“The Carpet Seller” in Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin, Sept. 19, 2014 – March 1, 2015


It is always a substantial challenge to move an extremely sensitive and in the same time very precious piece of artwork – although if the way to go is not very far and even if the movement happens actually within the own institution only but to another location.
Hamdi Beys „The Carpet Seller“ is one of those very sensitive and precious artworks. It shows the flourish antique trade of Istanbul with European tourists arising as the buyer – dressed with topee and parasol. It combines in a wonderful way keen humane power of observation and quiet humor with virtuoso surface treatment and passion for detail.
This painting is very precious because Osman Hamdi Bey was an outstanding artist. As a painter he is considered as the founder of a distinctive Turkish School, as archaeologist and museum founder he carried out pioneer work regarding the development of the archaeology in Turkey and the conservation of the antique culture heritage. In the meantime his paintings achieve rates of several million Euro on the art market.
Simultaneously this artwork is especially sensitive. The used canvas and the applied primer coat are very thin and so they react very sensitive to external influences such as fluctuations of the surrounding climate for example.
When Mariana Castillo Deball, Awardee of the Nationalgalerie 2013, curates her exhibition „Perergon“ she chose even this master piece, “The Carpet Seller” to be one of the crucial elements of her view at „Biography of Things “. At first glance this choice seems to be one of the more easy to realize parts of the exhibition. A painting of the Nationalgalerie, domiciled at the Alte Nationalgalerie, to be presented at another location of the Nationalgalerie, the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart. On closer consideration it becomes evident that this choice causes substantial challenges from the view point of the conservation science. A sensitive master piece was chosen to be presented in a non-conditioned exhibition area, the large hall of the Hamburger Bahnhof. Even in winter time, when due to the room heating the humidity adopts unavoidably dangerously low values.
Two measures have despite that enabled the presentation. An isolating „climate envelope“ equipped with preconditioned Silicagel-inlay designed and realized by the conservator in charge of the Alte Nationalgalerie and the new ArtGuardian System for permanent artwork climate monitoring. The climate envelope – a form of small show case – was together with the painting inserted into the ornamental frame. It has stabilized the micro climate for the painting at the conditions ruled at the Alte Nationalgalerie – 53 % humidity.
The ArtGuardian System offers online climate monitoring, temperature and humidity inside the envelope and in the close vicinity of the painting, to the conservators in charge, Kerstin Krainer and Johannes Noack. So it was possible to permanently control the effectiveness of the envelope and react on extreme low humidity. Based on the measurements a mobile moistener has be installed as the humidity in the exhibition hall was adopting values too low for the historically precious ornamental frame.
The exhibition ends on March 1 – the artwork has endured the difficult conditions and a further test under real conditions has demonstrated the suitability for daily use of the ArtGuardian System.