THE CONSERVATION OF CONTEMPORARY ART

This course was taught at the Museum of Contemporary Art, University of Sao Paolo.

This five-day course is designed for students and professionals who are interested in the theory and practice of conserving contemporary art. Installation, media, and performance works will serve as case studies to analyze conservation concerns of contemporary art in the museum context. Students will learn about conservation processes as they assess challenges posed by acquiring, documenting, exhibiting, and conserving complex contemporary artworks in the museum. Examining these concerns will engage various contemporary debates around loss, authorship, intentionality, and authenticity. The course will include a combination of lectures, discussions, gallery visits, and an artist interview.

INTRODUCTION TO MUSEUM STUDIES

This course was taught at NYU – Abu Dhabi.

This survey course introduces students to key debates on museums in society and to the core functions in museum practice. The first part of the course covers the museum in its social and political context by addressing issues of nationalism, public memory, and illicit trade of antiquities. Diverse types of museums are assessed, including fine arts museums, history museums, anthropology museums, and science museums. The course then shifts focus to museum practice by addressing museum management, exhibition development, museum education, and collections care. Students gain both a theoretical understanding of museums in society and a basis to prepare them for future museum careers.

THE MUSEUM LIFE OF CONTEMPORARY ART

The topic of this seminar is the life of contemporary artworks within museums. Sessions are organized around the trajectory of complex artworks from the process of acquisition, to documentation, storage, exhibition, and conservation intervention. Installation, media, and performance works serve as case studies to analyze social, legal, and material dynamics as they move through this life cycle. Synthetic materials, obsolescent technologies, object contingency, and human interactivity embedded in contemporary art forces museum staff to develop new collections management processes. These practices include digital technologies to document, store, and exhibit variable media. Examining these emerging practices engages various contemporary debates about intellectual property, authorship, and authenticity. The seminar covers new strategies as artists and museum professionals collaborate to define artwork identity while replacing deteriorating materials, migrating obsolescent media, and re-activating performance works.

Students conduct primary research projects such as interviews with artists about the disposition of their works in museums, or archival investigation to build digital tools for curatorial and conservation research on how works may be exhibited and conserved. Students also write seminar papers addressing a fundamental issue in the museum life of contemporary art.

CONSERVATION & COLLECTIONS MANAGEMENT

Course description: As an introduction to museum conservation and collections management, this seminar combines classroom discussion and museum visits to provide an understanding of the material concerns and underlying values that drive collections care decisions. It is designed to give students the tools to think critically about collections management and conservation processes. The seminar covers many core functions of museum practice, from acquisition, exhibition, and storage to disaster preparation and recovery. It includes preventive conservation measures to manage the museum environment and technical research to date and authenticate museum objects. The seminar also addresses concerns of living artists, indigenous groups and others with claims to the disposition and care of cultural materials. Course readings cover the historical and philosophical values that shape the field of conservation, and technical information needed to make conservation and collections management decisions. Students perform condition assessments, and conduct research leading to short writing assignments and a term paper.

THE CHALLENGE OF INSTALLATION ART

This seminar focuses on documenting the conceptual and material components of installations within the museum context for purposes of conservation and re-installation. It covers recent literature on installation variability and object contingency, and explores models for collaborative research. Topics include the acquisition of non-traditional works and the legal and ethical framework governing artists’ rights in future installations. The course instructor is the time-based media conservator at the Museum of Modern Art.

Weekly seminar sessions combine lectures with student presentations and discussion on course readings. Students work in teams to research complex installations in MoMA’s collection. Course research includes consulting with MoMA staff and interviewing artists to build documentation needed to re-install and conserve the works in the future. Student teams conduct artist interviews and write reports on the installations. Students then write seminar papers on larger topics related to the course content.

Glenn with group of students of course "The Conservation of Contemporary Art" at MAC, with Ana Magalhães, accompanying a 2 student artist interview with Gustavo Von Ha, Friday Augsut 7th

Conservation of Contemporary Art Course. Museum of Contemporary Art, University of Sao Paolo. August 2015. Photo Credit: Millard Schisler.