Conserving Contested Monuments and Art with Dr. Alison Bracker
Can't make this time? A video recording will be sent to all participants after the seminar.
Conservators aim to preserve public art and monuments' materials, meanings, and cultural values for present and future audiences. However, these elements transform and remain open to interpretation. Moreover, societies and their values diversify over time. Recently, public reactions to some long-standing international monuments and artworks have undergone significant change, forcing their removal or reassessment. These events have compelled conservators, governments, and communities to reconsider public art that oppresses or offends its audiences.
Our seminar explores the issues that locals, conservators, and civic or museum workers and officials confront when citizens denounce monuments and artworks as racist, sometimes unexpectedly and forcefully. We'll consider the downfall of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol, England, and the tumultuous history and removal of Monument Avenue’s memorials in Richmond, Virginia from the conservators' and construction engineers’ perspectives. We will also follow the ongoing controversy over Rex Whistler's 1927 floor-to-ceiling mural, "The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats," in Tate Britain's restaurant after critics highlighted its xenophobic imagery in 2020, inducing the museum to close the restaurant.
Led by Dr. Alison Bracker, an art historian specializing in ethics and theories of art conservation, this Conversation delves into the ramifications for conservators and communities when public antagonism towards artworks and monuments alters their cultural status. Designed to inform curiosity and future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of the decisions that those involved in contested-cultural heritage preservation ultimately take.
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.