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.
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 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 public’s reactions to such art? We'll grapple with these issues through relevant case studies.
About Your Expert
Dr. Alison Bracker is an independent art historian specializing in modern and contemporary art. She is an expert in the conservation of unusual materials in contemporary art and co-editor of Conservation: Principles, Dilemmas, and Uncomfortable Truths (Elsevier, 2009), praised as "one of the most significant books in the field of heritage conservation." Alison held a six-year post-Doctoral fellowship at the Royal College of Art and Victoria & Albert Museum before taking over the Royal Academy of Arts' Events and Lectures Program, which she ran for eight years. She continues to lecture and publish on modern and contemporary art and artists, including Hugo Wilson, Lenz Geerk, Ai Weiwei, Anselm Kiefer, Édouard Manet, and David Hockney. After a childhood in Los Angeles and 25 years in England, Alison moved to Nice, France, where she now lives and works.
This conversation is suitable for all ages.
90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.
Very interesting and well-organized presentation.
This course was both informative and thought-provoking. I would happily have attended more sessions
This outstanding course is an absolute must for anyone who is interested in the issues faced by art conservators who have to make decisions when dealing with works that may not have been created to last forever. Dr. Bracker is extremely knowledgeable. She introduces the theories behind conservation and presents a number of case studies in which implementing them was complicated and sometimes impossible. It is an aspect of the art world that needs to be known more.
It was a privilege to hear Dr. Bracker's lectures. I have listened to many Context lectures since the beginning of the pandemic and enjoyed them all. But, this series was far and away the best thanks to Dr. Bracker's expertise, her preparation, her thoughtfulness and her insights. Thank you so much, Dr. Bracker. And, thank you Context for providing us with access to Dr. Bracker. She let us know at the conclusion of the series that she was considering continuing her relationship with Context. I do hope that she does and can assure you that we will be joining whatever lectures she might give.
If you're thinking the topic of art restoration is limited to cotton balls and water to spruce up the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, think again. This is a most intensive course, taught by the masterful and eloquent Dr. Alison Bracker, in which she shows the intersection of sociology, art, science, and ethics--not to mention time and space. Her presentation is nonpareil, clearly and compellingly told, with space at the end of each session for questions. Very often, instructors with Context, expert as they are, tend to cram with too many slides, cover too much territory, leaving no room for important elucidation and questions by viewers. Dr. Bracker is poised, telling the stories of contested works of art, such as the Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond, Virginia. You feel that you're watching a great mystery unfold. The course is a gem, a must-see for anyone interested in how art is preserved. I'm only sorry the course was a mere three weeks long. If you have a chance to take a seminar from Dr. Bracker, hesitate not one second! Sign up!