Controversial Art Conservation and Restoration: A Three Part Course with Dr. Alison Bracker
Conservators act on behalf of present and future audiences. Whether conserving objects, buildings, or heritage sites, they strive to convey materials, meanings, and cultural values across time. However, these elements change and remain open to interpretation, and societies diversify as generations pass. Therefore, conservators continually wrestle with the questions, "For whom are we carrying out conservation? How are we conserving? And, what exactly are we preserving?"
This course delves into these questions by exploring conservation via notable predicaments and solutions. Among other case studies, we'll consider Oslo's contentious decision to remove a Picasso mural from a government building, a site-specific installation in an English river that "failed," and whether we can still refer to a damaged Joseph Beuys "Felt Suit" as an art object. You'll learn the differences between conservation and restoration, why site-specific and art conservation often spark controversy, and why defining the work of art is the most critical aspect of contemporary art conservation.
Led by Dr. Alison Bracker, an art historian specializing in ethics and theories of contemporary art conservation, this course considers conservation decision-making. Designed to inform curiosity and future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding and appreciation of cultural heritage preservation.
Lecture One: “Understanding Conservation" This session introduces conservation and restoration, their differences, and their fundamental principles. We'll discuss how sculptor Antonio Canova influenced those principles, conservation's role in assigning and perpetuating cultural value, and the debate some notable restorations have provoked. Lecture Two: “Contemporary Art: Concept vs. Material” One of the most pressing questions in contemporary art conservation is whether to preserve an art object’s concept at the expense of its materiality, or its materials, even if doing so undermines its underlying concept. Another seeks to determine the lifespan of impermanent works of art and define their mortality. This session devotes itself to the query, "What, exactly, is the art object?"
Lecture Three: "Site-specific and Public Art” Site-specific and artworks engage with the physical features and meanings of the environments in which they sit. But what happens if that environment proves inhospitable to the work of art? What elements threaten art’s preservation? And, why must conservators reckon with the s reactions to such art? We'll grapple with these issues through relevant case studies.
Dr. Alison Bracker is an independent art historian specializing in the conservation of unusual materials in contemporary art. She co-edited Conservation: Principles, Dilemmas, and Uncomfortable Truths (Elsevier, 2009), praised as "one of the most significant books in the field of heritage conservation." Additionally, she has interviewed over 100 artists, curators, museum directors, and conservators about the ethics and issues arising from contemporary art conservation.
Dr. Bracker also lectures and publishes on modern and contemporary artists more broadly, including Hugo Wilson, Lenz Geerk, Ai Weiwei, Anselm Kiefer, Édouard Manet, and David Hockney.
Having spent her childhood in Los Angeles, she lived and worked in England for 25 years before settling in Nice, France.
How does it work?
This is a three-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.
When will I receive the Zoom link?
Your link to enter the Zoom room will be the same for all ten sessions. It will be sent to the email address used to place your order 30 minutes prior to each lecture's start time.
Is there a reading list in advance?
Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. These will be provided at the course's conclusion.
How long are the lectures?
Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.
How much is the course?
The course is $105 USD for three lectures.
Is a recording available?
Yes. All registered participants will be sent a recording link within 48 hours of each session's conclusion.