Securing a Futurity: Artwork Identity and Authenticity in the Conservation of Contemporary Art

Research Project Description
This research expands theoretical frameworks around artwork identity and authenticity in the conservation of contemporary art. It expands theories that underpin more novel approaches that recognise how certain works may have multiple, equally genuine instances despite material or contextual variability among them. This project focuses on the processual dimension of authenticity and the ways it is constructed and perceived by artists, institutional staff, and viewers in the actions and circumstances that lead up to and surround a work’s instantiation and experience. Drawing upon theoretical discourses from aesthetics and poststructuralist criticism, I examine the reciprocally deterministic relationship between a work and its instance(s) ever-present in the re-enacting, re-installation, and restoration of works of art and cultural heritage. I consider how the appearance of an artwork’s singular identity or abiding essence is performatively reified within the museum space through repetition. This thesis also examines the multiple centres or grounds that may emerge over time, fracturing the illusion of a work’s singular, self-same identity. Essentialist ontologies of artwork instantiation and tokening—oriented around a work’s formal gallery manifestations and their embodiment of a finite set of constitutive properties—are expanded in recognition of the diverse means through which a work may be made present and may undergo change. Along these lines, this thesis research considers how conservation activities might be reoriented away from enforcing score compliance towards securing the conditions that allow a work to continue becoming, and understanding how an artwork’s tokening links are (re)constituted among diverse audiences through time.


Brian Castriota

Brian Castriota is a conservator specialised in the conservation of time-based media, contemporary art, and archaeological materials. He holds a Master’s degree in Art History and a Certificate in Conservation from the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU where he graduated in 2014. He has worked as a contract conservator for time-based media artworks at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and was a Samuel H. Kress Fellow in Time-Based Media Conservation at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. He has also worked as a conservator on archaeological excavations in Turkey, Sicily and Egypt.

Home Institution
University of Glasgow
Glasgow, United Kingdom

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

Project Partners
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Glasgow School of Art

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