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Friday, June 1 • 4:30pm - 5:00pm
(Material Questions) An Enlightened Perspective: Balancing Artist Intent with Conservation Concerns

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Rei Kawakubo, the avant-garde fashion designer and founder of the fashion label Comme des Garçons, is known for her provocative ability to push past boundaries. Unsurprisingly, the monographic exhibition organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in cooperation with Kawakubo, "Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between," was in many ways the antithesis of a typical museum exhibition. Standard exhibition practices, such as displaying objects on platforms and maintaining safe touch distances, were abandoned in allegiance to Kawakubo’s larger creative vision that espoused democracy and public access. The most challenging conservation aspect was the lighting design: a diagonal grid of over 300 72” long T12 Fluorescent lamps that had the potential to illuminate fashion objects to a projected 123 foot candles. As with all exhibitions involving living artists, the Costume Institute conservators engaged in constructive dialogue with the designer in order to reach a solution that balanced Kawakubo’s wishes with conservation concerns about high light levels. Paramount to the conservators’ approach was using conservation ethics as the guiding framework structuring decision-making and compromise efforts. Significantly, the exhibition was the first and only authoritative exhibition sanctioned by the designer herself and the majority of the objects were from the designer’s archive, two factors that led the conservators to accept the lighting design in theory, although with modification to ensure conservation requirements for museum objects. The use of UV-filters and an iron-clad damage waiver provided additional conservation and legal protections. In recognition that the ultimate lighting design still fell far short of normal conservation standards, the CI conservation team seized the opportunity to collect valuable data that could inform future exhibition design. To achieve this objective, the CI conservation team took a wide-ranging approach that included the following measures: testing CI objects selected for exhibition using a microfader to identify each object’s potential for light damage; testing actual light levels against projected light levels to assess the precision of the light modeling software Autodesk Revit; tracking lamp lumen depreciation (light intensity) over the course of the exhibition to more closely calculate cumulative light exposure; and placing blue wool standard cards throughout the exhibition as a means to evaluate possible cumulative light damage through pre- and post-exhibition colorimetry measurements. Through this aggregation of data the CI conservation team endeavored to gain the broadest understanding of the many variables that converge when lighting an object over the course of an exhibition, especially when artistic intent must take precedence over standard conservation requirements.

avatar for Christopher Mazza

Christopher Mazza

Conservation Assistant, The Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Christopher Mazza, Conservation Assistant, provides support for the department's in-house exhibitions and preservation of the costume collection. He holds an MA in fashion and textile studies: history, theory, and museum practice from the Fashion Institute of Technology and an MFA... Read More →
avatar for Sarah Scaturro

Sarah Scaturro

Head Conservator, The Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Sarah Scaturro is the Head Conservator of the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she is in charge of the conservation laboratory and the preservation of the fashion collection. She was previously the textile conservator and assistant curator of fashion at the Cooper-Hewitt... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 4:30pm - 5:00pm MDT
Texas Ballroom A Marriott Marquis Houston
  5. General Session, Material Questions