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Thursday, May 16 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
(The Evolving Role of the Conservator of Contemporary Art) Seeking Balance: Conservation Values and the Artist’s Voice

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Issues of safe and effective exhibition design may not initially appear as fraught or controversial in a traditional museum setting. However, in the display of contemporary art, the presence of the artist in the discussion brings a new stakeholder with values that can be at odds with conservation standards. The increasingly frequent use of daylight and higher light levels in gallery spaces, and the trend towards museums becoming not only places for viewing art but rather destinations and experiences in their own right, also present circumstances for potential conflict with traditional display parameters. Ultimately, the push by artists and administrators to have art that is displayed in active communication with the outside world, rather than encased in a white cube gallery, has required conservators to rethink our objectives. This talk will examine the role of the artist in determining the environment in which their art will be displayed. It additionally considers how artists’ priorities regarding these issues can be influenced by the stage in their career at the time of the exhibit. Finding balance between an artist’s vision and the institutional desire to adhere to responsible standards, while respecting the need for spaces that are functional and allow movement, can force us to accept situations that deviate from traditionally accepted exhibition parameters. The presence of physical barriers, such as stanchions, platforms, bonnets, or glazing, to protect artworks on view can run against the aesthetic or conceptual nature of a work and, as such, their use is problematic for many artists. While in some cases spatial design can be effectively utilized to help control flow and reduce risk, we have also worked with artists to devise alterations—both temporary and permanent--to their works to reduce the likelihood of more serious damage. Addressing lighting issues can involve the creative use of films, shades, and wall placement, as might happen in a traditional exhibition. But we have also increasingly relied on the use of either exhibition copies or exposure waivers, which act to legally absolve the museum of liability for any damage resulting to the artwork from excessive light levels. The use of exhibition copies is, perhaps, widely acknowledged, but the use of waivers is both more secretive and increasingly common. And while these actions alleviate the immediate pressure of decision making, the long term implications of both practices have yet to be fully addressed. Given the diversity of the involved parties and the range of possible needs and expectations of each, the strategies we have found have been varied and highly tailored for each situation. Examples from recent exhibitions in the Whitney Museum of American Art will illustrate the issues we have faced and the solutions we have tried.

Speakers
avatar for Matthew Skopek

Matthew Skopek

Conservator, Whitney Museum of American Art
Matthew Skopek, Associate Conservator for the Whitney Museum of American Art, completed a Masters of Arts and Certificate of Advanced Study in Conservation from the Art Conservation Program at Buffalo State, The State University of New York with a specialization in paintings.

Co-Author
avatar for Clara Rojas Sebesta

Clara Rojas Sebesta

Assistant Conservator, Whitney Museum of American Art
Clara Rojas-Sebesta, Assistant Conservator for the Whitney Museum of American Art, is a graduate of the Conservation Center at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, with a specialization in works of art on paper. She also holds degrees in art history from Cornell University... Read More →
avatar for Margo Delidow-[PA]

Margo Delidow-[PA]

Assistant Conservator, Whitney Museum of American Art
Margo Delidow, Assistant Conservator for the Whitney Museum of American Art completed a Masters of Arts and Certificate of Advanced Study in Conservation from the Art Conservation Program at Buffalo State, The State University of New York. She is a partner at Whryta Contemporary Art... Read More →


Thursday May 16, 2019 2:30pm - 3:00pm EDT
Salon A2-A3, Uncas Ballroom Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  General Session, The Evolving Role of the Conservator of Contemporary Art
  • Ticketed Included in Main Registration
  • Authors in Publication Order Matthew Skopek, Margo Delidow, Clara Rojas-Sebesta
  • Abstract ID 18654
  • Tags living artist,exhibition standards,light levels,barriers,exhibition copies,waivers