Objects & Variable Art

The Objects & Variable Art Conservation Lab provides for the preservation, technical study and research of all curatorial collections at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Staff are actively involved in a wide variety of projects across the Museum's campus – from the storage and exhibition of artworks within the main building to the outdoor sculptures surrounding it.

In addition, the team manages the conservation strategies for projects and collections associated with 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, the Oldfields-Lilly House & Gardens and Miller House.

Defined broadly within the museum context, an object is classified as a three-dimensional artwork (for example, it is not a painting, print, or a textile). However, since many contemporary artworks defy the definition of being an actual object, the IMA has developed the concept of variable art to define an artwork that possesses changing observable state. Such artwork can involve variable presentation formats, time-based fluctuations or other types of variables, for example:

  • Installation or site-sensitive artwork with artists’ instructions for implementation
  • Electronic or media-based art with updating platforms and devices
  • Conceptual art, ephemeral art, or art made with unsustainable materials

Current research by conservators in Objects & Variable Art Conservation Lab includes the investigation of interior channels in African Songye power figures through x-ray radiography, the development of novel ways to document conservation work and the execution of communication strategies for conservation projects utilizing new and social media applications. Staff provide research that extends beyond the technology and structure of artworks to include artistic intent and execution as it relates to the preservation of contemporary art. In this way, they work alongside the Contemporary Art Department, to lead the Variable Art Team, an interdepartmental team that investigates and develops museum practices for the production, installation, maintenance and repair of variable artworks.