OCA’s Conservation and Maintenance Team Restores “Ancestral Totem”

Ayokunle Odeleye’s “Ancestral Totem” before and after restoration

Even the most brilliant metal sculptures need cleaning and polishing, especially when residing outdoors. As recently illustrated by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs’ Public Art Conservation and Maintenance Team, polishing can make a huge difference.

In mid-April 2021, Conservation and Maintenance Technicians Cara Davis and Adrian Barzaga set out to restore the luster of Ayokunle Odeleye’s “Ancestral Totem”. The pair cleaned all surfaces of the sculpture, removing any residues interfering with the surface’s visibility. The technicians then applied a stainless steel polish to remove surface imperfections and reclaim the totem’s original glory. To complete the treatment, they thoroughly washed the base of the sculpture, removing any debris impeding the artwork’s message.

Since its creation in 1993, this sculpture has seen many phases of elemental wear and tear. What was once oxidized steel receding into the background now springs to the forefront of viewers’ attention, no longer hiding in shadow. The Conservation and Maintenance Team is happy to continue efforts to keep artwork like “Ancestral Totem” looking their best.