"Conservation from Conception: Commissioning an Installation by Cai Guo-Qiang" by Elizabeth Wild, Amanda Pagliarino, Russell Storer

Conservation from conception: Commissioning an installation by Cai Guo-Qiang

Rarely does a conservation project come as complicated as Cai Guo-Qiang’s Heritage – 1100 m2 of floor space, a pond containing 110,000 litres of water requiring chlorination and around the pond 99 life size animals in polystyrene, covered in dyed goat hair. Amanda Pagliarino’s paper took us through the trials of the project, which included a complete rethink of the animal’s construction material ( straw proving too much of a hurdle for Australian Quarantine laws), and arrival in Brisbane of the animals, previously unseen by the artist, for him to discover they had all been made asexual despite his specific instructions.
However the biggest issue was that the artist wanted the animals not to look so new, so in 5 short days leading up to opening a team of the Queensland Art Gallery’s staff set to with acrylic paints and ‘aged’ the artwork, becoming in the process co-producers. Luckily Guo-Qiang was present to advise and approve, but where does the artist’s role begin and end? Was this really a conservation project or a joint art creation project? Ironically having undertaken limited documentation because of timing and the artwork being on loan, a benefactor decided to acquire the artwork for the Gallery’s permanent collection, thus creating a long term headache for their conservation department.
A challenging case study, very pertinent to the Congress theme and a great paper.

Post by: Julian Bickersteth IIC Director of Communications