Conservation, Resources, Seminars

Seminar: Radical Solutions for Conservation

25 November 2011, 10.30 — 17.00 The Showroom, 63 Penfold Street, London

Speakers Tatja Scholte, Senior Researcher, Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency; Kate Jesson, Curator, Manchester Art Gallery; Haroon Mirza; Sam Lackey, Curator, The Hepworth Wakefield; Eva Rothschild.
£20 for Non-Members (£10 student concessions)

The medium and materials that artists use in their work continue to challenge the conventions of conservation. How do curators and conservators work together to find the solutions that will enable us to acquire works by artists of our time and to ensure that they can be experienced in the future? The debate about conserving ‘for ever’ continues to rage but should we think more about the role of the archive as a tool for conservation? Is it time for attitudes to conservation to change? Tatja Scholte led the founding project for the International Network for Conserving Contemporary Art (INCCA), 1999 and was part of the organising committee for the recent Contemporary Art. Who Cares? Symposium. Other speakers will include artists and curators who, together, are setting changing attitudes for the future of conservation.

17.30 – 19.30 Hosted at The Showroom by Director Emily Pethick, join us for a drink to celebrate the purchase of the first work to have been acquired by the Sculpture Fund supported by Cathy Wills, a work by artist Haroon Mirza, A Sleek Dry Yell (2008).

Following this seminar we have set up a forum to further facillitate discussion around conserving contemporary art. Clicjk here to view the forum

Supported by the Gabo Trust


Timetable for the day

10.30 – 11.00

Tea, coffee on arrival

11.00 – 11.10
Emily Pethick
, Director, The Showroom

Welcome to The Showroom

11.10 – 11:20
Lucy Byatt
, Contemporary Art Society, Head of National Programmes

Questions for the day: The National Network tends to generate at least one very specific skills orientated seminar each year. This year the focus on conservation has emerged through our work with the Sculpture Fund – a project that is championing co-acquiring a group of sculptural works over 5 years for a group of 5 museums in the North West of England. All know that they must buy the work of artists today and find solutions to conserving the materials that they are using rather than to buy the work that they can be conserved. The size and scale of each museum differs considerably, the larger having more conservation knowledge and resources to draw upon than others.

The main questions for the day will be led by our speakers however there do seem to be some systemic questions that we could start the day considering and end the day solving:-

They might be -

How can we strengthen the working partnerships between curators and conservators?

How can we share knowledge, experience and skill ?

Is there a need for a forum in order to actually finding the radical solutions that we need to ensure that we conserve certain works and archive others?

11.20 – 12.00
Tatja Scholte
, Senior Researcher, Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency

New ways of producing contemporary art challenge museums in their effort to safeguard these works for future generations. Not only have new materials and media made their entry into the artistic production process – also presentation forms and the ways in which these works communicate with the public have dramatically changed. For conservators, the use of transient materials and media pose particularly complex conservation problems which are difficult to solve. Technical solutions need to be found but, apart from that, conservators have to accept ‘management of change’ as a new strategy. Communication with the artist and among museum professionals is of vital importance, as are documentation practices to safeguard these works for the future. The International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art (INCCA) has played a role in this since 1998 and several international collaboration projects that will be presented have contributed to the development and knowledge share in this field. Tatja will talk about ‘management of change’ as a new strategy conservators have to accept when dealing with transient materials and media as well as the importance of communicating with the artist and museum professionals.

12.00 – 12.30
Haroon Mirza
, Artist and Kate Jesson, Curator, Manchester Art Gallery

A Sleek Dry Yell (2008), mixed media, by Haroon Mirza is the first work to be acquired by the Sculpture Fund; a new scheme initiated by the Contemporary Art Society with the support of our patron Cathy Wills. The Sculpture Fund will provide an opportunity for five museums in the North West to work together over a period of five years to research and then to acquire a group of sculptural works to develop their existing collections (participating Museums:- Grundy Art Gallery, Manchester Art Gallery, Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, University Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery and the Whitworth Art Gallery). Haroon Mirza will talk about his work with Kate Jesson who together will aim to address the potential conservation issues that exist around the work. This conversation will later be transcribed and kept for the Sculpture Fund files and referred to in years to come.

12.30 – 13.00
Eva Rothschild
, Artist and Sam Lackey, Curator, The Hepworth Wakefield

Earlier this year The Hepworth Wakefield was awarded funding, through the Contemporary Art Society acquisition scheme with support from the Art Fund, for the purchase of Wandering Palm (2011), Jesmonite, aluminium, patent leather. The variety of materials Eva Rothschild uses in her work raise a number of questions about its conservation. Eva Rothschild and Sam Lakcey will discuss the future conservation of Wandering Palm. This conversation will later be transcribed and kept for The Hepworth Wakefield files and referred to in years to come.

13.00 – 1.15

13.15 – 14.30

Lunch is provided

14.30 – 15.30
Breakaway Groups:

Join one of three breakaway group sessions focusing on the conservation issues associated with new acquisitions, large scale multi-screen video installations, commissions and archives.

Session 1.
Melanie Rolf
, Sculpture Conservator, New Acquisitions, Tate

Contemporary sculptors continue to work in traditional materials such as marble and bronze, but they also explore the possibilities of everyday and exotic materials; corrugated iron sheeting and south American tapioca are just two examples of such materials found in sculptures recently acquired by Tate. Whatever the materials, sculpture conservators need to understand their properties and how they behave if they are to find ways of preserving the sculptures in good condition. Whenever possible this involves talking to the artists and working closely with them to discuss their use of non-traditional materials and techniques. Melanie Rolfe will discuss a recent acquisition made by Tate.

Session 2.
Jessica Morgan,
Senior Exhibitions and Education Officer, Rugby Art Gallery (Lindsay Seers),

The Trilogy is a 3 screen film installation housed within a unique fabric covered structure by Lindsay Seers and acquired by the Contemporary Art Society for Rugby Art Gallery and Museum in 2011. This session will focus on the acquisition process of this work, the contracts involved as well as the actual physical build, including the on-going conservation process of both the material and the equipment.

Session 3.
Louisa Briggs
, Curator of Visual Art, Museums Sheffield (Katerina Seda)

Last year the Contemporary Art Society acquired Líšeň Profile by Katerina Šedá, for Museums Sheffield. Much of Šedá’s work is based around the community where she lives in Brno-Líšeň in the Czech Republic. For Líšeň Profile, Šedá worked with 500 participants from across the Czech Republic. She invited them to her home town to create a portrait of Líšeň and its inhabitants, exploring connections between people, community and place. This session will look at the various display issues associated with the work, the unique commissioning process and the huge archive that accompanies it

15.30 – 16.00

16.00 – 17.00
Feedback from each group – questions and solutions and actions for the future

Seminar ends

Information about the speakers:

Tatja Scholte, Senior Researcher, Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency

Since 1998 Tatja Scholte has worked for the Dutch Heritage Agency (RCE) and coordinated the international projects INCCA (International Network for Conserving Contemporary Art, 1999-2002) and Inside Installations (2004-2007; publication Inside Installations. Theory and Practice in the care of Complex Artworks, 2011). Her current position at RCE is senior researcher; she has managerial responsibility for the scientific programme Object in context with a focus on conservation and art technological research. Since 2009, she is carrying out a PhD research on the care and conservation of ‘site-specific’ installations.

Haroon Mirza, Artist
In his work Haroon Mirza attempts to isolate the perceptual distinctions between noise, sound and music and explores the possibility of the visual and acoustic as one singular aesthetic form. These ideas are examined through the production of assemblages and sculptural installations made from furniture, household electronics, found or constructed video footage and existing artworks combined to generate audio compositions. The subject matter of his work pivots around socio-cultural systems such as religious faith or club culture and their relationship to music.

An additional subtext to his practice is an interest in the spillage of sound from artworks within group exhibitions.  This interest is explored both through a curatorial concern and within his own works. Mirza includes existing works by other artists in his installations in the same way he works with other (ready-made) material; by appropriating something existing, and positioning it within a specific context, Mirza alters its function. This is typically to play a part in forming a larger (musical) composition.

Eva Rothschild, Artist
Eva Rothschild (born 1971, Dublin) is one of the foremost contemporary sculptors working in the UK today. She has attracted international attention for her sculptures that develop a distinct abstract aesthetic using a varied lexicon of forms and materials. Eva Rothschild’s sculpture extends a crucial strand of twentieth and twenty-first century art through an exploration of the intrinsic associative and elemental power of objects and forms. Often visually reminiscent of minimalist sculpture, the formal clarity of the work is complicated by the use of materials that hold specific associations (e.g. leather fringing, beading, spray-paint and wood, mosaic and weaving). It is this combination of art-historical awareness and use of contemporary and everyday materials that provide the work with both a sense of longevity and a modern-day critical currency.

Kate Jesson, Curator, Manchester Art Gallery
Kate Jesson has worked in contemporary visual arts in Manchester for 20 years. Starting at Castlefield Gallery in 1992, she was Exhibitions Organiser at Cornerhouse for 8 years prior to working in a freelance capacity for Chorlton Arts Festival and Manchester International Festival. Kate has worked as a Curator at Manchester Art Gallery since January 2009. From April 2011 she has been working on the Collectors’ Circle, a new fundraising initiative.

Sam Lackey, Curator, The Hepworth Wakefield
Sam Lackey is a curator at The Hepworth Wakefield. She previously worked at the Whitworth Art Gallery as an Assistant Curator and Curatorial Research Fellow. Before this she was Senior Research Fellow for the AHRC Research Centre for Studies of Surrealism and its Legacies, The University of Manchester and a lecturer within the Art History and Visual Studies department at The University of Manchester.

Jessica Morgan, Senior Exhibitions and Education Officer, Rugby Art Gallery
Jessica Morgan, Senior Exhibitions Officer, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum Jessica has been a curator for nine years and has curated around 70 exhibitions, in all contemporary media, in venues in the West Midlands.  Jessica originally trained as an artist taking a BA in Fine Art at Birmingham City University followed with an MA in Critical and Contextual practices in the visual arts, also at BCU.  She regularly sits on selection panels for other museum and gallery opens and exhibition programme meetings and selects and curates 6-8 exhibitions per year at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum where she has been the curator for the past 4 years.

Louisa Briggs, Curator of Visual Art, Museums Sheffield
Louisa Briggs is Curator of Visual Art based at Museums Sheffield: Graves Gallery. Her focus is on modern and contemporary art and inclusive curatorial practices with young people. She has worked on the past two Art Sheffield biennial exhibitions and was formerly Curator (Modern & Contemporary Art) at National Museum Wales. Whilst in Cardiff she worked on contemporary projects including the first two Artes Mundi exhibitions (a visual arts prize based in Wales) and the Cardiff showing of the first Wales Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In 2010-11 she worked with Czech artist Kateřina Šedá on the inaugural Contemporary Art Society Annual Award for Museums to commission new work, Líseň Profile, for the permanent visual art collection at Museums Sheffield. Last year Louisa nominated winning artist Haroon Mirza for the Northern Art Prize.

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