Contemporary Art Conservators and Curators: Roles, Collaboration, Training and Ethics

Research Project Description
Variability is identified as a key and distinct characteristic of contemporary artworks. The same artwork is reenacted differently between exhibitions: materials are replaced, time-based media equipment and formats are changed and spatial arrangements are altered. In order to safeguard an artwork’s authentic reenactment, art institutions are faced with two primary challenges: the need to draw a clear distinction of what is to remain constant and what can be altered in an artwork between iterations, and the need to decipher the optimum, possible future of the artwork’s material condition that is not always self-evident. In contemporary artworks the material and the intangible attributes are entangled in radically new and complex ways and this reality cannot but affect the institutional practices of care.
This research looks at the people responsible for taking the crucial decisions that pertain to the shaping of the present and future iterations of a variable artwork. It investigates the roles of conservators and curators and how they are adjusting in order to face the complex challenges offered by contemporary art. It examines decision making processes, institutional procedures and collaborations as well as the developments in professional training and ethics.

Researcher
Maria Theodoraki
m.theodoraki@campus.fct.unl.pt

Bio
Maria Theodoraki studied art in Athens, New York and London and in 2009 she graduated with an MA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Her work examines art institutions and the role and position of the artist within them. As an exhibiting artist her work has been presented in group shows and film festivals internationally and in four solo exhibitions in London, in 2013 she was nominated for the DESTE prize for contemporary art. Her first paper ‘Issues of Display: Protecting the Object, Damaging the Artwork’ was published in February 2016 as part of the VoCA journal.

Home Institution
Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Lisbon, Portugal

Supervisors
Promotor: Dr. Rita Macedo, Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Co-supervisor: Dr. Jo Melvin, Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London

Project Partner
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, Portugal

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