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Who Cares?

Who Cares?  Me, and now everybody.

It’s impossible to attend every conservation-related conference or symposium. This summer, I missed what was perhaps one of the best conferences about the conservation of contemporary art in the past 10 years: Contemporary Art: Who Cares? Research and Practices in Contemporary Art Conservation. It was organized by the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN), Foundation for the Conservation of Contemporary Art in the Netherlands (SBMK), and the University of Amsterdam (UvA).  The symposium was an activity of the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art (INCCA).  It was held in Amsterdam June 9-11, 2010.

Shortly after the conference concluded, I interviewed Karen te Brake-Baldock on Art:21’s blog about the initial outcomes. When I was working on that interview and considering what I had missed, it occurred to me that, though there were many great talks, I really would have liked to hear those by Charles Esche, the Director of van Abbemuseum and Peter van Mensch, professor of cultural history at the Reinwardt Academie (Amsterdam). Well, now we can all hear these talks, and the rest of that were presented.

Charles Esche:

Charles Esche – Van Abbemuseum from incca on Vimeo.

Peter van Mensche:

Peter van Mensch – Reinwardt Academie from incca on Vimeo.

Both talks challenge us to re-think some of the purposes of museums and the display of artwork within them.  I’ll not go into a summary or any kind of critique of any of the talks, but instead simply encourage you to go check the complete list out.  Here’s a complete list of the talks.  Thanks, INCCA, for making the conference available online and letting me “attend” from my own home.


Wikipedia & the Cultural Sector: A Lecture and Workshop

Here’s a guest post by Lori Byrd Phillips, who is probably the busiest graduate student in the IUPUI Museum Studies Program. In addition to her coursework, she’s my teaching assistant for the Collections Care and Management course, developing the IMA’s E-Volunteer Program, interning as the in-house Wikipedian at The Children’s Museum, and a project leader for Wikipedia Saves Public Art.

The truly dedicated IMA blog reader will know that Richard has been interested in putting information about art in Wikipedia for some time, and will also remember that the IMA has been interested in doing the same: from participating in the project Wikipedia Loves Art, to Max having lunch with local Wikipedians, to a number of folks from the IMA participating in the Wikimedia-sponsored event at Museums and the Web this year.

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To Future 100 Acres Conservators

Here’s a blog post from my summer intern, and former IUPUI student, Elizabeth Basile, who will complete her master’s degree in Museum Studies at IUPUI this December.

In the summer of 2010, I was fortunate to intern in the Variable Art Conservation Department with Richard McCoy. In 12 short weeks I examined ten years of planning and implementation documents for 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park. When I wasn’t wading through concepts and plans, I got to stomp around in a very unusual, very soggy, construction site filled with a fantastic tunnel and a basketball court that was transforming into seemingly unending arcs of red and blue.

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L’ etude d’un cabinet singulier

The other day I was asked what I like most about my job. This is an easy question for me to answer, and likely just as easy for any serious art conservator or other museum professional.

Simply put, what I like most about my job is that I get to look at works of art. I probably spend more time looking in one week than most people do in a whole year. When I’m looking, I always start with trying to figure out from what and how a work is made. For me, these are the most interesting questions to investigate. If you can’t put together at least some rough answers, then you really can’t make any further assumptions (art historical or otherwise), and you’re certainly not going to be in a good position to make good conservation decisions.

I rarely ever get to the question of whether or not I like an artwork; in conservation, answering that question doesn’t really get me anywhere.

This week I’ve had the exceptional opportunity to look at a rare corner cabinet with carvings by Emile Bernard. This cabinet is one of only four known examples produced by the Pont-Aven School (one is at the Norton Simon, one is at the AIC, and the other in Paris). It made quite a big splash when we acquired it this year.

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Boom goes the dynamite!

Richard getting ready to crush it to left

This year, with Jim Walker’s help from the Big Car Gallery, we resurrected the Indy Cultural Softball League.  We’re fortunate to play on a handsome stretch of grass just behind the Garfield Park Arts Center, and have the park’s historic 1903 pagoda as a backdrop.

League Logo designed by Joel Dale

The teams in the league are:
The Indianapolis Museum of Art
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful
Herron School of Art & Design
Big Car Gallery
And this other team, from this other museum here in Indianapolis. What’s their name? I always forget… oh, yeah, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. Our softball nemesis!  The Newman to our Seinfeld.

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About Richard

Job Title: Conservator of Objects & Variable Art

Interests: Art conservation; How and from what art is made.

Richard has written 41 articles for us.