Harvard Art Museums’ blackest pigment

Harvard Art Museums’ blackest pigment


We currently have around 2,500 pigments, different
samples of pigments. And what we do is add to it every year. It’s a growing collection. We need to do that because we’re constantly
looking at newer works of art that use new pigments, and we need to have standards for
comparisons against works so that we can identify what the pigments are. We just recently added Vantablack. It’s a very, very light-absorbing material
and, although it’s described as a pigment, it’s not really a pigment because it has to
be grown on the surface. It’s not a powder that’s mixed with something
and applied to the aluminum. It’s grown there in-situ, and it’s a series
of very small tubes. So you have small, round tubes that grow outwards
from the surface and the light goes into those tubes, bounces around, and then is transferred
to heat energy which is then dissipated. We typically have a student who works with
us over the summer, and the student will go through and do all the research and find out
what we don’t have in the collections and then contact the pigment manufacturers and
order the pigments from them. They’ll buy about 250 grams of pigment and
then we’ll catalog that and then bring it into the collection. If a student has a particular interest in
a pigment we can help them in their research, we can show them the material, and what we
try and do is help people who have specific interests in materials that we have in the
collection.

Dereck Turner

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