Paper Session 2: Artists’ materials and working practice

The first day of the Congress ended with a paper session that unpacked various approaches to researching artists’ materials and working practices, with ‘collaboration’ emerging as a central concept. The Artist Initiative at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, presented by Robin Clark and Michelle Barger, is a perfect example of how space can be utilised to foster greater collaboration between artists, conservators and other museum staff, as well as the general public. The Artist Initiative’s Collections Workroom (a hybrid working studio) and Mock-Up Gallery (a functional exhibition space) will no doubt serve as a model for other art museums keen to integrate collaborative activity more substantially or visibly into their operational structure and programming.

The concluding discussion, however, acknowledged the value of solitary conservation research. Describing herself as an independent researcher, Elonora E. Nagy remarked on the motivating qualities of bearing sole responsibility of a research project compared to group work where responsibility is shared or delegated. In many ways, current interest in collective and collaborative forms of research (evident by the many case studies presented in the Congress) is expanding the parameters rather than simply departing from more traditional independent research modes. Considering the greater practical challenges faced by conservators – as demonstrated by Marina Pugliese’s discussion of historic replicas of Lucio Fontana’s environments based on numerous sources pieced together – the end goal is often achieved in a multitude of ways, which can only be enriched by collaborative strategies.

Post by: Raymonda Rajkowski