement Contracting Inc. and the sculpture was installed by CSMO, assisted by sculptor, Matt Walker and the wonderful hosts.

Here are few images that our generous host and senior curator at the museum Ihor Holubizky took: Frink treatment_3128csfccB Frink install_3175csfccFrink install_3213csfcc

You can read more about the project and see more images on the McMaster Museum of Art Blog

A bit more about the sculptor: Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993) was born in Suffolk, England and studied under British sculptor Bernard Meadows at the Chelsea School of Art.[1]  Though she is internationally recognized for her monumental sculptures in both Britain and overseas, she was also a printmaker and produced etchings and lithographs for illustrated books.  In 1963, Frink’s bird-like sculptures first appeared in the cult science fiction film The Damned. [2]  The long-legged creatures from this series were further simplified over time, creating the Mirage sculptures: wingless, towering, amorphous creatures.  These bird-like sculptures were produced until 1969, constructing moulds of plaster over an iron framework.

Sir John A Macdonald

A year ago just before the birthday ceremony of the First Prime Minister of Canada the city woke up with a vandalized sculpture of the prominent Kingstonian. The well intended initial attempts by a non-conservation firm to remove the graffiti was only partly successful and in fact led to some damage to the granite, plaque and the lower portions of the bronze statue.

CSM_0597nc The Monument Before Treatment

The white writing was partially removed for the ceremony and CSMO was responsible for the further cleaning and conservation treatment of the monument. The sub zero temperatures led to the use of non aqueous organic poultice solutions to remove all surface traces of graffiti.

CSM_0624 The Bronze Sculpture Before Treatment

CSM_0648 Slow and Careful Removal of Surface Graffiti

CSM_0677 The Bronze Sculpture After Surface Graffiti Removal

Even though to most observers the graffiti was gone the pores of the bronze, deep within the patina showed microscopic remnants of the the red and white graffiti.

CSM_0726 Detail of Bronze After Surface Graffiti Removal

20130112_092428437 Bronze Surface 100X Magnification (After Surface Graffiti Removal)

A closer examination relieved that the patina and protective wax coatings applied in 2003 are mostly failing exposing active copper corrosion and that the red paint has left a microscopic residue not only in the bronze but also in the granite pores.

20130112_092838298 Granite 100X Magnification (After Surface Graffiti Removal)

CSMO returned in the summer to finish the graffiti removal, complete cleaning of the bronze and granite, apply a protective wax coating to the bronze, an anti-graffiti coating to the granite stones, replace pointing and high-light the engraved lettering on the front of the statue.

A few images of the summer treatment:

CSM_5283_GL_June_2013 Bronze Before Treatment

P1120759 Removal of Graffiti and Cleaning

P1120781 2 Application of Protective Coatings

CSM_5305_GL_June_2013 During Treatment

CSM_5317_GL_June_2013 After Treatment (Bronze)

CSM_0007 During Treatment (Highlighting of Inscription)

The monument is now in stable condition and ready for the fast approaching bicentennial commemoration.