Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellow in the Humanities
2008—2009 Forum on Change
Art History, Visual Studies
Non-Traditional Methods for Non-Traditional Art: Conserving Art in the 20th Century
Art conservation as a practice of preventing change in a useful way has recently begun to change with the more ephemeral nature of the material that increasingly characterizes late 20th-century art. Today’s neon lights, foil, newspaper, synthetic paints, soil, glue, and Magic Marker have not been tested for durability or chemical stability. Their uneven and unpredictable rate of degradation further complicates their analysis and evaluation during conservation. What are the current technical, historical, and ethical challenges in contemporary art conservation, and what do they tell us about the chances for the long-term survival of this art?