"The Artist Initiative at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art” by Robin Clark, Michele Barger

This presentation was part of the Session “Artists’ materials and working practice”.

Conservators from San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) introduced us to the Artist Initiative, a collection research grant funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, that furthers the collaboration between conservators, curators and art historians in a close relation with the artists, to achieve a more integrated, interdisciplinary approach to contemporary art conservation, interpretation and display. This project serves the curatorial collecting departments of the museum, and has been also responsible for developing hybrid working spaces for collection research at the museum’s new downtown campus and at SFMOMA’s new Collection Center, including the Collection Workroom that functions as a studio for visiting artist, a conservation laboratory and an interview suite. The Mock-Up Gallery, also at the Collection Center, is a functional exhibition space built as a model of one of the museum’s new galleries, and a venue for interviewing artists, prototyping exhibitions, and meeting with students, scholars, staff and community members.

Predictive Engineering (1993-present) by Julia Scher is the subject of one of the monographic studies of the Artist Initiative. This multi-platform media artwork was first produced by SFMOMA in 1993, re-staged in 1998, and now again almost 20 years later, when an interdisciplinary team has been gathered to create a new version that engages the public with today’s technology. This team has been sharing their research outcomes facing the challenges of conserving, documenting and re-staging media art in several international conferences, emphasizing on how fruitful this exchange with colleagues has been for them, and will present the data they are collecting on the production and reception of the work a in a colloquium that will be hosted by the Artist Initiative at SFMOMA in autumn of 2016.

The Artist Initiative also engaged the artistic practices of Ellsworth Kelly, as the SFMOMA holds a landmark collection of his artworks, which will occupy four galleries of the museum when it reopens. As well, in the form of a colloquium they furthered interdisciplinary debates regarding Kelly’s art, his studio practice, working process, and discussions on approaches for interpreting his work to the public; the Mock-Up Gallery served the purpose to analyze his work in relation to the space, the architecture, as well as treatment options were examined in the Workroom. This presentation highlighted the importance of the experimental spaces incorporated to the SFMOMA, but especially, the value of building up trust between the artist and the museum staff, fostered by constant, transparent communication and mutual respect.

Post by: Salome Garcia Art Conservation student at the University of Arts, Havana, Cuba.