August 15, 2016: Emmett Lodge (left) and Marcin Pikus (right) began painting the Batcolumn at the 100 foot level.
McKay Lodge conservators completed a GSA contract project during the fall of 2016 in the windy city of Chicago. Scaffolding went up in August in preparation for our second re-coating of Claes Oldenburg’s Batcolumn located at 600 W. Madison Street in Chicago. Our last repainting was in 1998 when all previous coatings and corrosion were removed. The final coating system at that time was an ICI Devoe urethane. While the 1998 urethane was still in good condition, a urethane clear coating applied at that time had failed over the years, turning milky white. This time, our project was an over-coating of the 1998 coatings for the purpose of restoring correct color.
The material selected as optimal for this task, for its ability to bond to aged urethane, as well as for color longevity rivaling or exceeding urethane was TNEMEC’s Enduratone, a high dispersion pure acrylic polymer. This versatile, water-based topcoat is easy to apply by brush, roll or spray, and is VOC-compliant in the U.S. and Canada. Available in high-gloss and low semi-gloss, Enduratone outperforms conventional waterborne acrylic paints and rivals the performance of polyurethanes. It is safe to use in populated areas because it dries quickly so only dust, not droplets, hit the ground. But perhaps most importantly for our needs, Enduratone can be applied over a variety of pre-existing coatings.
Like many of his sculptures, Oldenburg uses ordinary objects – clothespin, electrical plug, tube of lipstick for example – and transforms them into colossal monuments reflecting some characteristic of the city where it is installed. Batcolumn is a nod to the chimneys and water towers of Chicago and its industrial nature as well to Chicago’s not one, but two professional baseball teams. Fabricated at the Lippincott Company in North Haven, Connecticut Batcolumn traveled 800 miles to Chicago. No truck was large enough to carry the 100-foot column, so it was outfitted like a truck itself; wheels and axles were mounted to both ends to enable it to make the trek. Batcolumn was erected and dedicated in April 1977.