Modern Science Meets Modern Art: Dow Research Helps Tate Restore Rothko Masterpiece

Dow scientists provide research towards restoration of painting marred by graffiti in 2012

LONDON — Tate Modern celebrated a collaboration of art and science today when the gallery announced the return to public display of Black on Maroon (1958), a Mark Rothko painting damaged by graffiti in 2012. The painting's successful restoration follows 18 months of extensive conservation work informed by analytical information from Dow Coating Material experts.

Black on Maroon (1958) is one of Rothko's Seagram murals, iconic works of American abstract expressionism that the artist gave to Tate in 1970. The work was vandalized nearly two years ago with strokes of indelible black graffiti ink that marred its subtly layered surface and, in some cases, soaking completely through to the back of the canvas. Scientific investigation of the ink and the painting was carried out by Tate's conservation scientist Dr. Bronwyn Ormsby, whose work drew on research by Dow scientists and who utilized their collective extensive coatings expertise and state-of-the-art technology to discover cleaning solvents that would remove the ink.

Dow experts analyzed the ink and then identified a shortlist of possible solvents for an effective cleaning solution. Using Dow proprietary computer software, the scientists established solubility parameters for the ink that would help them identify cleaning solvents with similar solubility parameters. Tate was able to quickly rule out water based cleaning solutions, as the paint layers below the graffiti were too water sensitive to stand up to a water-based solution.

Turning the focus to straight solvents, Dow scientists Drs. Melinda Keefe and Felipe Donate spent two days in Dow Solvent Laboratory in Midland, Michigan, testing solvents on dried samples of the graffiti ink.

"We were able to narrow it down to a small list of solvents and microemulsions for consideration in the Rothko restoration," said Keefe. "We sent this list of solvents to Tate, and their conservation experts added these to the range of options they were testing in order to determine the best possible solution: a blend of benzyl alcohol and ethyl lactate."

The restored Rothko went back on display this morning at Tate Modern where visitors can see firsthand how modern science helped preserve a key piece of modern art.

About Dow

Dow (NYSE: DOW) combines the power of science and technology to passionately innovate what is essential to human progress. The Company is driving innovations that extract value from the intersection of chemical, physical and biological sciences to help address many of the world's most challenging problems such as the need for clean water, clean energy generation and conservation, and increasing agricultural productivity. Dow's integrated, market-driven, industry-leading portfolio of specialty chemical, advanced materials, agrosciences and plastics businesses delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions to customers in approximately 180 countries and in high growth sectors such as packaging, electronics, water, coatings and agriculture. In 2013, Dow had annual sales of more than $57 billion and employed approximately 53,000 people worldwide. The Company's more than 6,000 products are manufactured at 201 sites in 36 countries across the globe. References to "Dow" or the "Company" mean The Dow Chemical Company and its consolidated subsidiaries unless otherwise expressly noted. More information about Dow can be found at

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