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Thursday, May 16 • 4:00pm - 4:30pm
(Tough Challenges Need New Techniques) Kill-Or-Cure Remedy and Authenticity of Condition: From Weathered Paintings by Edvard Munch to Ephemeral Contemporary Art

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In an artwork, authenticity is the core quality that makes it valuable and unique. It is essential to the artwork’s identity, meaning and values, and remains the main driver of how the artwork will be experienced, understood, treated and displayed, or whether it will even be preserved at all. Evolving contemporary art conservation theory embraces J. Dewey’s aesthetics that the artwork is rooted in what the physical object and information does within human experience. This later echoed in C. Brandi’s idea that an artwork, in contrast to other physical objects, exists not only potentially, but actually when it is experienced, and is re-created every time by the beholder. As experience, it reaches beyond the present, back into the past authentic condition, and forward into future possible affordances. Consequently, the authentic condition may be fluid and different in different moments and contexts. In conservation decision making, identification of the authentic condition is a fundamental, but also very challenging task, where it is hard to reach a consensus among multiple stakeholders. Through the discursive lens, the paper explores methodological issues identifying the authenticity of condition in a group of weathered paintings by Edvard Munch associated with his “kill-or-cure remedy”, where the artist engaged the elements of nature as part of his technique that led to weathering and degradation of his paintings. With the focus on Munch’s paintings, the paper explores the issue of authenticity of condition in a context of contemporary art and draws parallels with Julian Schnabel’s weathered canvases that echo the “kill or cure remedy”, but also ephemeral art by Yoko Ono, Damian Hirst, Joseph Beys and others that embrace mutation of condition as part of their creative process. When treating ephemeral art, identification of the authentic condition(s) is critical for the treatment choices, and the decision-making process must encompass both material and non-material aspects of the artwork that may extend beyond the artwork materials and, perhaps even the original artist’s intent. Contemporary art conservation theory does not offer any straightforward methodology on how to deal with such situations. The paper emphasizes the importance of a holistic decision-making process to find a balance point where the artwork is continues to speak in its own voice, and not having that voice subjugated by evidence of the passage of time. While it may not be possible to reach a consensus among the stakeholders and avoid the dangers related to misinterpretation of the authenticity of condition, engagement in a broad discursive dialogue will greatly and significantly reduce these risks

avatar for Nina Olsson

Nina Olsson

Owner, Precision Mat, LLC
Nina Olsson is a conservator of paintings in private practice and researcher established in Portland, Oregon in 2001. Since 2015, Nina is also president and co-founder of Heritage Conservation Group, LLC, a group of Portland-based conservators of various specialties. From 2011-2014... Read More →

Thursday May 16, 2019 4:00pm - 4:30pm EDT
Salon B2, Uncas Ballroom
  General Session, Tough Challenges Need New Techniques
  • Ticketed Included in Main Registration
  • Authors in Publication Order Tomas Markevicius
  • Abstract ID 18923
  • Tags authenticity,condition,paintings,Edvard Munch,ephemeral art,contemporary art,modern art,authentication,kill-or-cure challenge