Lately one of the major restoration efforts of the Collections Department and the Conservation Department of the Museum of Contemporary Art Skopje is the conservation of one of the significant works in the museum’s international collection, the painting Virtue in Necessity by the recently deceased Italian artist Gianfranco Baruchello (1924 – 2023).
The painting is part of a large donation of works of art by several Italian artists, donated in the mid-sixties, as an expression of solidarity with the Macedonian capital, the city of Skopje, which in 1963 was struck by a catastrophic earthquake.
In the multidisciplinary and idiosyncratic work of Baruchello – which includes painting, sculpture, film, poetry, psychoanalysis, happenings, agriculture and radical activism – the painting Virtue in Necessity from 1963 (mixed media on canvas, 190 x 200 cm inv. no. 01864), originates from the very beginnings of his artistic career when he created a group of paintings conceptually key to his further oeuvre; paintings filled with fragmentary drawings, miniature worlds scattered on the decentered surface of his canvases.
But unlike this entire cycle, which is typically painted on a white background, Virtue in Necessity stands out among several early canvases for its intense red and orange background and its distinctive drawings and symbols, which the artist himself compares to thought processes and dreams, something that is typical of the Baruchello’s oeuvre in general.
During its existence, the painting has suffered minor damages caused in part by the changing atmospheric conditions of exposure or deposition at certain times in the past, as well as one major damage on part of the surface layer of the canvas, caused several years ago by a sudden leaking of the museum’s roof. All these factors made it impossible to include the work in occasional museum exhibitions.
Finally, with the restoration and conservation project prepared by the Department of Collections and Depot and the Conservation Department, in close cooperation with Ema Petrova Nikolovska, senior conservator at the National Conservation Center – a project financially supported by the Ministry of Culture and approved by the National Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments – the painting of Baruchello will soon be restored to its original state.
After the previously conducted research and chemical, microscopic, X-ray, and infrared analysis of samples from the surface of the canvas and fragments of the paint, the conservators Ljupco Iljovski and Jadranka Milčovska, in consultation with Ema Petrova Nikolovska, started the process of restoration and conservation, which in several stages mainly includes: thorough cleaning of surfaces from chemical damage with chemical means, fixing the colored layer with Japanese paper, ironing the deformations of the canvas, antiseptic treatment of the “blind frame”, injecting a binder, putting the damaged areas with restoration putty and leveling with egg emulsion that follows the original texture of the painted surface.
With the realization of the project, the Department of Conservation and Restoration confirms itself as one of the successful sectors of MSU Skopje, which after many years of stagnation due to insufficient personnel, and technical and financial support, has been on the rise for several years now and starting with the employment of conservator Ljupco Iljovski, accompanied recently by the external collaborator, conservator Jadranka Milchovska. Their constant professional concern for the condition of art objects enables the realization of one of the essential museum tasks, such as the protection of works of art and cultural heritage.
Gianfranco Barruccello, the Italian painter, sculptor, performer, writer, politician, and farmer, who after the earthquake donated his work “Virtue in Need” to Skopje and MSU, died at the age of 98 in Rome on January 10, 2023. His idiosyncratic work, which in many ways precedes post-modernism and relational aesthetics, does not belong to any of the aesthetic canons or contemporary mainstreams, developing his interdisciplinary approach in the complex mapping of the gap between verbal and visual language. Friendship with Marcel Duchamp, whom he considered his true heir, as well as his collaboration and creative and conceptual closeness with Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, J.F. Lyotard and Nani Belestrini, and his participation in the tumultuous political events of the 1960s alongside the philosophers Guattari, Alain Joffre, and J.J. Lebel, up to his rural eco-farm in the 1970s near Rome, make the rich and exciting life path of Gianfranco Barrucello. For a more detailed biography of the artist visit the link: fondazionebaruchello.com
Gianfranco Baruchello, Virtue in Need, 1963, mixed media on canvas, 190×200 cm. Paintings collection of MSU Skopje