How Do You Conserve an Artwork Made Out of Teabags?
Leung Mee Ping created her work Elsewhere V (2014) by stitching 10,000 Chinese teabags onto stretched fabric by hand. It is part of the Elsewhere series, which she began in 1991 after a close friend passed away. Forlorn and drinking tea everyday, she started sewing her drying teabags into an artwork. The repetitive action of sewing the teabags represented a meditative contemplation on life and death. The work entered the M+ Collections in 2016.
The completed conservation and stabilisation of the work was an unusual process, because it couldn’t be neatly placed in a single category. Should the paintings conservator conserve it, because it is on a flat surface? Should it be the objects conservator, because the work has a sculptural, three-dimensional quality? Should it be the paper conservator, because the teabags are made out of paper? In the end, all three specialists decided to collaborate on the work: another example of how the diverse M+ Collections bring these overlapping areas of expertise together.
Below, the three conservators explain how they and their team dealt with this unique work.
- Natalie Harding, Conservator, Objects
- Jofan Huang, Conservator, Paper
- Karina Jagudina, Conservator, Paintings