The Artist Intent in Contemporary Art: Matter and Process in Transition

Project Description
Collecting institutions are increasingly responsible for the care of highly complex contemporary artworks that are often co-produced, co-curated and co-conserved. Their preservation no longer hinges solely on the endurance of an original material, and as such, institutions are compelled to embrace the active life of these works. Because collection care must allow for significant changes to be made to recent works of art following artist sanctions, the ongoing dialogue with artists gains paramount importance. With many complex works, a mere handing over of the artwork from the studio will not suffice. Institutions therefore depend on the artists’ ongoing involvement over time as ‘their charge as creator extends and expands into the realm of the steward’ (Sterrett 2009).
This thesis re-evaluates the notion of artist intent in contemporary art, taking into account the changing concepts of artistic practice, completion, and intent in flux. It investigates the roles of living artists vis-à-vis conservators, as artists are increasingly involved in their works’ reinstallation and conservation. How does our role change if artists take on the charge of co-custodian of their work? Finally, it examines how ‘artist intent in flux’ is shaping museum practice, and to what extent museum practice perhaps shapes artist intent.


Nina Quabeck

Nina Quabeck is a conservator of modern and contemporary works on paper and photographs. A graduate of Camberwell College of Art, she worked at the conservation department of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen from 2003 to 2016. She was a Samuel H. Kress Fellow in Paper Conservation at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in 2007/2008. Her publications ‘Change the Frame and you change the Game? Research and Re-Evaluation of the Presentation Formats of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen’s Paul Klee Collection’ and ‘Uncovered and Unconventional. Preserving Works on Paper and Photographs on Open Display’ are explorations of her interest in artists’ original presentation formats and perceptions of integrity and authenticity in modern and contemporary works of art.

Home Institution
University of Glasgow
Glasgow, United Kingdom

Dr. Erma Hermens, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Dr. Dominic Paterson, University of Glasgow

Project Partners
Contemporary Conservation Limited, New York

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