I’ve had to take a break from this column for the past few months to focus on my conservation projects at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the graduate course I taught in the IUPU Museum Studies Program this semester — my course was a survey and research project that looked at the artworks and artifacts housed inside the famous Madame Walker Theater (here’s a link to blog posts my students have written about the project). The above artwork of Madame C.J. Walker by Sonya Clark is destined for a new hotel in Indianapolis.
While I’ve been away, there has been a lot going on in the world of contemporary art conservation; as a way to catch up on what I’ve missed, I’ve assembled the following list of news and notes:
- In early March, The Preservation of Plastic Artifacts (POPART) conference was convened; the conference included lectures by many of the world’s experts who have been researching the difficulties of preserving plastics in museum collections. This European Union-funded initiative includes a significant print publication (and not much online). The IMA’s own Laura Kubick provided a first-person summary of the conference on the IMA’s blog.
- In both February and April the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art — North America (INCCA-NA) hosted two Artist Interview Training Workshops. These workshops were hosted by SFMoMA and the Hirshhorn Museum as part of an Andrew W. Mellon-Funded initative. One of the participants of the Hirshhorn workshop, Rose Cull, wrote about her experience here.
- In late April, the Electronic Media Group of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) and the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation (FAIC) hosted a two-day workshop, TechFocus II: Caring for Film and Slide Art (also at the Hirshhorn Museum). This workshop was geared towards museum professionals faced with the difficulties of caring for collections that are film or slide based.
- The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) launched the Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative in March “to advance the practice of conserving twentieth-century heritage, with a focus on modern architecture, through research and investigation, the development of practical conservation solutions, and the creation and distribution of information through training programs and publications.” The GCI has a page dedicated to the project, and recently discussed it on their blog.
- Mel Buchanan, curator of design arts at the Milwaukee Art Museum, spun a good story on the conservation of Duane Hanson’s Janitor.
- John Campbell left the Nasher Sculpture Center to start a private conservation practice in New York; his position appears to have been filled, but the new conservator has not been announced.
- Katharina Roeck, a conservator at Contemporary Conservation, Ltd. was interviewed by The Art Dossier, and discusses projects such as the chewing gum paintings by Dan Colen.
- Just last week, the AIC Annual Meeting took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico. While this conference is generally dedicated to all eras of art, there were a number of talks dedicated to contemporary art, including: A Creative Obsession: Materials and Techniques of the Self Taught Artist James Castle by Nancy Ash; Relating Artist Technique and Materials to Condition in Richard Diebenkorn’s “Ocean Park Series” by Ann Alba, et al.; a panel session dedicated to the preservation of public art; and Moving Pictures: Restoring Roy Lichtenstein’s Foray into Film by Clare Bell.
- At the IMA, we’ve been working a lot on the acquisition of Allora & Calzadilla‘s Body in Flight (Delta) [Allora & Calzadilla are featured in the Season 4 episode "Paradox," of Art in the Twenty-First Century]. While this artwork was only on view and performed at the IMA for a few months, it has launched a conservation effort to create the best way for us to preserve the Museum’s first performance-based sculpture.