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Conservation Update: Tony Tasset's Deer

By Marie Hofer, Content Specialist, Art & Architecture

Tony Tasset, Deer, 2015, fiberglass, epoxy, and paint, 114 in. x 20 ft. x 96 in. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2017.4
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will be closed Monday, May 13, to prepare for the visit of Antiques Roadshow. We will return to normal hours of operation Wednesday, May 15.

Oh Deer! What’s happening on the grounds? 

Deer statue in the North Forest
Tony Tasset, Deer, 2015, fiberglass, epoxy, and paint, 114 in. x 20 ft. x 96 in. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2017.4. Photography by Edward C. Robison III.

Observant guests in the North Forest may have noticed some exciting developments with Tony Tasset’s Deer. We are happy to announce that after onsite conservation treatment, our favorite deer feels like a million bucks! 

Tasset created this sculpture in 2015. Inspired by the everyday, he created something familiar—a white-tailed deer—at a surprisingly large scale. Tasset states, “I often take things that are somewhat familiar and tweak them a little bit. Here, I’m using scale to make a little magic moment out here in the forest as you turn the corner. You see this deer that’s way out of scale; it makes you a little bit smaller.” 

When spotting this work on our grounds, guests may feel like they caught it emerging from the forest. The sculpture appears to stand still and watch as you approach, ready to dart away at any second.  

Why conservation? 

Cleaning, preserving, and occasionally repairing works of art is known as art conservation. This past winter, our staff noticed damage to the Deer sculpture. After years of living in our North Forest, tiny cracks appeared. Moisture gathered in these minute crevices. So, when the temperature dropped, they expanded and became noticeable. 

After consulting with a conservator, someone who specializes in art conservation, we had two options: remove the work from the forest or conserve the sculpture onsite.

Since Deer is an enormous work located in a place that’s hard to access, we decided against storing it offsite or shipping it to a specialized studio. Instead, our team contacted Tasset and the original fabricator of the work, who agreed to oversee the conservation process in our forest. The artist, fabricator, and Crystal Bridges preparators, specialized art handlers, worked tirelessly from May 15 to May 23 to conserve the sculpture.

Deer with damage to its snout.
Deer with damage to its snout.

The process

The first step was to clean the work. Then, preparators sanded the fiberglass around the snout, hoof, and side to get to the root of the problem—the small cracks. The team then applied a new layer of fiberglass with Tasset intervening to reshape the nose and hoof. This repaired any damage, but our staff needed to add texture. For this, we used a polygem epoxy that is flexible yet dries quickly. Sculpting and scraping this epoxy, the team created grooves to replicate the appearance of fur. Once complete, preparators coated Deer with a sealant to protect against future wear.

Next, it was time to add color. The team used three different types of brown, layering and blending the paint. This added dimension, allowing guests to see different hues and tonalities depending on the lighting. Once Tasset added fine details, it was time for Deer to get some sunscreen. Two coats of UV protection later and the sculpture was ready to spend many more years guarding our forest.

Even though the outdoor environment creates more wear on the sculpture, Tasset is passionate about placing Deer in a natural setting. Many white-tailed deer live on our grounds, and it’s not uncommon to see them gather around their larger relative at dawn and dusk. This unique opportunity to see art and nature in harmony is one of the many reasons Deer is a favorite of guests and staff alike.

“It’s just this beautiful landscape; it’s kind of perfect for this piece. I love coming around the corner, and it’s a surprise.” – Tony Tasset

Hear from artist Tony Tasset

We spoke with Tasset after the conservation was complete. Watch the video to learn more about his inspiration and artistic process!


Want to see our sculpture? Visit the North Forest and find our favorite Deer looking better than ever!


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