Hazel Neill, paintings conservator in private practice in Glasgow, wrote a review of NACCA’s Material Futures conference hosted by Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts in June.
The fourth NACCA meeting was organised by Glasgow University and was hosted by the Centre of Contemporary Arts and the Glasgow School of Art. It was the second summer school, and concentrated on the work in progress. During an intense and successful three day programme PhD researchers and supervisors met to evaluate the process and outcomes thus far.
To start off the programme, the ESRs presented their research projects to the EU representatives. The next day the representatives recapped the conditions of funding and evaluated the process. This was followed by a session on data management and a highly entertaining course on conflict resolution skills with Taylor Clarke, which granted new insights into communication and social behaviour. The day closed with a lecture by Ranald McInnes (Head of Special Projects, Historic Environment Scotland) on the rebuilding of the Mackintosh Building after its destruction in a fire in 2014, which concluded with a presentation by artist and reader Dr Ross Birrell and culminated in a screening of A Beautiful Living Thing (2015), Birrell’s moving film prompted by the calamity. The final day was marked by great intellectual activity. The feedback sessions resulted in a vivid exchange amongst supervisors and ESR’s on the research, stimulating new thoughts and confirming approaches. The summer school was rounded off with an invitation to ESRs to re-think and discuss the reconstruction of the Lichtballett “Hommage à New York” by Otto Piene along with Tiziana Caianielle (ZERO foundation, Düsseldorf).
NACCA is excited to announce a call for papers for our upcoming conference Material Futures: Matter, Memory and Loss in Contemporary Art Production and Preservation. The conference will be held 29th-30th of June, 2017 at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, Scotland. Over two days we will explore the intersections of contemporary artistic practice, curatorial practice, and conservation decision-making through the themes of matter, memory and loss. Please see our call for papers here. Registration information will be forthcoming.
Hosted by Tate Modern, NACCA’s fifteen PhD researchers met for their third training event which focused on the theme ‘professional skills for museums & the heritage sector’ from January 16th to 20th 2017.
The winterschool’s programme was tailored to introduce the researchers to the complexities of professional communication and collaboration. Designed to encourage reflection on perceptions of museum practices, all week the group considered how these are changed or still need to change. A focal point of the programme was the question whether the way in which conservation is perceived and communicated within a contemporary art museum needs to be changed and how this can be accomplished.
The group, on the very first day of the training event, had their first chance to present their work in progress to the public in a flash presentation followed by a poster presentation. A sold out event held at Tate Exchange, the presentation day provided an exciting opportunity for the NACCA researchers to mingle with and discuss their research ideas with professionals and members of the public.
The programme of the following days, curated by Tate’s Head of Collection Care Research, Pip Laurenson, introduced the group to an overview of the various avenues of communication within a museum. In a most thoughtful way, Tate’s staff members Anna Cutler, Judith Comyn, Jennifer Mundy, Christopher Griffin, Susanna Worth, Chloe Julius, Rachel Barker, Bronwyn Orsmby, Maria Kennedy and Matthew Gale all shared their expertise with the researchers. They devised interactive workshops on writing on contemporary art, tools for raising the profile of their research, object-based research, and transdisciplinary communication and collaboration. Other instructors lectured on exhibiting conservation (Sanneke Stigter, UVA and Ella Hendriks, Van Gogh Museum), analysing the professional force-fields in research (Julia Noordegraaf, UVA, with Pip Laurenson and Haidy Geismar, UCL), the parallels between the restoration of architecture and contemporary art (Maria Margarita Segarra Lagunes, Università degli Studi Roma Tre), and what it means to be a collector and keeper in the 21st century (Jill Sterrett, SFMOMA). Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, Director of the Maxxi Arte in Rome, lectured on documentation versus re-enactment in performance art. NYU’s Glenn Wharton granted NACCA’s researchers and supervisors a preview and a discussion of his upcoming Reader for Contemporary Art Conservation.
Also, the group was privileged to a partake in a unique experience, the performance Tony Conrad: Fifty Five Years On the Infinite Plain at The Tanks, Tate Modern, and a follow-up discussion with Tate’s team exploring ways to transition this piece into the collection.
This exciting programme, set in the stunning Switch House, provided the PhD researchers with great opportunities to exchange ideas with experienced colleagues and imminent scholars of the field.
On the 16th of January 2017, NACCA researchers presented their ongoing research at a public poster session hosted by Tate Modern in London. Here’s the list of presentations with links to those published online:
The Authentic Instance: Reframing Authenticity in the Conservation of Contemporary Art
Interpreting Artist’s Intent: The Notion of Intent Tested Against Joseph Beuys’ Capri-Battery
Exploring Ethnography in Conservation Research
The Creative Process is Collective
Private Collections as Care-takes
On the afternoon of Monday 16th January 2017, Tate Modern will host a public event starting at 16:00 when the NACCA researchers will each briefly present on a key message, question or challenge that they wish to communicate about their research. NACCA supervisors and management will attend also and it is our pleasure to be able to invite members of the public to join us.
The presentations will be followed by a networking opportunity during a poster session from 17:45 to 18:45.
The event is free to attend however spaces are limited and we must ask those interested in attending to please register with John McNeill, Tate’s Collection Care Research Manager (email@example.com) by the
9th December 2016 4th January 2017 (deadline extended!).
Report by NACCA researcher Aga Wielocha
For more than 20 years, the care of contemporary artworks and issues related to their preservation have been subjects in a debate between museum professionals from all over the world. Yet, the field is still developing. Although approaches and procedures are rapidly being discovered and implemented, art practices are constantly changing and new problems continuously appear. The 26th Biennial Congress of the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC), entitled Saving the Now – Crossing Boundaries to Conserve Contemporary Works, was held between 12 and 16 September in Los Angeles. The congress was a great platform to discuss what has been achieved in the conservation of contemporary art thus far, and to propose what needs to be accomplished in the future.
In his opening speech, Tom Learner, head of contemporary art research at the Getty Conservation Institute, recalled an anecdote related to the first IIC conference devoted to the preservation of twentieth‐century artistic production, which was held 12 years ago in Bilbao. The 2004 IIC congress was entitled ‘Modern Art, New Museums’. The second part of the title was added after the organizing committee showed concern that problems in the conservation of modern art would not be acknowledged as enough of an issue by members of the conservation community to fill the programme of an entire congress. Undoubtedly, much has changed since then. Almost 500 professionals from about 50 different countries came to LA to attend the conference and listen to more than 40 presentations. The history of the field and the evolution of standards and practices were briefly summarized by Lydia Beerkens during the first session. Her presentation showed clearly how the conservation of modern art developed from a case‐by‐case approach into an independent specialization with its own theoretical and ethical framework. The absolute highlight of the first day was the keynote lecture: ‘The falsification of time’ by Carol Mancusi‐Ungaro, who was awarded this year’s Forbes Prize, the highest honour of the IIC. Her presentation was a personal reflection on the philosophical and ethical nuances of conservation from her point of view as one of the pioneers of the field. Many attendees, including myself, are looking forward to reading the lecture on the IIC website.
It’s important to note that, during the conference, the balance between a theoretical approach and material science was aptly maintained. On one hand, Muriel Verbeeck’s lecture, building on a fascinating story of transformations of Anish Kapoor’s Versailles sculpture, presented new conceptual tools for conservation practice. On the other, Yvonne Shashoua summarized the long history of the struggle to preserve artworks with plastic components. There was an opportunity to learn about the application of new mediums in practical treatment, such as agarose gels for cleaning modern paintings in a case study presented by Samantha Skelton. A set of papers was dedicated to exploring the similarities between the conservation of modern and contemporary art and other conservation disciplines, with ethnographic objects and architecture among them.
One of the most anticipated lectures was by Robin Clark and Michelle Barger on the complex new research undertaken by SFMOMA entitled ‘The Artist Initiative’. In this presentation, we heard how issues discussed in the field for so many years have inspired practical solutions in the design of a new museum building. The space between its two‐story conservation studio will serve as an artist archive – a collection of materials and objects used in artist practice related to the SFMOMA collection. The studio includes a special space designed for artists to work together with conservators and curators, equipped with a transparent ‘viewing’ door that can be accessed by the public. Located outside the main museum campus, the Collection Center – a storage place for most of the collection – hosts a workroom, where researchers and the public can study artworks which are not on exhibition. The Mock‐Up Gallery is a life‐size model for a gallery space in the new building, where curators can work together with artists on the design of new shows. Undoubtedly, the SFMOMA project redefines standards in institutional thinking about conservation and documentation of contemporary art. Organizers also invited guests from outside of the conservation microcosm. A stirring lecture on the challenges of collecting and preserving diverse objects, including artworks and memorabilia related to 2014 Ukrainian revolution, was given by Ihor Poshyvailo, the director of The Maidan Museum in Kyiv. The panel on the ‘Influence of the Art Market on Conservation Decisions’ gathered together in one room some of the most prominent representatives of the LA art gallery world. Unfortunately, since the panelists did not attend other lectures, it was more a kind of single‐sided monologue than a real discussion. However, the issue is highly important and under‐debated, and it likely deserves a separate conference.
Besides fascinating lectures, the congress provided countless occasions for intense networking. The daily breakfast allowed attendees to have a morning coffee and make plans for the day together with other colleagues. The welcome reception gave an opportunity for an after‐hours visit to the newly opened, and very impressive, Broad Museum. The emblematic installation of Chris Burden, discussed during the afternoon session, was an extraordinary background for Wednesday’s Grand Event at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Besides enjoying delicious food, congress participants could learn about the history of famous Los Angeles print workshop in the exhibition ‘The Serial Impulse at Gemini G.E.L.’ and enjoy fabulous works by the most influential American artists ‐ Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella, among others. LACMA’s exhibitions were a great introduction to one of Thursday’s tours, entitled ‘Making The Artist’s Vision’. Participants had the unique opportunity to see the facilities of two studios responsible for the fabrication of sculptures by Jonathan Borofsky, Jeff Koons and Ellsworth Kelly. The owners of both companies started their careers in the art world working at the Gemini G.E.L. We were able to see the amazing machinery that allows them to build complicated large‐scale metal constructions, and hear about how important the relationship of trust is between artist and fabricator. Interestingly, one of the most rapidly developing sectors of the field – the conservation of time‐based media – was clearly underrepresented. No lecture was dedicated to the largely unknown territory of born‐digital art. Although object‐based conservation is still a main focus in museums, we should not forget about other artistic practices, especially due to the common fundamental questions concerning the identity and authenticity. Fortunately, this absence had been balanced by lectures on the preservation of other relatively new collectibles, like performance and participatory art. Sill, we have to be careful not to create new boundaries while crossing others.
The congress ended with a pleasant farewell reception at the conference venue. Participants flew home tired but with plenty of new ideas, and their pockets full of business cards from newly met colleagues.
I gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Brommelle Memorial Fund, which enabled me to attend the conference.
Open access has hit contemporary art preservation and conservation as well. Ever more publications are appearing with free access for all researchers worldwide.
We have compiled a list of English-language monographs, conference proceedings, and journal issues from our field. Currently the list contains fifteen titles, and will be expanded periodically.
Barranha, Helena, and Susana S. Martins (eds.), Uncertain Spaces: Virtual Configurations in Contemporary Art and Museums, Lisbon: Universidade Nova de Lisboa, 2015, 251 pp. Based on the conference produced in the framework of the Unplace project.
Beerkens, Lydia, and Tom Learner (eds.), Conserving Outdoor Painted Sculpture, Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2014, 145 pp. Proceedings from the interim meeting of the Modern Materials and Contemporary Art Working Group of ICOM-CC, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, 4-5 June 2013.
Dekker, Annet (ed.), Archive2020: Sustainable Archiving of Born-Digital Cultural Content, Amsterdam: Virtueel Platform, 2010.
Dekker, Annet ed., Speculative Scenarios, or What Will Happen to Digital Art in the (Near) Future?, Eindhoven: Baltan Laboratories, 2013, 144 pp.
Depocas, Alain, Jon Ippolito, Caitlin Jones (eds.), Permanence Through Change: The Variable Media Approach, New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, with Montreal: Daniel Langlois Foundation, 2003, 137 pp. Outcome of the research project Variable Media Network (2001-04).
Interventions 4(1): “Object Lesson: Conservation and Contemporary Art”, eds. Anna Linehan and Béatrice Grenier, New York: Columbia University, Jan 2015.
Lavédrine, Bertrand, Alban Fournier, and Martin Graham (eds.), Preservation of Plastic Artefacts in Museum Collections, Paris: CTHS, 2012, 325 pp. Outcome of POPART project.
PDFs (in respective website sections)
Media-N 11(1): “The Aesthetics of Erasure”, eds. Paul Benzon and Sarah Sweeney, New Media Caucus, 2015.
Noordegraaf, Julia, et al. (eds.), Preserving and Exhibiting Media Art: Challenges and Perspectives, Amsterdam University Press, 2013, 428 pp. Outcome of the research project (2007-10).
Revista de historia da arte, 4: “Performing Documentation in the Conservation of Contemporary Art”, eds. Lúcia Almeida Matos, Rita Macedo, and Gunnar Heydenreich, Lisbon: Instituto de História da Arte, 2013, 196 pp. Proceedings of the 2013 conference.
RTRSRCH 2(2): “
Scholte, Tatja, and Glenn Wharton (eds.), Inside Installations: Theory and Practice in the Care of Complex Artworks, Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press, 2011, 266 pp. Outcome of the Inside Installation project.
van Saaze, Vivian, Installation Art and the Museum: Presentation and Conservation of Changing Artworks, Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press, 2013, 226 pp. Based on author’s dissertation.
VoCA Journal, ed. Robin Clark, New York: Voices in Contemporary Art, since 2015. Published three times a year.
Wijers, Gaby, Evert Rodrigo, and Ramon Coelho (eds.), The Sustainability of Video Art: Preservation of Dutch Video Art Collections, Amsterdam: Foundation for the Conservation of Modern Art, 2003, 167 pp. Outcome of the research project Preservation Video Art (2000-03).
PDFs: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Do you have any further recommendations? Please leave them in the comments!
Two of our colleagues recently published essays available on the website of Voices in Contemporary Art (VOCA). Caitlin Spangler-Bickell wrote a report from the international symposium “Collecting and Conserving Performance Art” organized by the German Association of Conservators-Restorers at the Kunstmuseum in Wolfsburg, Germany. Maria Theodoraki in her journal article explores the issues related to the mode of address using the case of exhibiting Lygia Clark’s work Bicho (1960).