In 1998, almost fifty years after Jackson Pollock painted "One: Number 31," the curators at MoMA realized the painting was looking a little... grimy.
As chief conservator James Coddington explains in a new video, the team at MoMA started wondering if something had gone terribly wrong in the painting's past. Using x-radiography, they were able to analyze the canvas for particularly weird anomalies—and they quickly found that someone had taken a crack at restoring it. A bad one.
The damage wasn’t Ecco Monkey level, but it was bad enough that MoMA decided to try to undo the damage. Removing paint from a multi-million dollar piece of art is no small task; it took the team months to determine exactly which drips and splatters were inauthentic, using ultraviolet light and microscopic paint samples scraped from the canvas to generate a map of what came from Pollock and what didn’t.