Philadelphia Now and Then, Larry Rivers

Philadelphia, PA



Philadelphia Now and Then, is a triptych tile mural totaling seventy-five feet wide by 8 feet tall. In 1984, The Gallery at Market East, an urban mall in Center City Philadelphia, commissioned the work from nationally-renowned artist Larry Rivers. The installation, depicting scenes from historic Philadelphia alongside images representing modern life in the city, is composed of hundreds of individual 12 inch square ceramic tiles, each an integral part of the overall images. The work, poorly protected for 30 years, fell into disrepair: tiles chipped and cracked, some slipped to the floor, others were covered in graffiti.


The Materials Conservation team was brought in to take the mural down, conserve it and reinstall the work in a new location. We documented each tile, its condition, and location before taking anything down. The entire artwork was carefully crated and taken to the MC studio for treatment. Our technicians painstakingly removed the mounting mortar from the back of each tile, then turned to the front side to patiently clean off years of grime. New tiles were fabricated to replace those missing or beyond rescue. Our artists painted the new tiles to seamlessly integrate with their neighbors, perfectly matching the color and style of Rivers’ original work. We designed an aluminum mounting system, attached the tiles to it, and installed the conserved panels in their new central location, the SEPTA concourse beneath the Wanamaker Building.

Sukari Keetin