Waiting by Kathy Prendergast: Conservation Project

‘For me as a 20-year-old in the late-70s, feminism was a big part of our thinking and I was conscious that my mother ended up as a housewife because she couldn’t work.’[1] Kathy Prendergast

Inspired by the Irish dance halls that her mother experienced as a young woman, Kathy Prendergast created Waiting – an installation of three anonymous women waiting to be asked to dance, resembling to the remnants of classical sculptures.

The treatment of this artwork, selected for the Bones in the Attic exhibition, was another challenge for our conservation team due to its complexity and the variety of materials used. While the three fibreglass sculptures and the parquet floor required only minor treatment, the ‘wall’ used as the background to the sculptures was in poor structural condition, resulting in tears in the adhered paper.

After getting in touch with the artist Kathy Prendergast, we were able not only to confirm the materials, but also to obtain supplies of the paper originally used for this artwork, printed with dressmaking patterns, which the artist had collected from her mother, who was a dressmaker.

In an interview, Prendergast stressed the importance of renewing the work’s unity: ‘The important thing is that it looks the way it looked when I originally made it and I do think that fixing the line, visually sticking the paper back down is very important.’

During the treatment the wall, consisting of two boards, was stabilized again and the tears in the paper were filled and mended in accordance with the artist’s intention.


[1] Time & Continuity: Avril Corroon interviews Kathy Prendergast in her London Studio: https://visualartistsireland.com/time-continuity

  • Profile

    Kathy Prendergast, born in 1958 in Dublin, is an Irish artist, often combining various media such as drawing, painting, sculpture, and installation. She has obtained an MA at the Royal College of Art in London where she now lives and works. Waiting is an early work, completed during her studies at the National College of Art and Design, for which the artist won a Carroll’s Award at the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1980.

    In 1995 she won the Best Young Artist Award representing Ireland at the Venice Biennale, and she has exhibited in various international exhibitions.

    Prendergast’s work is enigmatic and emotionally resonant. She is particularly known for her interest in maps – transformed into a zone of imagination by drawing as in her City Drawings project that she began in 1992 or by painting as in her Road Trip series. One of the most recent examples is the Black Map series – road maps of cities and countries of Europe obscured with ink – in which towns and cities become complicated constellations of planets and stars.

  • Details

    Kathy Prendergast (b. 1958)

    Waiting, 1980

    Chipboard, tracing paper printed with dressmaking patterns, PVA, white emulsion paint

    Dimensions: 230,5 x 187 x 4 cm (LHD cm)

    Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin

    Object number: 1449

Condition of the ‘wall’ before treatment.

Detail of a tear in the paper.

Lucia Fabbro, Head of Conservation, cleaning one of the fibreglass sculptures.

Samples of paper printed with dressmaking designs originally used for decorating the ‘wall’, sent to the Gallery by Kathy Prendergast.

Mending the tears in the paper.

‘Wall’ after treatment.

Waiting on display as part of the Bones in the Attic exhibition.

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