Private Collections as Care-takers

Research Project Description
With Europe-wide budget cuts in the public cultural sector, private collectors play an increasingly important role in the future survival of contemporary art. This project investigates how various types of private collections organize management of and care for their works. Private collections come in different types, from small-scale collections in the owners’ living spaces to larger, semi-public museums with an exhibition space and professional staff. Collectors often maintain close relationships with artists whose works they collect and may even have had a say in the creation of works they have commissioned – how does such involvement affect conservation decisions, loans and/or presentations? How do private collectors communicate with conservation professionals, public art institutions and the wider public? What role does professional expertise play in different types of collections? Are the ethical obligations, legal constraints and financial interests at stake different from those of public collections? What happens if private collectors support public institutions with acquisitions or provide long term loans?
The project will compare conservation practices in smaller and larger collections divided over at least two European countries. Through archival research, semi-structured interviews and on-the-spot observation, it will reconstruct the biographies of a sample of artworks for each collection in order to determine what factors and what stakeholders play a role in decisions about their acquisition, exhibition, storage, documentation, re-installation, preservation and restoration. It will focus particularly on periods of transition, such as the sale or donation of a collection, or the transfer to a new exhibition venue, to bring out the tensions between different ‘pragmatic regimes of engagement’ governing how actors handle objects and things in their care. Two collections will be investigated in more detail through an internship: the former Collection Eijck recently acquired by the Bonnefantenmuseum Maastricht with the support of the Province of Limburg and the Fundación Helga de Alvear which has an exhibition venue in the Centro de Artes Visuales, in Caceres, Spain.

Artemis Rüstau

Artemis Rüstau is a conservator specialised in the conservation of modern and contemporary art. She holds a Diploma degree in painting conservation from the Academy of fine Arts Dresden and completed a postgraduate internship in the conservation of easel paintings at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, Cambridge University. Prior to starting the PhD, she worked as a conservator at the Landesmuseum Hannover and the Kunsthaus Zürich. Before and during her studies she worked as a conservator at various institutions and museums in the Netherlands, Germany and the USA.

Home Institution
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Maastricht University
Maastricht, Netherlands

Promotor: Prof. dr. Renée van de Vall, Maastricht University
Co-promotor: Dr. Vivian van Saaze, Maastricht University

Project Partners
Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht
Fundación Helga de Alvear, Caceres

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